I posted this article on June 25th 2011 at www.i70baseball.com. Out of my writing there this is my favorite piece. While it’s geared toward my fandom of the Royals I think it encompasses sports fandom in general. Which is why I’m reposting here
In preparation for this article I Googled “Logic vs Emotion”. The results reveal there is nothing we do as humans that do not involve both. It should be no surprise that it could be applied to the sports world. If I apply logic to the sports world I could make an argument that there is no logical reason for sports. Sports produces no tangible product, cures no diseases, grows no food, harnesses no water, and uses energy instead of producing it. However, sports has been apart of society since there has been a society. There must be something positive about it? It’s not until you add emotion to the equation that sports begins to produce tangible benefits; physical activity, competition, a focal point for community. With the exception of the physical benefits of exercise all of the benefits of sports are emotional.
Go up a couple levels and you arrive at the modern age of sports fandom. There is no logical reason to be emotionally involved in a team in which you or someone close to you is not a player. Yet, countless hours and dollars are spent watching games, attending games, and buying gear to wear to games. Last year the total revenues of Major League Baseball and the National Football League totaled an estimated $16 Billion. It’s not just a United States phenomenon; soccer hooligans roam Europe and Latin America. India and Pakistan nearly go to war over Cricket. And don’t think the United States has the monopoly on Seamheads; ever see the crowd at a baseball game in Japan? Putting sports higher on the priority list than it should transcends geography and cultures.
This evidence suggests that humans are wired to be fans of sports teams, regardless of logical flaws. However, why do humans remain fans of terrible sports teams? The Royals next opponent, the Chicago Cubs thrives on it being hip to root for “The Lovable Losers”. They are the exception. Every other perennial losing team has poor attendance, poor merchandise sales, and a poor aura surrounding them. Most humans want to be attached to a winner and all the positive energy that goes with it. There is not a line of people clamoring to jump on the Royals bandwagon.
It’s not like rooting for the Royals is a serious degradation to my physical and emotional well being. There are problems much bigger than rooting for a bad baseball team. I make the Royals go away when I need, or want them to. I choose to be a Royals fan. Logic tells me I should just quit rooting for the Kansas City Royals and pick another team. Logic says that will make my fan experience a better one. But the second paragraph establishes that having an interest in sports puts us off The Logic Reservation, and into the Wilderness of Emotion.
I know this because I’ve tried to drop the Royals and root for a more successful organization. But, no matter how many times I watch fly balls drop between two outfielders. A trash-can placed in front of the franchises only World Series Trophy (pre-Kauffman renovation). A cut off man get hit in the back with a throw. The same cut off man get taken out by a tarp. A 19 game losing streak; batting out of order; a pitcher giving up 14 runs in 3 innings. Through several 100 and 90 loss seasons, deep down, for some reason feel compelled to root for a baseball team that avoids being the most inept franchise in Major League Baseball of the last ten years because they had the benefit of playing the 2003 Tigers 19 times! (Remember them? They were in the World Series three years later while the Royals lost 100 games).
The conclusion I’ve come to? Nostalgia. The same reason there are oldies channels on the radio. The same reason there are old movie channels, and ESPN Classic scattered through out the program guide. All of us want to go back and relive the good times in our childhood. It’s part of the reason I like summer, baseball, hot weather, and playing in cricks. (If you live in the north, west or urban parts of Royals Nation that’s a creek. Cardinals fans should know what a crick is.) I have said previously I was too young to remember 1985. However, I do remember the Royals being a model franchise. I have fond memories of watching and listening to the Royals with my family. Logic says you cannot turn the clock back, but emotion tells me I’d like to try. Experiences in youth help determine who we are as people. In my youth it was determined I am a Royals fan. Once you’re a fan of a team it’s your team for life. Nothing short of the franchise leaving town or contraction can change that. It is what it is, and being a Royals fan is a part of who I am.
Logic says this baseball season is going the way we thought it would, but the Emotion of rampant losing is frustration. Logic says Eric Hosmer is a good player and the cornerstone of any Royals renaissance, but the emotion of him popping up the first pitch of an at bat with the tying run at 3rd in the 9th inning is WTF! Logic says I need to turn the Royals off for a bit and explore other hobbies. Emotion says I might pretend disinterest, but I’ll still be a fan. Because fan is short for fanatic, and being a fanatic is entirely emotional.