On Tuesday, Twitter and various Minnesota news sites were abuzz when word got out that Twins catcher Joe Mauer was in Duluth, MN, for the All-Star Break. Media outlets reported that he ate at a local burrito shop and played a round of golf, all the while with a woman by his side who he would only identify as his girlfriend.
I would assume that some fangirls (and a few fanboys) are crushed after seeing the words "his girlfriend" in that last sentence. This is a normal feeling. But what really unsettles me is the amount of pure hatred that has been spewed about this girlfriend on a site that I won't link to here but it is fairly well-known. A quick Google search will yield fast results. My main fear is that this sort of venom will spread from the site in question to Twitter, various gossip blogs, and ultimately make its way to the Twins blogosphere. This would certainly make the majority of female fans look as terrible as these minor few who seem to have nothing better to do with their time than to criticize and attack a total stranger.
So why is there so much hatred for someone that the vast majority of fans don't know and will probably never meet? I can attribute it to two things: jealousy, and a sense of connection to the object of our desires. Some fangirls are jealous because someone else has the person they desire. It is normal to have fantasies about a celebrity. Heck, when I was younger I do admit feeling heartbroken when my idols had girlfriends or got married. I also remember feeling a little envious, too. But I doubt I would have lashed out at the object of my envy back then, and the same applies as I have gotten older and have since gotten married myself.
The latter attribute-a perceived connection to our idols-may also be a driving factor to the rise of the green-eyed monster. We feel like, as fans, we need to protect our idols. We need to protect them from critics and negativity. We need to protect them from bad calls. (Hey, this is a sports blog.) We need to protect them from themselves if they have histories of self-destructive behavior. Most of all, we need to protect them from people who may do them harm, whether it's to their public image, to their welfare, or even their bank accounts. When this sense of connection and jealousy come together, the results are often a black eye on the fan community as a whole. And as a female fan I feel like this only reinforces the stereotypes that others have of us.
I don't mean to veer things off-track but I can give a prime example of this behavior taken to an extreme. When a prominent rock musician went public with his relationship with his now-wife, a small yet vocal number of fans were livid. They launched into a smear campaign against her on Twitter and other sites, saying the most vile and hurtful things imaginable. They tried to paint this picture of her as a loose gold-digger who was only using her husband to further her own personal agenda. To make matters worse, many of the people participating in these attacks were fans who often went to many shows, camping out in front of the venues for hours to guarantee themselves a spot on the rail when the doors opened. That these sorts of dedicated fans were the same ones who would hide behind a username and harass the woman their idol loved was appalling, to the musician himself and to the majority of sane and rational fans who knew better than to be consumed by their jealousy and/or protectiveness.
Which brings me back to the main point of this post. It sickens me that there are people who want someone like Mauer to be happy in his life off the field. They say they don't care about his private life. But when he does find someone who makes him happy-at least for now-they react with vitriol and hatred, going on the attack. So it seems like, to them, they actually do care about his private life, and he can only be happy with someone who meets the fans' approval. Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. You can't say you want someone to be happy and then go on the attack. You also can't say you don't care about someone's personal life and then question what they do in their time out of the spotlight. And, like with the musician and his wife, it would not surprise me of some of these victims of the green-eyed monster are Twins season ticket holders who attend every one of Mauer's public appearances.
If we truly are fans, we really shouldn't care what the players do with their time off the field and with whom. They are grown men, after all. (The only time I really care, though, is if it results in someone getting arrested, being sent to a hospital, or going to rehab.) Instead, we should let them be human and make mistakes. We should avoid launching into attacks on others because they have the person we admire (and maybe even lust after). Most importantly, I think that we need to remember why we became fans in the first place and leave it at that. And as cliché as it sounds, don't say anything if you can't say something nice about a person.