Did any of you listen to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio this afternoon? I happened to be in the car and caught part of it, and one segment was devoted to the premise that loyalty in sports fans is a weakness.

Chris Garber, one of the other editors here at Redleg Nation wrote about this particular subject last August, and it’s one that should have particular meaning to a fan base that may be headed to a tenth straight season of following a losing team. Go read Chris’ thought-provoking post here. In a comment to that post, Chris noted:

I am really questioning why I spend so much time watching, listening, reading and writing about this company. The amount of pleasure I derive from them is miniscule, at this point.

I’m not saying I’d swear allegiance to the Devil Rays, or something. But why not pay attention to something else for a while? It doesn’t take away my memories of better years, or Marty & Joe.

It would make me a “bandwagon fan,” but that was my original question: Why, in sports alone, are we “bad” if we don’t follow a team when it puts out a terrible product?

Then, later in that thread, another one of our editors (Bill) made exactly the same point that Cowherd was making on the radio today:

And you know what…the teams bank on it. If we deserted them when they’re run badly, that would be more incentive to change…but when they know they can count on us, no matter what…it’s easier for them to continue in the same pattern. So, who is dumber, them or us?

Cowherd’s premise was that fans — and more importantly, media — in towns like Cincinnati do not hold losing organizations accountable like they do in places like New York. Think about the fans wearing paper bags on their heads in Cleveland, at Browns games; they’re still paying for tickets and parking and beer. In Chicago, they fill up that park with drunks for every single game, regardless of the product on the field. What incentive is there for ownership to put more effort into putting a winning product on the field?

Why have I spent way too many hours and dollars in the last five years of my life watching practically every game,and writing, editing, and publishing this website about a team that has been pretty hopeless during that entire time? Why haven’t I moved on to something more satisfying, or rewarding? It’s a great question.

21 Responses

  1. Bill Lack

    I heard someone talk one other time about this…saying that if a business, say a dry cleaner, kept screwing up your clothes..you wouldn’t keep taking your clothes to them..why do we keep supporting sports teams that do nothing but take advantage of our loyalty?

  2. Doug Gray

    I can’t equate it to a dry cleaner, its just not the same. At best I compare it to the girl you were into in high school/college who wasn’t always nice or into you, but every now and again did something that just rocked your world and the feeling you got from that made the rest of it worth it.

  3. Matt WI

    Awesome post.


    Doug Gray:

    I can’t equate it to a dry cleaner, its just not the same. At best I compare it to the girl you were into in high school/college who wasn’t always nice or into you, but every now and again did something that just rocked your world and the feeling you got from that made the rest of it worth it.
    Reply

  4. TC

    I already sort of feel myself loosing enthusiam. Like pretty much all of us, I have a busy life. So for the past week, I’ve been dedicating more time to other aspects of my life.

    I don’t mind the losing. I guess I’m used to it. I’m tired of the Reds finding one Castrolicious leadoff year after year. I’m tired of “we are just one or two players away” argument. I’m tired of being 5 games down in the first month.

    But… I still love my Reds and will undyingly follow them. It’s a lifestyle.

  5. RedZeppelin

    Excellent post. I’ve been tempted many times to desert both the Bengals and the Reds but for some masochistic reason I’ve stuck with them both all these years. I suppose when you grow up following a team it becomes a part of you whether you like it or not.

    I can’t imagine a spring/summer without listening to Marty on the radio regardless of how bad the Reds are. I suppose it would be like giving up Thanksgiving just because family members argue at the dinner every year. They’re family so you’re stuck with them.

  6. Brien Jackson

    Two things:

    1. Fan bases are mostly “loyal” because of kids. I mean, if your kid wants to see a real MLB gme or get a Joey Votto jersey-tee, what are you going to do? Say, “no son, you’re not allowed to buy Reds merchandise or go to a ballgame until they put up at least a .500 season?”

    2. The disdain for bandwagoners is mostly a fan-on-fan thing, and generally reflects people’s desire to see their passion recognized. The same thing happens a lot in entertainment, say, when someone gets annoyed that everyone is suddenly the biggest fan of a band they’d been obsessed with years before they hit it big or something.

  7. al

    I’m going to try to unpack this, because I think there are really three things going on here that get tangled up:

    1. For better or worse, sports teams represent cities/regions and thier people, so it’s a much different type of business than any other. Fans are loyal to bad teams mostly because the team is like part of their extended family.

    You might keep going to the bad dry cleaner if your cousin ran it, and that’s a closer analogy.

    2. The economic incentive argument is fine, but you can boycott the games and scream on the talk shows to hold the team accountable and still be loyal to the team. You don’t have to be a bandwagon fan to send the right market signals to Big Bob.

    3. There really is something special about following a team when it’s bad and getting to see them win, and bandwagon fans don’t get to experience that. Deciding whether going for that is worth your time is for each person to decide, but to say that a fairweather fan and a dedicated fan experience the same thing when their team wins is inaccurate.

    It’s like gambling. Don’t put any money in if you want to play it safe, that’s fine. But if your number comes up and someone else had a bunch on it, you may wish that you had bet with them.

  8. TC

    continued…. I Guess I’m just dumb that way.

    Those of us who obssess over this team do it out of something a lot like love. When you love someone, or something, you don’t just give up when things are going right. Somehow you feel like you are part of it.

