Friday, April 19, 2019

Ellen Adair's Rules for Cheering Part IV: Special Interest Cheering

Actress/Baseball Nerd Ellen
by Ellen Adair

At last, it’s spring, and hope has returned to the northern hemisphere: the trees are budding, lambs are gamboling on the verdant green, and no one is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. So, it’s time for you to get your cheering in gear! Particularly because nothing else besides the movement of your own mouth is going to keep you warm for early-season baseball. 

If you haven’t read my first three installments on cheering, you can bring yourself up to speed with my “How Not to Cheer,” outlining basic do’s and don’ts, “How to Cheer Like a Sports Announcer,” and “How to Cheer like a Stat Geek.” And if you doubt my cheering bona fides, just know that I recently brought a sign to cheer for Eloy Jimenez versus the Evil Empire, and he responded by hitting his first--and second--major league home runs. My cheering techniques get results, people. 

So in this, the final installment in my suggestions for sporting event spectators, groups a couple of my personal favorite ways to cheer. The essential principle here is to find an angle, and work it. I’ll give you a couple of my own examples.

I. Cheering Like a Girl   

I obviously disagree that cheering like a girl involves looking at your phone or having loud, baseball-irrelevant conversations. In my version, cheering like a girl is expressing a feminine preference for whatever it is about the game that you most prize. And pace the commercials from the 80s, I am always trying to vouch for the fact that discerning female fans appreciate more than just the long ball.   

Chicks Dig Strikeouts   

This is one of the classics but it doesn’t make it any less true. Chicks do dig strikeouts, and I consider it my duty to remind pitchers of this all the time. After all, a high K rate can also correlate to weaker contact and fewer hits, and chicks are no fools.

Chicks Dig Advancing the Runner   

While, again, home runs are always welcome, they don’t actually get my pulse racing quite the same way as getting a runner to third. I could argue that chicks dig smart fundamentals, but there are fewer occasions to yell this specifically. But whether it’s getting on base or a sac fly, advancing the runner is something that should be celebrated more loudly and more often than it is.   

Ladies Love Plate Discipline   

It’s really a verbal preference whether we go with ‘ladies love’ or ‘chicks dig;’ if you’re a lady, use them interchangeably, although I go for the more sonorous pairing. The message is the same, though: smart ladies know that a walk is as good as a hit. Not only does walking increase your batting average, ladies know NOTHING is sexier than a good eye and high on-base percentage.

Ladies Love Smartly-Executed Defensive Plays   

This, however, is my favorite of them all, the one that really gives me baseball butterflies. A good defensive play is like Renaissance art. I hope that heaven is being a point of bodiless consciousness hovering in slow-motion replays of really well-executed defensive plays. I will even break it down into the following: 

—Ladies Love a Double Play
—Ladies Love an Outfield Assist
—Ladies Love a Leaping Grab
—Chicks Dig the Diving Stop   

These are my favorites but if you identify as a woman and have different preferences, shout ‘em out.   

I made this t-shirt so that I could have it, but you can also buy it on Redbubble. I get like $0.21 if you buy it, so I’m not hawking my wares so much as letting you know that it can be yours if you will also make you happy.   

II. Cheering Like a Political Protester   

Marches and rallies can be a really good time, and have a lot of great chants. If you find yourself in the Venn diagram of sports fan and political junkie like me, consider a few of these. Most of these are much better if you’ve got a group of friends who will be weird with you. I do, but I don’t have a group of friends who would be weird with me on video while yet another friend or accommodating stranger tapes all of us, so I don’t have video examples to share for this section as I have for the others.   

The first one has a variation for when your team is pitching and fielding and a variation when your team is at bat. For this one you will need at least one willing friend to answer your call-out. If you’ve got a group of at least three friends who will do it, this can be an impact cheer.

—What do we want? Strikeouts! When do we want them? Now!
—What do we want? Baserunners! When do we want them? Now!   

That said, I prefer the former not only because chicks dig strikeouts, but also because it may do more to disrupt the opposing batter’s attention, not something you want to do to your own club. Several years ago, when we were kindly gifted first row seats, we had the distinct impression that a group of four people shouting about how we wanted strikeouts pierced the intense concentration of Bryce Harper (jk Bryce, I love you forever or for 13 years whichever is longer, thanks for capitulating to my #heybryceharpersignwiththephillies campaign. Another similar cheer that can be used in two different situations:   

—Hey hey! Ho ho! Those guys on base have got to go!
—Hey hey! Ho ho! That four-seam fastball’s got to go!   

To be clear, the latter is suggesting to your batter that the fastball has to go, out of the park. Because home runs ARE useful. And I encourage appropriation from any side of the political divide, as exemplified in these for your team’s batters:

—Hey! Make America rake again!
—No bunt! No KKK! No fly-out USA!   

