On Loyality in Sports

My lifetime as a Reds fan allows me to recall Bob Purkey and flamethrower Jim Maloney to role players as Mike Lum, Bob Bailey, and Chris Stynes. I’ve been a fan through the good times and the bad. For many years at the start of the World Series, a friend always asked me who I wanted to win the Series. I always provided the same answer – “The Reds!” as I know my loyalty. It took him some time, but he finally learned to rephrase his question.

The origin of our loyalties is a story in itself. Proximity is probably the biggest factor, but there are plenty of sports fans who don’t have a professional franchise within hundreds of miles. I started following the St. Louis Blues mainly because my dad was from St. Louis and I could hear there games on the radio (with the best hockey announcer ever – Dan Kelly).

Then there’s the “I’ve moved’ factor, or a new franchise comes to the area. For instance many Bengal fans over 50 were Browns fans before the Bengal franchise existed!

I grew up in Ohio and came to the Cincinnati in 1976; and have been loyal to the Bengals. The two Super Bowl trips in the 80s were great, but being a loyal fan, the 90s were difficult and a true test of loyalty. Bengal times are still difficult and challenging. Those cutting ties with the Bengals to root for another team were not fans in the first place. Although most loyal fans stick it out, the profound discouragement of some leads them to be indifferent – but not change to another team. This is where I admit to be.

Circumstances happen in life challenging loyalty, or maybe causing it to change. I grew up near Ohio University and attended numerous OU sporting events. College took me to MAC opponent BGSU. I easily recall my inner turmoil while on the band practice field with the opening game on the radio with BG visiting OU. Of course my first home game got my blood flowing orange.

I’m also a UC Bearcat alum and loyal to their cause. The President Zimpher-Bob Huggins battle was a major test for me. I survived; and am even a Bearcat football season ticket holder. But if they meet BGSU, regardless of expectations, my blood is orange.

I pull for cross-town Xavier in all games but one (against UC). I follow XU, but I’m not a loyal fan. Fans experience the joy of victories and the lowest feelings in the agony of defeat, followers don’t. In recent XU tournament runs, followers don’t have the same emotional connection embraced by the loyal fans.

A few years ago I followed the progress of my nephew’s HS team. They were pretty good, even making the state playoffs. Unfortunately, he played for a bitter rival of my HS days. I must admit, while watching him play, I never stood, clapped, and cheered during their flight song because my loyalty runs deep.

People gathered together this past weekend for Super Bowl parties. I was casually rooting for the Cardinals at the party from kickoff to the final play. But no pain, and no real joy beyond cheering at the event with my neighbors. And if the Cardinals had won, nobody would have seen me boasting the next day as if I was the #1 Cardinal fan in Ohio – I know my loyalties.

Those embracing successful front runners are the real losers.

It’s ok to be a follower of others, but declaring to be a fan of three MLB teams and embracing the one doing the best is pathetic.

It’s ok to be a follower of others, but please don’t embrace the enthusiasm of a loyalist during their good times. Loyalty to your team through the tough times is a measure of fandom.

Hats off to the many, many fans remaining loyal to their team; and cheers to those who practice the difference between fans and followers.