Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fan Loyalty - Die-Hard or Fair-Weather?

While Wikipedia is not considered the most credible source on the planet, I am turning to it for a couple of simple definitions:

Fan loyalty: is the loyalty felt and expressed by a fan towards the object of his/her fanaticism. Allegiances can be strong or weak. The loyalties of sports fans have been studied by psychologists, who have determined several factors that create such loyalties. Fan loyalty can be threatened by team actions.

Fair-weather fans: Fans who only follow their team when they are winning.
Die-hard fans: Fans who follow their team no matter they are winning or losing.

I have turned to these definitions as recent events for the teams that I support have been pretty abysmal and fan loyalty is definitely being tested.

Arsenal have lost 3 straight League matches (2 of them to weaker opponents) and the club is currently fighting for a top 4 finish which has been a given since the '95-'96 season. Weaknesses in the squad have been exposed and fans are starting to vent their anger at each other. I personally find both situations sad. As a fan of the club, I am definitely bummed that they are not as strong as they have been in the Arsene Wenger era. However, I am also bummed to see the nastiness of some fans towards the team, the manager, the players and each other when things go bad. (One example is the "fan" who threatened to "murder" Aaron Ramsey following last week's terrible loss to Swansea and another is the name calling Twitter "conversation" that I just saw in my time line between 3 Arsenal fans).

I have no interest in judging how others should feel or show their support for a team. I am just questioning those that turn so nasty when things don't go their way.

English Football and American Baseball have very little in common but when I look at the New York Mets in comparison to Arsenal I see a glaring difference in fan expectation. The Mets have a 50 year history of underachieving. Mets fans have to have thick skin as we live in the same town as the Championship buying entitled Yankees. The 2012 baseball season hasn't even started yet and everyone is predicting last place for the hapless Mets...yet the fans remain loyal to the club (not the owners though who have further tarnished the club by their personal association with Bernie Madoff). Mets fans would be thrilled to not finish in last place. Yes we want the team to win, but there are 30 teams in the league and only one can win the title. The fact is that 29 fan bases will be left disappointed.  Most teams have their ups and downs. We live with the Mets and sadly lose with the Mets. Mets fans just keep hoping for that time when they will be on top. It will be that much sweeter when it happens.

Meanwhile, Arsenal fans expect trophies and a top 4 finish no matter what. I will always support Arsenal and I want the trophies and championships for the club as well. However, no team has a divine right to win everything. (Yes, even the Yankees). Arsenal have been a shell of themselves this season and yet they are in 5th place out of 20 teams. Overall that is pretty damn good. I can only imagine how hard it is to be a fan of teams such as Wigan, Bolton, Leeds, Blackpool, West Ham, Blackburn, etc. Yet, they have loyal fans that put up with the ups and many downs of the clubs they support. 

Don't even get me going on the New York Jets who haven't been to the Super Bowl since 1969. It would be easy to just turn on them and support the Giants who always seem to find a way to win. That would be easy...but it would also be seen as being a "fair weather fan" rather than a "die-hard".

I choose to remain a die-hard fan and support my teams no matter whether they are winning or losing. I'd prefer winning but die-hard fans don't always get the choice.

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