Are Sports Fans Married to Their Teams?

So I have been a fan of the New York Jets and the New York Mets since I was 6 years old. That’s a 40 year relationship. If I’m honest, I stopped rooting for the Mets at one point because the organization treated me fairly poorly when I was in the media. But old habits die hard and I could never quite stay away despite flirtations with other teams (Cubs, Diamondbacks).

Many of my friends contend that one should never leave a team. To do so, one says, means you were never a fan to begin with. I suppose Red Sox and Cubs fans might agree after finally winning after the longest droughts.

As a young Met fan I saw a lot of ineptitude, but it never seemed to me like the team wasn’t trying on the field or even that the front office wasn’t trying to get better. They often just bet on the wrong horse or had players that needed more time to develop.

Recently though, I have flirted with the idea of dumping the Jets. A New York Post article backs up my own thought on the basis of psychological health. But 40 years is a long time and many of my friends questioned my loyalty. And so, after a brief discernment I penned the following on Facebook to the Jets.

After much discernment I have decided to do the following with my NFL rooting. Issue the NY Jets a final ultimatum. Next season two things must happen: Severe restructuring of the organization and at least make some moves to become a playoff team and not to be embarrassed on the field as you were far too often this year. Should this not occur, I will become a fan of….The New York Giants.
And since you have given me nothing to root for this year consider me in the Giants fandom for the remainder of this season.
NY Jets: You are on the clock.

It seems somewhat ridiculous. The Jets don’t really care about my commitment, though they should because many feel the same way. I’m surprised season tickets haven’t plunged. Rooting for a sports team isn’t exactly a reciprocal commitment. In fact, loyalty on my part aside, the Jets haven’t exactly been loyal to their own fanbase. They left Queens for New Jersey many moons ago and then flirted with trying to open a new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. While remaining in New Jersey, it’s not exactly like the Jets make the same kind of commitment that a fan does. We pledge loyalty and hope for the best without any assurance that the team is going to listen to their desires or in fact, give them anything in return. Sure there are fan giveaways and a perk or two if you buy season tickets, but to simply root…there’s not much given in return by the team to those who bleed team colors.

But root nonetheless we do. As frustrating as it might be at times, fans adore their team, sometimes obsessively. And perhaps that is the line. When rooting for your team starts to bleed over into one’s personal life, it might be time for a check. Sports are a pastime. A hobby, something fun, a way to be involved in something bigger. It’s not marriage, or church membership, or even terribly important in the grand scheme of things. The players are the ones who it is truly important to as they risk injury and salary to go all-out on the field against other top athletes. For us, who watch, our passive meandering through is simply that. With the number of concussion injuries in the NFL that have been reported, we may even wish to consider not watching at all as the league, nor the owners, often consider the humans who are on the field more than commodities and their injuries more than collateral damage.

So whether I remain a Jets fan or not, I suppose depends on whether it continues to be fun for me to watch them. Otherwise, it seems somewhat masochistic. Hence, my ultimatum to the team’s management.

Today, I will pray for better days for my team. But will also pray that I can place being fan in the proper order of life’s many events and enjoy the time I spend watching athletes compete at a high level.