Monday, September 17, 2007

Is It Fair to be a Fair Weather Fan?

I'm a lifelong Orioles' fan despite the fact that I know full well they ain't going anywhere anytime soon. I went to half the home games the last year the Colts were in Baltimore, had my childhood bedroom painted blue and white, and it now causes me physical pain to even see a score in which Indianapolis wins. So, on the one hand, I fully understand the why other die-hards, for whatever team they root for, hold some resentment towards fair weather fans. Folks who jump on the bandwagon only when the going is good.

At the same time, I fully appreciate Jerry Garcia's take on the matter as Phil Lesh reports in his memoir, Searching for the Sound. During the hey-day of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice when the 49ers were the undisputed champs of professional football, the Dead would stop rehearsal to watch the games...but only when they were winning. When asked why he wasn't interested in the team during the lean years, Jerry responded that he's got enough to worry about in life, who needs more hassles? Sports are for entertainment, a diversion from life's troubles, so why stick with a loser through thick and thin?

Is a fair weather fan like a fair weather friend -- someone there when there's something in it for him, but not there when you really need him? Friendship is a care-based relationship where each is genuinely concerned for the welfare and well-being of the other. It is reciprocal in knowing that your friend will be there for you and you have every intention of being there for him or her.

But the relationship with a sports team is quite different. the team and the players are there on the basis of negotiated contracts. They aren't doing for you if you need it. They charge an arm and a leg just to get into the stadium, a stadium they won't even let you name even though your tax dollars paid for it. Surely, there is not the same sort of reciprocity.

Does this excuse the fair weather fan? When they spend the cash for the big name players, work hard and win, they are finally giving back and so deserve the fans; elsewise, not. It is only winning teams that are living up to their end of the bargain, so why criticize those who opt out of a bad deal?

But can the fair weather fan truly appreciate the victory? Is there not something inauthentic about wearing the cap or the jacket and not having paid the dues? The air conditioning ought to be reserved for those who were out in the heat.

So, is it rational to be a fair weather fan? Is it morally problematic? Is the disdain of the die-hards legitimate and, if so, on what grounds?