As a child, I was as pure of a fan as one could get. No matter the sport, no matter the significance, I wanted my team to win. I felt unadulterated joy with every victory, and a crushing devastation with every defeat. Somewhere along the way, as we learn more about the business side of sports, we lose that innocent child mindset that only desires the win.
One way we lose our loyalty is through playing fantasy sports. Unless you are willing to forgo winning your league, playing fantasy sports forces you to pick up players on opposing teams which leads to even the most fierce rivalries being softened. Jets fans are willing to start Tom Brady, Giants fans wouldn’t hesitate to play Clayton Kershaw, and Bengals and Ravens fans are quick to draft Antonio Brown. No loyalty is left unscathed after a season of fantasy sports. We justify, “I hate the Cowboys and don’t want them to score, but…if they do, it had better be a 60 yard flea flicker pass from Ezekiel Elliot to Dez Bryant.” If your kid self could see you now, they would be disgusted.
Which leads us to Losing Your Loyalty Part 2: The Draft. As we grow older, we get more and more into the draft as a means to improve our team. Every season starts off with the hope of a better year and, at least an outside shot at a playoff run. However, by midseason, some team’s fates have been sealed and those teams are destined to finish outside of postseason play. Now at this point, it has become commonplace for fans and owners alike to recognize the opportunity for a brighter future by attempting to lose as a means of getting as high of a draft pick as possible. This again causes fans to turn against their team, game by game, as they justify that this act of treason is for the betterment of their team in the long run. This same act would have been inconceivable to us when all we wanted was for our team to win.
Act 3 of our betrayal hits on a more personal level. We invoke Act 3 when we greatly dislike a player or coach. Knowing that if the player does poorly he will be benched, or if the coach does poorly he will be fired, we cast ill will towards the fortunes of our teams. Now as a lad, I certainly disliked some players more than others, but to sacrifice the team’s performance for that player’s or coach’s folly was always out of the question.
David Mamet said, “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” While it appears that old age has taught every fan this adage, wouldn’t it be more fun if we were still just young and exuberant; full of hope that no matter the game, no matter the circumstance, our team would prevail?