Fairweather fan. It’s one of the gravest insults you can hurl at a sports fan. To be a fairweather fan means you have no passion, no courage, and no loyalty to your team. And loyalty is what it’s all about. In the modern age of professional sports, players move at will, coaches are hired and fired regularly, and even the general managers and presidents aren’t secure in their positions. The only constants are the fans and the colors. Sure the members of a team may come and go, but the team itself, and the fan base that supports it, will always be there… until they’re not.
At least when we were losing there was somewhere to sit.
Every sports fan knows that their team will only stay as long as there are people to support it. There is a never ending supply of cities out there, hovering like vultures, ready to swoop in and steal a team the moment they can convince the owners that they’ll be a better home for the team (damn you Oklahoma City!). The only thing stopping a city from losing their franchise is the support of their fans. Sports is a symbiotic relationship. Teams play and entertain, and fans spend money to watch it. If a city ever falters in their support, the team will find a city to welcome them with open arms.
So it’s the hardcore, the faithful, the fans who support a team through thick and thin that are the keystone of any franchise. A fan who will be there through the tough times as well as the good. Ever hopeful their dedication will someday be rewarded, they fill the stands year after year in what they consider a solemn duty.
This is what dedication and loyalty looks like.
But then there’s the other fans. Those fans who don’t show up year after year. Those fans who jump on the bandwagon when things are exciting, but turn their backs on their teams when things get tough. When the losses start piling up, these shallow cowards scatter like rats on a sinking ship. They are truly the lowest of the low in fandom.
If that sounded a little hyperbolic to you, it’s because it was. The fact is that most sports fans are of the bandwagon variety. There’s a reason the Mariners sell 14,000 tickets a game and the Sounders sell 42,000. Most people like to watch winners. And you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
There’s a few reasons for that. For one, the symbiotic relationship between teams and their fans I mentioned above was lacking in one important detail. A team can’t just exist, but must be competitive to hold up their end of the bargain. I’m not saying that a team needs to win a championship every year to justify its existence; that’s obviously an unreasonable expectation. But a team must at least play like they care about winning. A team cannot be content with mediocrity and still expect their fans to support them.
“It’s okay, man. Ownership doesn’t care how much you suck”
Let me give you an example. I don’t watch the Mariners anymore. I used to love watching them. I first started following them in 2001. That was the season the Mariners 116 wins tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most wins by a team in the history of the game (though the Cubs season was more impressive because they reached 116 wins in a season that was 10 games shorter). While the Mariners lost to the Yankees in the playoffs that year, they came back pretty strong in 2002 and 2003 with over 90 wins each year, only missing the playoffs due to playing in an incredibly tough division.
After that the wheels came off. The team played losing season after losing season. Since 2003 the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs once, and only finished with a winning record twice. The team has had a revolving door of managers and star players over that time. The only notable players to spend a significant time with the team since Edgar Martinez’ retirement in 2004 were Ichiro, who was traded to the Yankees in 2012, and Felix Hernandez who won the 2010 Cy Young award.
“Hell, I wish I didn’t have to watch either.”
Even though the Mariners were once one of the top spending teams in the league, by 2013 they had dropped to 24th (out of 30). The team regularly went after overpriced players who consistently underperform. This year’s signing of Robinson Cano seems no different. In short, it’s been a long 13 years for the Mariners.
While I have nothing but the utmost respect for those die hard fans who still go to all the games, I stopped paying attention…not because I don’t care about the team, but rather because I do care. It matters to me to see my team doing well, and it’s frustrating to see them consistently losing. If I didn’t distance myself from them emotionally, then I would in a constant state of anger and frustration. Every loss hurts because it matters to me how the team does. Considering that the Mariners play 162 games a year, that’s a whole lot of hurt.
It’s refreshing, those rare times when fans will let people know how they really feel.
For Seattle sports fans my age and younger (and I’m no spring chicken), every season has ended in heartbreak; every single one in every major sport. While the Seattle Storm has won two WNBA titles, not many people have the emotional attachment to that team. I was excited and proud when they won, but not the same way I’ll feel with a Seahawks or Sounders title. This is why Seattle is regularly voted the most miserable sports town in the country.
Every season for every team in Seattle ends with that numb feeling, that gut punch that we fans are so familiar with. I have the highest hope that this year will be different for the Seahawks, but I’m all too aware that I could be facing one of the most painful of endings to a season two days from now. To make up for that disappointment every year, a team has to give me something to be excited about before the season ends. I’ve had a ton of fun watching the Seahawks this year. If they lose this Sunday it’ll hurt, but once that initial pain fades I’ll have a lot of good memories of the 2013 season.
Really, this moment is gonna stay with me for a looooong time.
The Mariners, on the other hand, don’t give me that excitement. When I check the standings in May and see the Mariners are already 10 games back in the division, I know there’s no reason to keep watching. The Mariners consistent losing ways don’t give me enough memorable moments to make up for the endless strings of losses.
Being a sports fan is supposed to be fun. That’s why I do it; that’s why I enjoy it. When it stops being fun, there’s no reason for me to continue. And watching the Mariners lose year after year hasn’t been fun for a long time. There’s no bonus points for suffering about sports.
So props to you, faithful sufferers of bad teams. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why you put yourselves through such pain. I mean, even Cubs fans have the occasional winning season to look forward to. But for my own sanity and well being, I’m gonna be a fairweather fan, and I know you’ll think less of me for that. Who knows, maybe the Mariners will start winning again someday. If that happens, I’ll see you down at Safeco Field.