Who Are We Cheering For Anyway

Who Are We Cheering For Anyway? It can be the most devastating, cruel remark heard in that moment of your greatest despair. "There's always next year." As a sports fan, it's the equivalent of adding insult to injury. The words might be comforting if not for the fact that 'next year' is an entire year away. Not to mention one long off-season from any kind of redemption.

However, when referring to 'next year', what exactly do you wait for? It used be that you lived in a certain region of the country, and you were either blessed or cursed by your current local sports affiliation. Today, you can find a person from just about anywhere cheering for a team just about anywhere else. Knick's hats and jackets not just in New York anymore. 'Red Sox Nation' has become just that. You might even be lucky enough to find a few LA Angels fans in Anaheim. With many contributing factors, sports have become less and less about the game and more and more about individual efforts over team achievements, free agents, expansion, endorsements and contracts.

It used to be about the foul line, goal line and baseline but today all that really matters is the bottom line. Money has changed the way sports operates. No longer just a game, it has become most importantly a business.

Franchises once purchased for hundreds of dollars are now investments worth hundreds of millions. Once about the game, it's now about the shoes the players wear; about the sports team apparel and the merchandise; about everything except the final score. Invariably athletes at almost every level perform at their best according to their motivation. Once the motivation was love of the game, pride in the team or the chase of the championship trophy.

Those expendables have been replaced by the signing bonus, endorsement deal and record book. When it comes to sports team apparel, the brand is more important than the logo. The number after the dollar sign has become more important than the number on the back of the jersey. So the question arises, who are we rooting for anyway? The liberation of free agency allow athletes to go to the highest bidder for a multi-million dollar signing bonus in the NFL, a guaranteed max contract in the NBA or an incentive-laden deal in the Major Leagues in exchange merely showing up for the games (effort not requisite). Players change teams so often, it now seems as though the cheering is for an empty uniform anyone is entitled to fill for the right amount.

So you could simply cheer for the team. No Matter the good, or any bad, stick with your team through and through. Unfortunately, that fantastic concept of 'root, root, root for home team' (and only the home team) works in theory only. Sometimes fans give up on teams during a season, but increasingly in the professional ranks, teams are giving up on the fans.

When the luxury boxes aren't selling enough somewhere, the team up and moves. Canada is down to one NBA and MLB team. Fans embraced the Hornets in Charlotte until financial instability moved them to New Orleans and now partially to Oklahoma City. Now those same fans are to embrace the expansion Bobcats? Do Cleveland Brown fans really have an allegiance to their 6 year old franchise that bears the apparel and logo of the previous tenants that now find themselves in Baltimore? Fans get tossed to and fro in the sea of relocation as a one time Houston Oiler fan follows their team in spirit to Tennessee only to have to start all over with another Houston team. Franchises move so often it resembles a large scale game of musical stadiums.

So we are left with the memories, the faded team jacket in the closet, maybe a ticket stub. You still cheer and attend a game when you can. Vain attempts to not to get too attached to any one player, part or park bring down one of the purities of your childhood. In reality, no fan is immune to any of these threats. Under the right circumstances any contract can be traded, any team relocated or even contracted.

The one redeeming quality is that there is always a new player to draft, another new ballpark to build, or new team for which to cheer. If you don't like the direction in which your favorite franchise is headed, there's always a trade to be made or coach to be fired. So when your favorite player leaves to a bigger contract, they tear down your favorite childhood stadium or ballpark, don't worry: "There's always next year." .

By: Todd Decker

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