A mercenary sports fan is an evolved, more astute student and participant of sport.
He is the evolution of fan, the next step in this history of fankind. He is the polar opposite of the Super Fan.
A nod to Steve Gorman, drummer of the Black Crowes and sports radio host (what a gig: rock drummer and sports media spooner). He brought-up being a mercenary fan the other day, which is, as he explains, someone who cheers for different teams. I would clarify how this takes place perhaps at different times, moving here and there through the sports space/time continuum because the mercenary fan is open to an assortment of opportunities to be a fan. This complicates the “homer fan” model, the one with the tool who blindly roots and roots for his/her team despite whatever nonsense is happening on the field, in the front office, etc. A great line from Gorman: “So, this means all you Dallas Cowboys fans out there, whose team is being run by the idiotic Jerry Jones, feel free to jump ship.” Haha. Begs the question: if the team is consistently and embarrassingly floundering in well-below-average results, how does one keep on keeping on?
And here they come, the herd of sports fan buffoons: “How can you even suggest such a thing! A true fan sticks by his team through all the down times! A real fan’s support is consistent; it’s like family!”
I would counter: You’re a tool. A real fan doesn’t put-up with this kind of low-flying, dismal bullshit. Owner/executive and coaching regimes change which can affect the entire character and success of a team. Say you grew-up watching the team play, went to games with your family, had team paraphernalia all over your room. You love this team. Well, things are different now. Maybe the team moved out of town, abandoning you and your annual worship. Maybe there’s a new owner who’s not necessarily concerned with winning. Is the owner a clown? Is the team consistently failing to deliver? Are there other issues like the ownership wants a new stadium that will cost a city millions despite the fact that they suck? Is the team harboring derelict high school/college drop outs who beat their girlfriends or drunk drive their cars into pedestrians, etc., etc.?
If the situation is “bad,” a REAL fan lets the team know this will not stand… by NOT showing up for games, by NOT necessarily running around town in his Cleveland Browns jersey, by NOT continuing to support (emotionally and/or financially) this pathetic entertainment sports enterprise. Enough is enough. You want my support? You have to earn it even if my dad took me to a bunch of games when I was a kid. Even if I still have some crappy memorabilia hanging around the garage. Sure, I might keep it around (has some meaning attached to it), will still watch a game, hoping for some kind of change of direction…but the blind faith of SUPER FAN is weak. We are not talking about support for our country, for our military, etc. Sports is entertainment; it’s big business. Your team is a brand. If you’re finding the equivalent (analogy) of human feces in your coffee, are you still going to frequent that shop for a cup of joe? I say, Just Say No. You might be doing them a favor; you might be helping send a message that this kind of miserable play is unacceptable. Plus, who knows, you might cut down on all of that unnecessary and miserable heart-ache.
But I have another point, beyond this kind of vigilant fandom that will, I am arguing, hold teams more accountable (especially if done on a grander scale); indeed, this kind of tough-love might actually help a team get its act together. There is another benefit to being a mercenary fan, because. . .
Meanwhile. . .
One could find his sports fix in the play of other teams, other athletes (and other sports). Sure, they may wear a different jersey, but one can appreciate the sport (whatever that is) being played at a high-level on and off the field. This kind of appreciation, engagement and attachment leads to a more intelligent fan, a more intelligent life. If you are so dialed-in with your team, attend every team event, own every possible jersey or hat, that you actually consider yourself part of the team, you lose.
But it gets better. You see, although Gorman threw us all a bone the other day, and I’ve added a few clarifications/explanations above to further the point, I’ve been a sport mercenary for a long time. And I have benefitted ten-fold because of this constant search for knowledge. Yes. Being a mercenary sports fan is like becoming a sports academic, free to find the best of athleticism from this vast world of sport. My appreciation for my side is enhanced, more sophisticated; I learn more about the actual sport, about other sports; and because of this broadened perspective, I can better integrate the world of sport into my own life. In other words, I become a better fan, even of my own team.
Perhaps more importantly, I become a better athlete, healthier, happier. There is much to say in order to illustrate this improved version of sports fan (student and athlete). Perhaps Matt’s Blog obliges. Either way, take a test drive.
In the end, this is the evolution of the sports fan. Become a mercenary sports fan. Broaden your sports horizon. Or shrink, rise and fall at the whim of a silver-spooned narrator who dictates your every move, who narrows your options, you, the Super Fan of this American comical tragedy.