New England Patriots And The Problem Of Fan Loyalty
The days of remaining loyal to one single team throughout your entire life should be over. The very idea of fan loyalty is an archaic construct of a bygone era before satellite television, sports packages and live streaming. No longer are you forced to watch the garbage games in your locality, but you can pick and choose and rightfully abandon a sinking ship or a ship that’s been sunk for decades like the Chicago Cubs.
After all, in the modern age, why should fans remain loyal when their teams and favorite players often do not return the favor?
The New England Patriots are notorious for a business-first approach, even if it disrupts chemistry, alienates free agents and hurts the team’s ability to hoist trophies. Were the Patriots loyal to their fans or players when they unceremoniously released Lawyer Milloy? Were they loyal when they traded Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour? When they balked at contract negotiations with Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork, who asked to be released?
How about when they refused to adequately pay Asante Samuel, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Adam Vinatieri, Ty Law and forced Tom Brady into restructuring his contract while surrounding him with half-wits at WR? Plus, it’s never a good sign when a former player refers to his time in New England as “4 years a slave.”
The Patriots organization doesn’t have the fans in mind when they make their calculated business moves or when they gouge their wallets with an average ticket price of $277. According to Yahoo Sports, in 2013, it was the third-highest average price in the NFL. The Patriots charge you prices like a team that still wins championships without actually winning championships, and it’s not like Robert Kraft needs the money.
However, the Patriots aren’t the only organization at fault or the only reason to discard the juvenile notion of fan loyalty.
For 30 years, Donald Sterling was indifferent towards how awful the Los Angeles Clippers were. You think Art Modell cared about fans when he moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, or when Robert Irsay uprooted the Baltimore Colts and relocated them to Indianapolis?
Did Howard Schultz worry about fans when he sold the ownership of the Seattle Supersonics to Clayton Bennett? Did Bennett think about fans when he moved the team to Oklahoma because local governments in Washington state refused to fund a $500 million dollar arena complex?
The answers are no, they didn’t. They only thought about themselves and money. Greed drove them, not some attachment to fan loyalty as they stole away the very teams those fans cheered for.
The Montreal Expos are now the Washington Nationals and there are rumors that the Buffalo Bills will soon be headed to Toronto or elsewhere. The once-proud franchise is headed for relocation unless a billionaire investment groups can convince the people of Buffalo to help pay for a new multi-million dollar stadium. No one in this situation cares about the fans, so why should fans stay loyal to teams that could be taken from them on a whim?
It’s also time for fans who feel tied down to horrendous and hapless teams get a reprieve, a chance to experience the thrill of victory rather than the agony of constant defeat. Whatever the reason for this misguided loyalty, whether it’s because it was your father’s team, you grew up watching them, or you just don’t want to be labeled a bandwagon fan, just let it go.
As teams like the Patriots adopt the strategy of treating everything like it’s just business and nothing personal, so should fans. Players freely leave teams due to free agency, so they sold out long ago and any vestige of loyalty they had was washed away by dollar signs. Athletes and teams no longer feel the need to remain loyal to the fan, so it is time for fans to dispose of the idea themselves. You should never let someone browbeat you into liking a team or feel generationally trapped into cheering for one.
It’s a brave new world, so embrace it. You don’t have to root for losers and forget the haters, because they only wish they had the kind of bravery and vision it takes to say enough is enough. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.