It’s a life-long love affair, the relationship between a sports fan and their chosen team. We aim to take a detailed look at the nature of this relationship. What are the beginnings of such a relationship? Is it constant? Does the love come and go, like friendships, or is it more like family? What is the link between the franchise owners and the fans in the stadium, or at home? It’s a business, an industry, and also a part of peoples’ culture and the local community.

Different Types of Fan?

There are many ways to become a fan, and there are many types of fans out there. There is the die-hard, goes to every game, including away trips, has all the gear, talks of nothing else, and the sports team is essentially his (or her) life. There’s the casual home-town fan, goes to some games, has civic pride, and perhaps a bumper sticker, but it doesn’t affect their whole weekend when the team loses. Then there is the fan in name only, claims allegiance but cannot name a current player, thinks that guy from five years ago might still be there. Additionally, there is the oddity of the second team fan, one who has a real allegiance to another but has a ‘soft spot’ for a team, maybe they went to college, or had a girlfriend who supported such and such.

Dec 6, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; General view of game action as the UCLA Bruins play against the California Golden Bears during the first half at Pauley Pavilion. The event is being held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Can You Change Your Team?

Often team allegiance has been passed down from Father or Mother to Son or Daughter. If you come from a Patriots household, for example, you’re taking a risk declaring yourself a Dolphins fan! There is the phenomenon of the “bandwagon fan”, also known as the “glory hunter” in European sport. The bandwagoner will pick the team of the moment, the aforementioned Patriots in recent times, or The Raiders in the 70s, Cowboys in the 80s, or Dolphins in the 90s. True fans reserve a level of loathing for such people, citing the mantra that you follow your team in the good times as well as the bad times.

When to With-hold Love & Support?

Should you be there for the team no matter what? Good times and bad, is it ever ok to be a fair-weather fan, perhaps literally? Fan revenue is vital to professional sports teams of any level, and they are all too aware of this, the NFL operates a blackout policy, where unless the game is sold out then it cannot be shown live on TV. They also want the team to perform as well as possible, and there can be no argument about the value of the home-field advantage.

How Much Merch to Buy?

This question may be directly related to the section where we spoke of the type of fan you are. Does every single piece of clothing we wear need to be in team colors and logo? Maybe you need to own every variation of Blackhawks Jersey that the team puts out with your name on the back, but also all of the start players and retro stars of the past. Maybe you have the old ‘man cave’ with team colors, pool table, bar lights, etc. 

Aug 18, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; Team members watch as a video of Derek Jeter is played during a ceremony honoring the 1998 World Series champion New York Yankees before a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What is a Players Obligation?

Jerry Seinfeld once mused that we cheer for a player, we love and adore him until he moves to another team, we are effectively, “cheering for the clothes” he argues, and it’s a decent point. To what extent should a professional athlete have loyalty to the team, we love it when they do, but at the end of the day it’s a job and the team would not hesitate to let them go if things are not working out. Some stay for their whole career, or at least the majority of it, but this is becoming rarer. Put it this way, if you were offered double your salary to move to another company, would anyone question it?

To Whom Does the Team Belongs?

Who does the team belong to? In a legal sense, it’s the owners. But there is an argument that the fans are the most important as without them there is nothing, this is a famous quote by the Glasgow Celtic team manager who stated, “football without fans is nothing”. 

Supporter or Follower?

We could categorize fans into two distinct groups, supporters and followers. If you are a supporter, you support the team in a real way, you buy tickets and merch, and this results in funds going to the team. A follower takes interest, watches on TV but doesn’t spend money on the team or give physical support by attending.