ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 24: Mike Napoli #25 of the Texas Rangers hits a two-run double in the eighth inning during Game Five of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Mike Napoli is having a great postseason, and Rangers fans are expressing their excitement. Could they do so while shaming a divisional rival at the same time?
Mike Napoli is a postseason hero right now. If the Rangers win their first championship in 50+ years, he'll be a postseason legend. This is not hyperbole -- in 50 years, people will still know his name if the Rangers win, even if his career goes the way of Rick Wilkins. If there's ever a player who deserves a rousing chant from a packed stadium, it's a newfangled hero like Napoli, who is transforming from a favorite of baseball nerds into a star on a national stage. Not bad for a #8 hitter.
The problem is the chant.
NA-PO-LI! NA-PO-LI! NA-PO-LI!
Very, very, very plain. That's the chant the crowd does to inspire the protagonist of an ABC After School Special. It's great for helping kids with feathered hair finish first in a BMX race, but it's lousy for giving the proper respect to a power hitter. A good chant should create an foreboding feeling for the opposing team and annoy the crap out of the other fans. NA-PO-LI sure gets the second part down, but it's too generic to come close to the first.
There's just something about it -- the song that the syllables make when separated -- that I can't put my finger on. It's a punchy chant, quick-paced and exuberant. Napoli isn't that kind of player. He's slow, methodical, crushing. He's not a stiff monolith out there -- he does play a pretty decent catcher, after all -- but there's a rhythm to him that isn't a quick one-two-three.
First thought: I'd love to hear a NAAAAAAPOLIIIIIIIII chant. Just like fans can turn the sound of "Yoooooooouk" or "Cooooooooop" into a cheer that sounds like a hearty boo, Rangers fans can re-appropriate the "Daaaaaaaaryl" taunt that fans used to taunt Darryl Strawberry with in the '80s. It's all about the inflection. Give it a "Ricola" kind of lilt to it, and it becomes a taunt directed at the pitcher, reminding him of who is at the plate, or who just bludgeoned a ball.
That's not a great chant, though; just better than the three-syllable generica that's sprung up.
But it's the framework of another chant, one that is outlandish and unlikely. Really, it's a far-fetched dream. I'm not especially bitter towards the Angels, nor am I really partial towards the Rangers. I am a big fan, though, of making fun of people. The series of trades that led to Napoli moving from the Angels to the Rangers will shame Orange County fans for a long, long time. And this is a chance to spice up a divisional rivalry in a division where there aren't any natural rivals. The dream, then, is for this chant to ring and echo through the stands of Rangers Ballpark whenever the Angels come to town:
SCIOOOOOOOOOOOOSIA! SCIOOOOOOOOOOOOSIA! SCIOOOOOOOOOOOOSIA!
The cadence would be the same as the Darryl chant, so it wouldn't be especially original, but the twist would be that it's mocking a member of the other organization while the reason for his shame is on display and at the plate. It would be cutting. Imagine a crowd of 40,000 people using an opponent's name to a) repudiate his own belief of what makes a good player, and b) celebrate the player who was discarded in a hilariously lopsided deal. So much meaning packed into one jeer. For the sabermetric types out there, you have to realize that the heckle-per-syllable ration is off the charts.
I realize this is all meaningless, that the NA-PO-LI! chant is in place, and it's the chant that will be used throughout the World Series and into next season. But it was a missed chance. The Rangers have a unique player -- a bruising galoot of a catcher whose mere existence embarrasses a divisional rival -- who deserves a unique chant. So we'll compromise. Do the NA-PO-LI! chant before he gets a hit against the Angels, and a SCIOOOOOOOOOOOOSIA! taunt when he reaches base. I'm not a fan of either team, but I'm quite the connoisseur of rubbing it in. This would do beautifully. Think it over, Rangers fans.