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Sports teams don’t deserve anything from you

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You’re under no obligation to do anything.

Tennessee at Kansas City David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images

This past Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs blew an 18-point halftime lead at home against the Tennessee Titans, exiting the playoffs a mere three hours after they started. The Titans, who will now advance to the Divisional Round next week, are not a good football team. Their net points for the season was at -22, as opposed to Kansas City’s +76.

Making it worse was the Chiefs’ dismal playoff history. The Chiefs are now 1-10 in their last 11 playoff games, which has included six home games at Arrowhead Stadium. Four years ago, the Chiefs blew a—you guessed it—18-point halftime lead in their first playoff game. The Major League Soccer team now known as Sporting Kansas City used to go by the name the Kansas City Wizards when the franchise began in 1995, and the Wizards used to play at Arrowhead Stadium. The Wizards have 10 playoff wins at Arrowhead in their history. During the same time, the Chiefs have zero.

I knew this history, and this year’s Chiefs team was a good, but not great, team. So rather than experience a possible gut-punch of an upset in real time, I decided to the theater and watch a movie during the game. If the Chiefs won, well, that wasn’t a big deal, as the Chiefs were favorites at home—besides, the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots loomed as the real villains of the playoffs. Those would be fun games.

But the Chiefs lost. The final score: 22-21, Titans. Reid was apologetic to the fans in the postgame news conference.

The fans “deserved more than what we gave them.”

It’s a fascinating question of what fans “deserve” from a team. Certainly, fans don’t deserve what the Cleveland Browns have done, namely go winless over an entire NFL season and genuinely be awful for two consecutive decades. Certainly, the Kansas City Royals fans don’t deserve a 29-year drought between playoff appearances.

Public stadium deals should be considered. As soon as taxpayer money goes into the equation, the taxpayers ought to have a say in what they deserve for their money. Fans ought to have some say, in that case.

But should teams and players deserve something fron the fans? Royals manager Ned Yost thought so in August 2014.

“I mean, what, 13,000 people got to see a great game?” he said in his post-game news conference...

...“They’re a big part of our success, especially at home. Because the electricity they provide, the energy they provide, helps you get through games like this. You know? We’ve been working hard to make our fans happy and make our fans proud for a lot of years, and we’d like them out here to enjoy a night like this with us. Because this was a special night. This was a fun night. I just wish there could’ve been more out here to enjoy it with us.”

I’d wager that a lot of players, coaches, and front office employees feel this way, whether or not they would say it. Sam Mellinger eviscerated Yost for his opinion in that column, and the press often does, which is why they don’t say it. But it makes sense: if you are involved with a sports franchise, you expect fans to want to see your good work. It makes perfect sense.

But the fact of the matter is that sports teams don’t deserve anything from you. You are under no obligation, moral, financial, or otherwise, to support a specific team. You are under no obligation to support any specific team. Born in Overland Park and want to be a Seattle Seahawks fan because you think their colors are cool? Go for it. Born in Queens and want to be a Chiefs fan and a New York Yankees fan because you feel like it? Nothing stopping you. And if someone says that you shouldn’t, that person is just a simple jerk, nothing more.

It’s tricky because we develop emotional connections to these teams, but the reality is that this is a choice. If you don’t want to watch the Chiefs next year because you’re sick of their losing, that does not make you less of a fan or less of a person. Not interested in sticking around for another Royals rebuild and want to go root for the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals in the interim? Weird choice, but whatever.

Sports are, ultimately, just entertainment. You have precious limited time and money for your entertainment choices and free will. Rooting for a sports team, being a ‘fan,’ is a choice.

So did, as Reid said, the fans deserve more from the team tonight? You could argue that, sure, they probably did. Jackson County is shelling out $850 million in public money for the Truman Sports Complex renovation, after all, and the Chiefs have rewarded that renovation with zero playoff wins at Arrowhead (the Royals, on the other hand, have multiple World Series game victories there so at least part of it has worked out).

But also, Reid should be aware that fans can just not watch or go to games. It’s a terrifying prospect for teams, but an empowering one for fans. We hold all the cards.