    I will say this though, it would be easier to put the team aside for a while if it wasn’t for RedLegsNation. To put the Reds away for a while means putting this site away for a while too. Now that would truly break my heart. 😉

  9. Steve Price

    I believe a Jim Bouton quote is relevant:

    “You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

  10. Jared

    I don’t have any unique insights to add, but I do know that the only 2 teams I care about in sports are the Reds and Iowa football. I’ve tried to watch Iowa basketball, I’ve tried to be a Bengals fan, I’ve tried to be a Steelers fan, and at one point I even thought I was a Bulls fan. I’ve tried to manufacture connections. So and so drafted a local guy, my friend likes xxx, whatever.

    But I really just don’t care. I can’t get in to anything but Reds and Hawkeyes.

  11. davidmp2

    Cowherd’s premise is wrong. When a team posts a poor record all of the following occur:

    1) Average fans become indifferent;
    2) Fringe fans remain indifferent;
    3) TV ratings fall; and
    4) Corporate sponsors leave or pay significantly reduced fees for the same product.

    The argument comes down to this: the Reds have their base. They will always have their base. So when the team stinks, they’ll lose their fans, but never the fanatics.

  12. RiverCity Redleg

    @Jared: I’m the same way about the Reds and Kentucky basketball. There are other teams I follow and even more that I “try” to follow, but it’s never the same. The Reds and UK Basketball are the only teams that I live and die by. Unfortunately, the Reds are killing me!

  13. RiverCity Redleg


    al:

    I’m going to try to unpack this, because I think there are really three things going on here that get tangled up:
    1. For better or worse, sports teams represent cities/regions and thier people, so it’s a much different type of business than any other. Fans are loyal to bad teams mostly because the team is like part of their extended family.
    You might keep going to the bad dry cleaner if your cousin ran it, and that’s a closer analogy.
    2. The economic incentive argument is fine, but you can boycott the games and scream on the talk shows to hold the team accountable and still be loyal to the team. You don’t have to be a bandwagon fan to send the right market signals to Big Bob.
    3. There really is something special about following a team when it’s bad and getting to see them win, and bandwagon fans don’t get to experience that. Deciding whether going for that is worth your time is for each person to decide, but to say that a fairweather fan and a dedicated fan experience the same thing when their team wins is inaccurate.
    It’s like gambling. Don’t put any money in if you want to play it safe, that’s fine. But if your number comes up and someone else had a bunch on it, you may wish that you had bet with them.
    Reply

    I agree 100% and thought it deserved to be repeated.

  14. RiverCity Redleg

    For the record, Colin Cowherd is a blowhard douchebag that doesn’t know his bunghole from a hole in the ground!

  15. Furniture City Red

    I really can’t imagine not being a Reds fan, like TC said – It’s a lifestyle.

    Being in N.C., I know all about fair weather fans. People around here jump on and off the Braves band wagon from year to year. And Years ago when the Orioles were good people around here liked them.

    For me there are two pro teams I care about – The Cincinnati Reds and The Carolina Panthers. The Reds can lose a 120 games or the Panthers could go 0-16 and it wouldn’t matter. I’m not switching allegiances.

  16. Furniture City Red

    @RiverCity Redleg: As is 96.4% of all the guys you’ll hear on sports talk radio or talk radio in general.

  17. TC


    RiverCity Redleg:

    For the record, Colin Cowherd is a blowhard douchebag that doesn’t know his bunghole from a hole in the ground!
    Reply

    😆 😆 😆 😆

  18. Truman48

    @ Jared and Rivercity: at least you have your Hawkeyes and Wildcats. I am a Reds and Indiana Hoosiers sports fan. What exactly do I have to root for?

  19. 18to88

    Cowherd is an idiot and here’s why:

    I’m a long time Reds fan, but I’m also an Indianapolis Colts fan. I endured my share of misery with 1-15 and 3-13 seasons. I still went every year. I bought season tickets before the 1997 season. The team went 3-13. I renewed them. They went 3-13 again. It was their 9th losing season in just 14 years in Indy.

    Since that date, they’ve won at least 10 games in 10 of 11 seasons. Because the fans stuck with the team, we still have a team in Indy to root for.

    As long as your franchise is making an honest effort to win, you don’t quit. You can complain, rip, and make your displeasure known by booing and anything else, but you don’t bail.

    The Reds are TRYING to win. Do they do stupid stuff? Oh my, yes. But there’s a difference between incompetence and indifference. The Reds aren’t a horrible team. They have given us some great players to watch (including Jr). I’m grateful for that.

    When fans abandon the team, the team responds by leaving town.

    I’m not advocating the insanity of Cub fans. They are stupid and happy no matter how the team plays. That’s moronic. People know I’m a Reds fan because the minute any mentions the team I get upset and start killing the team. But I’m still watching every game. I go whenever I can.

    There’s nothing I hate more than a bandwagoner. That’s what Cowherd wants everyone to be.

    I despise him for it.

  20. pinson343


    Doug Gray:

    At best I compare it to the girl you were into in high school/college who wasn’t always nice or into you, but every now and again did something that just rocked your world and the feeling you got from that made the rest of it worth it.

    Reply

    This is a good comparison. And how does she rock your world ? By teasing you. Tonite I was ready to accept a ho-hum defeat when I heard the score on the radio with 2 out in our 8th, then I get sucked in again by the 2 HRs. Suddenly I’m excited and am hoping, hoping, before getting crushed. Just like that girl/young woman used to do. In that sense it’s a neurotic unconditional love.

    For me it’s even worse than an adoloescent unrequited love. I’ve literally been a Reds fan since before I can remember, they’re part of my psyche and identity. Giving up on them would require giving up on baseball altogether, which would be giving up on a part of myself.

    Anyway, I ain’t no front runner.