And to be clear again, in this situation, the Ks are standing for strikes, and you are rooting for your batter to get on base rather than strike out (or fly out, or bunt). But I am not ashamed to say that I am against the Klu Klux Klan in ballparks, and anywhere else. Regards bunting, I get that sometimes bunting against the shift is a great option if you’ve got a skilled bunter at the plate. But it can also lead to Trea Turner being out for 4-6 weeks with a broken finger. That’s even worse than sacrificing an out, which is the reason it makes Our Lady of Sabermetrics weep in her press box in heaven. Bunting is on my shit list.   

Our last cheer allows you to put the name of certain players into it, and, like the “What do we want?” cheer, requires at least one willing friend to do the call-and-response:   

—Show me what a Syndergaard looks like. This is what a Syndergaard looks like!

Recommended when a player whose name scans with “Democracy” is at bat, and, full disclosure, first developed with the last name of Yoenis Cespedes, but it’s too good to only use the four weeks out the year that Cespedes is playing. Let me point out that you can also use the first and last name of a player, and omit or add the indefinite article “a” depending upon whether you need the extra syllable: 

—Show me what a Mookie Betts looks like!
—Show me what Lorenzo Cain looks like!   

Travis Shaw, Bellinger, Scott Kingery, Nelson Cruz, Manuel Margot…there is someone on your team for whom this works, once you have the last name/both name versatility and the possible addition/omission of “a.” Please send me your favorite or most comical examples (or complaints) to me on Twitter @ellen_adair. But know that in the sixteenth inning of a Phillies-Dodgers game this past July, we shouted “Show me what a Trevor Plouffe looks like” and he hit a home run, so the bar is high.   

III. Cheering Like…YOU!     

I feel I would be remiss here not to uplift my brother-in-law’s cheering method. He works for the Iowa state government, so he heckles the visiting team at Iowa Cubs games by shouting facts about Iowa. I am an actor, and I don’t know any facts (except for, maybe, about baseball), but if you’re a local historian or in possession of some points of civic pride, shout ‘em out. Perhaps at my next Phillies game, I’ll yell out, “Philadelphia was the home of the first soft pretzel, bitches!” and I encourage the readers of this blog to shout, “Boston created candlepin bowling and now we have Mookie Betts!” 

There are a few other moments of cheering brilliance that deserve a spotlight. When the first article in this series was published, a gent named Marcus Cleaver (@marcuscleaver) replied on Twitter with the following gem:   

Que sera sera
You generate 0 WAR
You’re batting .204
Que sera sera   

I am a big fan of creating dad-joke-type song snippets around the names of baseball players, but I have yet to merge this with cheering at a game. (Examples: “Blame it on the Mookie” for “Blame it on the Boogie,” “Brachin’ Around Trey Mancini” for “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and both Jose Altuve and Jose Ramirez scan well in the opening phrase of our national anthem. Should either face Carlos Rodon on the day, you could even sing, “Jose Ramirez, by Rodon’s early light.” Look, I never said these were good.) But if your song ideas are as good as Mr. Cleaver’s, and your singing voice is robust enough, this could be superior to all the other kinds of cheering I have suggested.

Another kindly person on twitter, Maura McGurk (@Maura_McGurk) related an incident in which her baby sister was taken to a Sox-Yanks game for the first time. The young girl wanted to learn how to cheer, and she was told to watch and learn. After twenty minutes, with the Yankees up to bat, she, to quote Maura, “hurled her body against the rail of upper deck, screaming ‘DIE IF YOU MAY!’” Now, as William Shakespeare wrote, “I believe the children are our future / Teach them well and let them lead the way,” so, by all means, follow the wisdom out of the mouth of this babe, and yell “DIE IF YOU MAY” at the Yankees.   

No matter how you decide to cheer, though--whether you call out to your batter to hit a bloop single to keep the inning alive, or encourage your pitcher to improve his strikeout-to-walk rate--get ready to holler when they do. Specificity in cheering means that when what you’ve asked for happens, it’s even more satisfying than an average success. And you should let them know. By cheering!   

Ellen Adair is probably best known as Janet Bayne in “Homeland,” Bess McTeer in “The Sinner,” and Bridget Saltire in “The Slap,” although she has also had recurring roles on “Billions,” “Veep,” “The Family,” and “As the World Turns.” Additional TV credits include “Chicago Fire,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Brotherhood,” “The Blacklist,” “Shades of Blue,” “God in America,” the pilots “Compliance” and “Codes of Conduct,” and numerous PBS films. She is the author of Curtain Speech, from Pen & Anvil Press, and is working on bringing to life a TV series about baseball writers. Visit her website at, or connect with her on Twitter at @ellen_adair or Instagram at @ellenadairg.