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.