In a world with multitudes of minds pondering professional sports, there is a special corner with a chosen few that are the self-appointed authorities on the parameters of fandom. This group likes to frame the optimum nature of sports fanaticism as unsentimental and pragmatic. Rooting unconditionally for a sports team is seen as an illogical flaw in the human value system. They see a sports team as just a company with a hierarchal business structure seeking to maximize profits at all costs. There is a separation of the overall brand from the current roster. From this, some infer that it is pointless to root for a team. The logic goes like this: if the roster is continuously changing, then what is the point of rooting for a sports organization.
Being a fan of a team brings in the usage of pronouns like “us” and “we”. These pronouns are meant to express a certain depth in the connection between fans and sports teams. The unique aspect of these pronouns is that it allows fans to better express the up and downs of being an avid supporter. At times these pronouns are used for fans feeling prosecuted or being offensive. People tend to be seeking communities where they can say “we feel this…” or “they got it out for us”. These pronouns represent parts of someone’s identity. This part of their identity affects someone’s outlook on life and optimism.
Some (the same “some” I referred to earlier as “self-appointed authorities on the parameters of fandom”) may question having your identity tied up with a sports team. They consider it to be a fickle, irrational and unstable identity bound to create a life of frequent bouts of depression. They end up asking the question “the allegiances of players and executives change so why doesn’t yours”? However, what these people fail to realize is that as the times have changed and the world has evolved one of the few things that stay consistent in many cities is the sports teams. It is the strand that connects generations. We are in a time where economic change has caused many local businesses that have served as staples of communities to close, (from the factories in Detroit to local newspapers in small towns) sports team remain repellant to the effects of economic change. According to the latest Forbes report teams are only going up in value.
These critics of fandom have to realize normal, working-class people who are many times the biggest fans seek out stability. Also, they seek out moments of communal enjoyment. The team logo, the team colors, and the stadium location are things they attach themselves to over whether the players stay or go.
Many people seek out emotional highs. It is important to note that activities that provide major highs have the inverse effect of major lows. To get the highest level of positive emotion, there has to be a risk taken. A person has to feel like they put themselves in a vulnerable position. When people claim loyal support and show slight possessiveness of a team, they are putting themselves in the aforementioned position. They are seeking the ability to tap into the gates of pure elation that some may only expect to get once in a lifetime. People should not be criticized for seeking out mental outliers; they should be applauded. This is a search of emotional catharsis that can only be detrimental to one’s self in a non-lethal way. It is not like other searches for high emotional consciousness. Other such searches include having a child and climbing Mount Everest. Another way to achieve this feeling is to engage in the masochist activity of rooting for a team that hasn’t won a championship in over a hundred years just for that one lucky moment. Some may say the fan is not actually doing anything to contribute to winning. However, fans scrape together spare income for tickets and root year after year for teams with different faces of ineptitude; they might as well have done something. In the end, to the fan, the championship is never about the players. It is about the community you’ve rooted for the team with for generations that can now finally say the words “we won it all.”
The players may move on, the executives may move on, and the team may move on, but the atmosphere stays. A collective history does not simply transport to another place, it stays in the place with the people that helped create it. Ask many St. Louis Ram fans about the “Greatest Show on Turf” days, the “us” and the “we” pronouns they use to reminisce about that time is totally detached from the current iteration of the team that is currently located in California. This an example of how fandom is a physical idea, but a mental one that feels an emotional need.
People who aren't searching for emotional ecstasy are boring. The more life centers on a team the more at stake. With each purchase of a jersey and buying of a ticket, life becomes more and more about the team. Only a few moments in a person’s life provides this type of feeling. Such moments include a child giving the valedictorian speech or becoming a medical doctor. In those moments, it's true parents are feeling pride. However, talk to people long enough about these moments you get more of a “we did it” attitude. These people are self-aware enough not to take credit for some or half of their kid’s success, but we shouldn’t be fooled. They are mentally patting themselves on the back. The unique thing about sports is that people should be able to fearlessly and shamelessly proclaim that “we did this.” Highbrow minds shouldn’t take that away from people.