It would be an understatement to say that sports fandom is tied to identity. After all, sports teams are anchored in cities, in communities, in places where people live. They are, in many ways, an important part of civic pride, and they are definitely a part of a city’s identity. New York isn’t quite New York without the Yankees. Green Bay isn’t Green Bay without the Packers. Sports fans experience other cities through their sports teams, and vice versa. The world is a big place, and shortcuts are necessary.
Because this is so, sports are also uniquely familial and communal. Many of us sports fans learned how to play from our parents, and grew up rooting for teams not because they were the ones on TV, but because our family and friends did it. We learned the stories, passed down to us from those people who were there. The communal aspect is why people feel the need to talk about the game with coworkers and strangers on message boards alike.
Sports are special, and the games itself—like baseball—are wonderful and can be played by kids and adults. But baseball isn’t magic. Major League Baseball and its collection of teams aren’t magic, either. They exist to make money off you, the fan. MLB is an entertainment business, first and foremost, and the teams on the fields across the nation its products.
This is an irrefutable fact, but it is one that has, depending on your point of view, somewhat disturbing implications. To bring the core implication from the lands of unwritten rules to tangibleness: because your baseball team is an entertainment product, you’re under no obligation to continue to pay for and support that product. Just as it is with movie franchises, TV shows, podcasts, you name it—if you’re not enjoying it, you should be able to just turn it off, either forgoing the medium in general or to try out new things.
We’ve already established that sports teams are uniquely communal, of course. Still——so what? So what if you don’t root for your hometown team? So what if you dare to turn off the game and go do something else? So what if you want to find other ways to engage in community? Lord knows there are enough ways to engage with like-minded individuals on the internet.
Look: bandwagon fans have got it right. They’re looking for a good time, looking for some entertainment, looking to be a part of something fun and cool. When the team is good—when the product is good—they stick around. And when the product is undeniably awful, they leave. They pick up the guitar, or spend more time with their family, or read a book, or watch that TV show, or cook, or get more sleep, or start running again.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with watching baseball games and loving the game, no matter what the on-field product is like. There is nothing wrong with being loyal to your team. If you love watching baseball, keep on loving it. If you love your team, by all means, continue sticking with them.
But doing so does not make you a better fan. It does not give you moral superiority. It does not make you a better person. Not all die-hard fans are like this, obviously. Still; I’d rather take a bandwagon fan than a died-in-the-wool superfan any day. That’s because the bandwagon fans aren’t the ones making fun of people who showed up late to the party, and aren’t gatekeeping the fandom to keep out groups that they think don’t belong.
Ultimately, if watching your baseball team is entertaining and making you happy, do it. If it isn’t, then don’t. Sadly, the often toxic culture around sports fandom preaches exactly one approach: support your team always, or leave your fan card at the door.
Life is short. If you want to turn off the game, you should feel empowered to do so. Stop watching. Stop clicking on Royals Review dot com. Do something that makes you happy. If it’s Royals baseball? Wonderful. And if it’s not? Put it this way—if the product isn’t what you want, you shouldn’t have to continue buying the product just because other people say you should.