And the Red Sox just couldn’t get the job done.
Out of necessity I became a Dodgers fan in the glory days of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. As the Dodgers later demonstrated an inverse relationship between salary and success, I became more fickle. I mostly tune in towards the end of the season. Any team that might beat the Yankees is my team. If the Yankees aren’t there, the choice is random and emotional.
Of course, in 2004 I stayed up late listening to game four of the World Series, on a scratchy radio, to bear witness to the end of “The Curse.” I even pretend to take some small credit for that victory. After game three of the American League Championship Series, I was so frustrated I wore a New York bow tie to work. The Sox won the next eight games and the World Series.
Derek Thompson makes a persuasive argument in favor of bandwagon fandom. He even goes so far as to invoke Marxist thought!
But he ignores the fact that, along with food and sex, belonging is a fundamental human drive: that is, the notion of tribalism, identity, community. I think this is the powerful instinct behind hometown loyalty, and is not to be trifled with. Yes, it’s true: We die-hard fans are essentially cheering for a uniform, not an assemblage of stars and journeymen. So what? We are human, and in an atomized and individualistic culture, this is our belonging.
There is also the counterintuitive idea of suffering. In an age of self-actualization and the reckless pursuit of personal happiness, stoic ideals of perseverance, toughness, and the purifying power of pain have lost their currency. Suffering builds character. It’s excellent preparation for the many adversities of life. As the fan of a hockey team that hasn’t won a championship since 1967, I should know.
Finally, Thompson contradicts himself. He talks about the delusion of the “durability of happiness.” Yet he advocates selling one’s soul for the fleeting happiness of tagging along for the cheap thrill of a win by a team to which one has only the shallowest allegiance. I would argue that the deeper the attachment, the more durable the happiness. My Blue Jays last won in 1993, and I’m still dining out on that thrill. My simple arithmetic is that you get out what you put in.
It seems that everything these days is transient, contingent, transactional; the one thing that is constant and deep and meaningful is one’s hometown team. Thompson can sell his soul for a cheap win. Me, I’d rather suffer honestly than proclaim victory!
Thunder Bay, Ont.
In his wonderful article, Derek Thompson fails to recognize one highly valuable asset of loyal fans: romantic appeal. My wife of 51 years affirms that Cubs fans make the best husbands: loyalty, “for better, for worse.”
Derek Thompson’s article about “fair-weather fans” explains that it is okay to stop supporting the local professional sports team if they are on a losing streak, and root for winners instead. I agree, except that the article suggests that one reason locals feel pressured to support the local team, even if it’s losing, is that they don’t have a lot of choices. I don’t agree that having multiple teams per city would be a solution.