Sports versus Team Fandom – A sort of Ode
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has become an important commercial holiday, both to those who sell as to those who purchase, although it is also a reflection of the reality that prices have been unjustifiably high, at least in terms of equity and decency, than they ought to have been all year long. Consumers are easily manipulated but no consumers are more easily manipulated and abused than sports fans, those “fanatics” who shell out trillions of dollars in attendance and viewing costs, memorabilia and incidentals, while the recipients (owners, not players) seem to snicker, and generally, to ignore them.
Being a fan is generally a passionate but passive activity, with frustration the most obvious aspect, especially when one is a team fan and the ownership views the team as business, rather than a hobby. Consider the current New York Yankees as an excellent illustration.
When father George was at the helm, he was an owner and a fan concurrently, and, although a businessman, the fan aspect was paramount. Indeed, he treated the massive ongoing investment in the team by the fans as a trust, and it was to the fans that he felt that owed the highest loyalty, although he was also loyal to the players and former players from whom he demanded so much, in so emotional a manner. Even those he’d mercilessly bullied.
His son Hal, as in almost anything and everything, is a negative of his father whom he does not respect but from whom, everything he has, was inherited: a typical second generation syndrome. Calm and profit oriented, the Yankees, to Hal, are primarily a vehicle operated for the benefit his creditors and investors, and it is to them, rather than to fans or players, that his loyalty is rendered. And his chief advisor and operating officer, the aptly named Irishman, Brian Cashman, is his ideal henchmen. Randy Levine, the Yankees president seems to be a seldom seen illusion, and apparently likes it that way. While an extreme example, the model is not unique.
Yankees fans, the ideal illustration of “team” rather than “sport” fans, are for the most part, a masochist lot. Vocal, emotional, passionate and pretty well informed, but kept at bay, carefully, by management trolls who infiltrate their social networks to support management decisions, suggesting that fandom is a permanent state whose prime virtue is loyalty to ownership. In essence, Team fandom, in the view of ownership and its trolls, involves a sports variant on the “my country right or wrong” slogan that led the Germans to morph from liberal social leaders of the nineteenth century to the obedient masses who watched their values destroyed in the first half of the twentieth.
Team fandom is a strange but effective means of social control, diverting attention away from issues that really impact society and thus permitting a tiny elite, which now includes billionaire owners who also disproportionately exercise control over just about everything, to rule us all just as surely as if they collectively wore Sauron’s one ring. But it is so addicting, that, notwithstanding acknowledging the foregoing – I’m a passionate Yankees’ and Jets’ fan.
Being a sport fan is quite a bit more rational and hardly masochistic at all. One does not care who wins, only that the sport is brilliantly played. It is much less passionate than team fandom and many team fans can enjoy that passive distraction too, when “their” teams (not theirs at all, fandom is not democratic) are not involved.
Fandom, a diversion that lets off steam so that the issues that impact our real lives can be safely obfuscated, manipulated and controlled. Machiavelli would be proud. He’d probably approve of Black Friday as well.
Anyway, Happy Black Friday!
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.