Loyalty is the most undervalued trait in sports. Last week this column investigated loyalty within the National Football League (NFL) in terms of free agency and cutting players.
But it is not just the NFL that has a problem with loyalty. All sports follow the same pattern of cutting players for money, usually blaming it on other reasons like age or their chances at victory (as depicted last week with the examples of Champ Bailey and DeMarcus Ware).
Fans, too, have begun to decrease their loyalties. Granted, there are extreme fans that have not lost an ounce of loyalty in generations, but fans on the whole have begun to lose the mindset of dedication to one team. There should not even be the concept of a “bandwagon.” Loyalty means being there for the team through everything; it is like marrying a team.
I am a Cubs fan; I have loved the Cubs my whole life. My sister works for the Red Sox, and only when the Cubs (shockingly) were out of the running for a ring last season did I consider cheering for her team. Even then, it felt wrong, dirty somehow.
With drafts going on for Major League Baseball (MLB) fantasy leagues, it is clear to me that loyalty among fans is declining. As a fan of any one team, how can a person cheer for other players?
It is one thing to objectively look at a player and say “great catch” or “great game,” even “great player.” But to want that person to do well in a game even against the team for which a person cheers is basically blasphemy.
If I created a MLB fantasy team, I could not put a player from another organization on my roster. I refuse to cheer for players from other teams. That does not mean I do not respect players from other teams, but I will not go so far as to root for them.
Fantasy sports diminishes, if not ruins, true fanmanship. Fantasy sports is the equivalent of jumping on a bandwagon, even if only the bandwagon of a single player.
Those with fantasy teams cheer for players on rival teams, yet do not want the rival team to do well. It just does not work that way. The whole team works as one, so to cheer for a player is like cheering for the rival team.
But people do not seem to think in terms of dedication to a single team anymore. Sports are something to be enjoyed calmly and for pleasure, so few people actually pour all their heart and soul into a team. Instead, their loyalty is won by a victorious team or a team with better colors.
Sports lose meaning and valor when people give away their loyalties; when they do not throw themselves into the sport wholeheartedly. If someone can watch a game without yelling once or getting emotionally involved, then that person is not a true fan.