So you bleed green and white, maize and blue, or red, black, pink, whatever. But are you a fan?
Since the inception of sport, weâ€™ve seen the role of fans differ. From a couch potato who never misses a game to those whoâ€™ll go shirtless in subzero weather to show their allegiance. But being a fan means something more.
Recently I engaged in a heated conversation about whether â€œtrue fansâ€ have a right to be critical of their teams, athletes and organizations when theyâ€™re not living up to reasonable expectations. The answer should be a resounding â€œYes!â€
As fans we hold a responsibility. A responsibility of accountability towards those we support. Obviously it must be in reason. While itâ€™s easy to say â€œWe need to win the World Series, Super Bowl, National Championship, etc. every year for us to be successful.â€ itâ€™s simply not realistic.
It is realistic however, for us to expect athletes, teams and organizations to meet or exceed performance standards; probably even the ones theyâ€™ve set for themselves. When that doesnâ€™t happen, we have a right to express our concern over their performances or lack there of. What separates a fan from a â€œnaysayerâ€ is the intent behind concern.
True fans think both with their heart and their head. Because of our heart, sports loyalties are like marriages; for better or worse in good times and in bad. But because we need to use our heads, we must be critical and place some sort of accountability to ensure the good times are good, but when their bad, itâ€™s not for too long.
To find yourself in some sort of illusionist world where youâ€™re team can do nothing wrong is both idiotic and disingenuous. We want winners, we need winners. In order to achieve this we must set a level of performance necessary to achieve these goals on those who can affect it; players, coaches, and team officials who affect what happens on the playing field.
But critiques must be followed by support and encouragement to get them through those tough times.Â To â€œbooâ€ someone because theyâ€™re in a slump, or because they made a bad pass or dropped ball is easy; but a
â€œtrue fan,â€ one who bleeds their team colors, finds a way to cheer them before the next play to get them back up again.
In sports as in life, we all make mistakes. But in sports where fans are the most dynamic part of the game, we have the responsibility to identify and encourage the correction. So the next time you see your favorite player not performing at a level in which theyâ€™re capable of, or coaching mistakes that hurt a team or upper management is not giving the available support necessary to produce a winner, donâ€™t have the wool pulled over your eyes. Expect more, be critical, and offer encouragement because you better believe they expect the same things from themselves.Â