Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Three Faces of Fan Loyalty

The Romans had it right with Janus, their two-faced god. As written in "Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Checking in on Resolutions for 2016," Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus. His most apparent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January. Quite often in my own life, I spend too much time looking back or seeking the future. How I wish I could just stay in the present. Perhaps the Romans sought a three-faced god, too. 
As a sports fan, I am in search of a deity that embodies three different approaches toward fan loyalty. This god does something other than look past, present and future. Perhaps you two have already met. Maybe it has more than three faces, but a few recent experiences have revealed its attributes. Here's a snapshot of what I have seen. Please share with me what else you know.

Face #1 is short-sighted, possibly blind. 
People keep asking me if I'm rooting for the Cubs. Most of the time, I don't give much of an answer, but in the last few days, my response has changed. In fact, it's rather emphatic. "No, I'm not cheering for the Cubbies." I'm not even much of a Cleveland Indians fan. Cleveland already got its spoils this year. #stillhurts.

I think Joe Madden is a great skipper. I loved seeing "Rizzo and Bryant" for President t-shirts in the stands and that's one catchy jingle: "Go Cubs Go!." Believe me, were I a fan of the lovable losers, I would sing that ditty loud and proud. I think the "W" and even the "L" that flies outside of Wrigley is a worthy tradition. Bartman doesn't really factor in because whether or not his Cubs win, the man will stay the honorable course. So what gives, why not root for the National League team. The great American city in search of it's first World Series trophy in 108 years?!

what a great match-up. 1-0 loss
I am a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan. Though I did not subscribe to the even year theory aka #Believen and spent the time since the All-Star break in a state of perpetual frustration (worst record in baseball), I still held up hope against hope. It wasn't a blind hope....and yet, it was.

Half way through the World Series, I realized my problem. With the Cubs' weaknesses exposed, I came to believe that if the Giants had won Game 1 (that 1-0 loss in Chicago), I truly think the NLDS series would have been different. I was in attendance at AT&T Park in San Francisco for Game 4. We could have and should have won that game. If the Giants had just done a few things differently, I honestly believe we would have had more October baseball in the Bay. Given that the Giants swept the Dodgers during the final three games of the season, I am convinced we would have won in the NLCS series. All that being said, I do think the Giants would succumb to The Tribe. I just think they are the best team in baseball. Tonight will tell.

I've run my theory by other Giants faithful and every single one objectively agrees ;-). Though an even year is not a birthright for a World Series win, it sure makes for good times. The Giants should be there. I hope Bochy and the Boys are cheering for the Indians in the same way I am.

Face #2 shows up in good times and in bad
Married couples take this vow for a reason. When every last fiber of your being may claim it's not practical or necessary to stay, that's when loyalty must be exercised. A fan is born when he or she remains, when they show up, give and don't count the cost; NOT when the gettin' is good, but when times are lean and mean. Dear students of Notre Dame du Lac, this message is directed at you.
My friend James took this sad photo, including the caption:
The students probably figured more tailgating was a better use of their time.
I can't believe the number of people who asked me why the student section had empty seats (not sure how or why I might have the answer). The television cameras could not hide this truth. With a 2-5 record going into the game against Miami, a once intense rivalry that has limited, if much significance to today's students, it's easy to guess why much of the student body was M.I.A. But, I think it's unacceptable. Seeking answers, I reached out to a current sophomore, who informed me:
I think it mainly had to do with the amount of exams and projects coming up. A lot of people went out this weekend because of Halloween and then didn't really want to go to the game so instead did homework. Many people have been selling or giving away their tickets because of school related stress as well as the fact that this year hasn't been the best for football. Most people I know went to the game for at least the first half. 
I should be proud of current students for being responsible...well, students. But, I also want them to know some of the best memories are born when there's less to gain...when you are a part of something without any expectations, when you remain through the demise and await the rise....and when it comes, you can look back with the full picture in mind. There are but six home games this season. I don't get them very often because it's hard to get to South Bend, it's expensive and the month of November can be frightfully cold. Enjoy every minute you can Domer nation...Notre Dame Stadium is but a few steps away. Oh any by the way, I wasn't the least bit surprised that Erin (who shared that message) a. was in attendance for the game and b. stayed for all of it. #MoreProud
I've never been so excited for a team that's  2-5
Face #3 confirms that our roots run deep
My friends Mike and Kealy Murray have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 15 years. All three of their children have been born on the west coast, in San Francisco to be exact. Mike a true Philly native, an alum of St. Joe's Prep and Penn, and even though he lives 3,000 miles from the City of Brotherly Love, remains a Eagles season ticket holder. And, he's doing all that he can to make sure his children will be too.

A mutual friend—a St. Louis native and Cardinals fan—confessed to Mike and I that he was okay with his children being raised as Giants fans. Given the success of the Orange and Black, considering where their family lives today, with regular access to AT&T Park, Matt's argument is quite reasonable. As a Giants fan (see Face #1), I needed little to no convincing to take his side. Mike however, looked at him...and then at me and said..."Yeah....I can't do that." Mike is already one of my favorite people, in that moment, I think he reached a top 10. 

Every single year, I have a student in my class who is a die-hard Patriots fan. When I ask them why, inevitably I hear, "my dad is from Boston," or my own personal favorite from my student Ethan was "you gotta meet my Grandma. She raised me to be a Pats fan." All good. I get it.
no we don't....
Fan is short for fanatic. We love sports because they demand us to show our true colors or in this case our team colors—Colors that paint a portrait of what loyalty looks like. To remain a fan of your favorite team...your home team in another a generation removed...when everyone around you isn't, requires pluck and resilience. It's what make sports rivalries great and some sports fans better than others. You need not be short sighted or blind for that matter to realize that truth.

Photo Credits
Baseball face
Empty Seats: James C
Pats fans

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