So, I was watching the Texas Rangers this morning and the broadcast team was interviewing an 82 year old man who “got into the Rangers last year” and is now hooked. These crowd pieces are pretty much always awful, but this one was particularly odd for me. I still have trouble understanding the comfort with which Americans embrace the concept of the fair weather fan.
Clearly, this is different because the man is old, and therefore difficult to criticize. Lord knows when I’m 82 (knock on wood) I’m not going to give a damn what a blogger fifty years my junior thinks about anything I do. I’m happy that he’s a Texas Rangers fan, I am. I mean, I’ve only been a fan of the team since my early 20s. I admittedly had no connection to the state of Texas before that, but if I’d moved there last year I’d be a fair weather fan whether I liked it or not. It’s only through good fortune and timing that I followed the team during a rough patch, or to be more accurate, everything that happened to the ball club before Nolan Ryan took over.
Thing is, what choice do the Rangers have? As an organization, if they have any hope of having the kind of tradition and history in fifty years that teams like the Cubs and Yankees have now, they have to welcome these fans while they have the chance and hope to build up a significant fan base that will keep the club going through the rough patches that are sure to return (though hopefully as off-seasons and “rebuilding years” rather than another thirty plus years of little to write home about). Particularly in the metroplex, where the Cowboys attract religious devotion and shameless glory seeking fans in equal measure, the Rangers have to do what they can to get bums on seats.
But still… it’s always weird to me. I’ve heard sports radio guys in Dallas come right out and say they don’t pay attention to the Rangers until they’re over .500; that’s fine on one level (Lord knows it’s not fun watching a baseball team stink it up over 162 games) but you can’t then come out and be Captain Superfan when the team gets to the playoffs. It’s all a bit… unseemly.
Austin became a Rangers town last October. Funny, that. I’d met two Rangers fans in the entire city before the first ALCS appearance in this run. Now they’re everywhere. I know it’s different in Europe… who the heck doesn’t like football but suddenly decides to start following it as an adult? You can’t switch teams, it’s the ultimate stigma.* There are two types of fans, those whose family have followed the team for generations, or those (like me) who have a specific story about their first memory of the game or a visit to a stadium, and took the surprising step of following a team other than the team their dad followed. Craziest of all are those who switch to the rival of their dad’s favourite team. A Cubs fan whose dad is a White Sox Fan, or a Manchester United fan whose dad is a Manchester City fan.
Still, I have trouble with it, this comfort with welcoming people to join you in supporting a team, knowing deep down they’ll probably find something else to do when things go south. Just doesn’t feel right.