Philadelphia – growing up in an area without a winning professional sports team can be difficult. But game after game, season after season, you retain your loyalty and cheer for your teams. One bad season means you expect a better one next year. Your dedication to your teams never budges.
I’ve always been a New York Yankees fan, so I’ve seen four championships. And though they haven’t won in the last eight years, I am a die-hard fan. No matter the drought, my devotion would not waver.
The Knicks are horrible, but go Knicks!
And this is the way all sports fans should be. A fan should stick with his or her team through the wins, through the losses, through the trades, the rebuilding stages – you name it.
Dr. Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, knows what it’s like to root for a team that couldn’t buy a championship. Thompson has been a Chicago Cubs fan all his life. The last championship the Cubs won was in 1908.
But not all proclaimed fans are as faithful as us, which is made obvious when a sports team wins a title, and that team’s apparel is then marketed ad nauseum.
“The Super Bowl is a perfect example,” Thompson said. “[Super Bowl XLII] got the biggest audience ever, and the way it was played, it was very good for merchandise. The entire Super Bowl was a promotion for Giants gear [since they won]. People who never had thought to be a Giants fan before were persuaded to buy Giants apparel.”
Most of these “fans” would fit into the category of “fad fans,” which Thompson defines as “temporary fans that show fandom while it’s the thing to do.”
Another group of fans that could be purchasing their first Giants memorabilia are “in-the-closet fans.” These are fans that come out when something big happens.
Though I’m a Giants fan, I hate when my email is flooded with titles like “Get your limited Super Bowl XLII Champion Giants gear now!” I hate the commercials on ESPN advertising Super Bowl souvenirs. A true fan has his or her attire before a team wins a championship.
Another reason I am so against the advertisements is because I’ve seen teams I dislike win more often than teams I do.
Those who fall for these ads are most likely the worst type of fan there is: a front-runner. These are “fans” that associate their fandom with whatever team wins.
Being a fair-weather fan may be just as bad as being a front-runner.
“A fair-weather fan follows a team until they have no chance to win,” Thompson explained. “Then they quit watching, quit caring.”
It can’t be pinpointed when the first disloyal fan existed, but Thompson thinks that they’ve been around forever.
“We notice it more now because there is so much marketing involved,” he said. “The idea of jumping on the bandwagon goes back as far as there were sports.”
You don’t have to be the biggest fan ever. You don’t have to be a die-hard. But stick with your team. Anyone that goes team hopping or is only a fan when his or her team is winning is no fan in my book.
For me, only a select few teams can give me hat hair.
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.