Reds fans have definitely stepped up their own game this season and become much more vocal and strategic with their cheering, a great turn of events. For example, we’ve adopted the practice of clapping when Reds pitchers have two-strikes on opposing hitters. We stand and scream during the bottom of the ninth as Aroldis Chapman (or Jonathan Broxton or J.J. Hoover) tries to nail down a save. There seems to be more appreciation for defensive gems this year. The postseason games promise even more.
The Reds organization deserves ample credit here. While they’ve always prodded fans to “make some noise” at key times, scoreboard prompts have been more aggressive this season. For example, the scoreboard operators consistently encourage the two-strike clapping. It took a while to catch on, but fans now do it even without the suggestion. The Reds have also produced compelling – stylish, in fact – videos to mark the arrival of bullpen pitchers (and not just Aroldis Chapman). Fans respond. Combine the smart promotion with the team’s actual play, and the park has a much, much more intimidating atmosphere.
Most any fan involvement at Reds games is positive. But the emergence of the “howl” is a step in a random direction.
I experienced the Great American Bawl Park in person last week. The first “whooooop” occurred around the fourth or fifth inning. In the last two innings it became pronounced. And annoying. It’s not the noise – although it can be jarring when someone near you squeals loudly with no warning – it’s not the noise, it’s the utter randomness. The whooooops don’t appear at strategic times or for celebrations.
Contrast that with the way the “whooooop” is used at Redleg Nation – it’s basically timed to when something good happens, like in the title of a game recap for a win. That’s definitely not how it works at the howl park, though. There’s no rhyme or reason when fans whooooop. A perfect example was the guy sitting directly in front of me. For eight innings, he paid absolutely no attention to the game. He seemed mainly concerned with trying to kiss the woman next to him. But at the end of the game, instead of getting a room, he howled like an animal. He didn’t watch the at bats. He didn’t offer the slightest bit of support for JoeyMVP, Homer Bailey or Super Todd. But he howled at the top of his alcohol-fueled lungs. Sadly, that guy is the face of the howl in person.
Imagine, if right in the middle – oink! – of a sentence, the writer – baaah! – inserted random animal noises.
And it’s not like whoooooping is unique to the Reds, like the Angels’ rally monkey, which has its own Wikipedia page. It appears the whoooooping started in Pittsburgh. The stupid Cubs fans were doing it this week.
I get that I’m in the minority on this. The howl is mindless fun, so who cares? (It’s certainly mindless.)
If you’re at the game, cheer for the team when it matters, preferably in a human language. That’s my first choice. But if you must howl tonight and beyond, time your whooooops strategically to coincide with something actually happening in the game. You know, support the team. Howl during the buildup to Mat Latos’ next strikeout pitch, not at the moon. Whooooop it up in appreciation of Brandon Phillips’ next Gold Glove play, not at the wind.
If the latest fan fad becomes correlated to the game and not simply blood-alcohol levels, who knows, it might become a howling success.