I was talking about the Phillies' chances in the World Series last week at work. I told a co-worker, “I think we have a good chance of sweeping the Yankees.” (Obviously, that was wrong, but that isn’t the point here.)
His reply was, “We? What position do you play?”
“I play fan,” I said.
I used to think the same way. People who say “we” when talking about their sports teams are a little too attached. It is not “we.” We are not a part of the team.
Or are we?
I now say that fan is the most important position in professional sports. I am not naive enough to say that we directly pay the players’ salaries. But without us, how much do you think FOX would pay Major League Baseball for national television rights?
If we don’t watch, how much do you think Bud Light would be paying FOX for commercial time? If we don’t watch, how much do you think Citizens Bank would have paid for rights to name the Phillies’ new stadium?
If we don’t watch, Alex Rodriguez is selling ladies shoes at Neiman Marcus.
If we don’t watch, Chase Utley is selling cars.
If we don’t watch, Cole Hamels is a barista at Starbucks. Maybe he should be anyway.
You think teams don’t listen to the fans?
Oh, don’t misunderstand, Andy Reid is not listening to Vinny from Palmyra (“Yo, dat McNabb is a bum, yous need to sign Tom Brady!”), but Reid knows that the fans want to win. Thus, he does what he thinks is best to achieve that goal. We may not always agree with his method, but he is trying.
We all want to win. Owners know this. They know we will buy less merchandise, and, in some cities, stop coming to games if our teams don’t win. (Hello, Jacksonville and Cincinnati.) The fans will hit you in the pocketbook if you continue to put out an inferior product.
Are you listening, Dan Snyder?
Probably not. But he is, I’m sure, aware of the discontent of his fans, because they are not coming to the games, which is costing him money. We know he is aware because he banned signs at FedEx Field, because, he says, they mar the experience of other fans.
Sure, Danno, not because of what the signs will say, but because they negatively influence the fan experience.
Teams fight all season for home field advantage. Why? Because we are there. We push them. We encourage them. We give them that extra burst to make that last pitch, or shot, or save, or pass.
The emotional outpouring after the Phillies' World Series win last year was because of the fans’ long suffering drought. Player after player, coach after coach, executive after executive thanked the fans. Why?
Because without us, there is no game.
Not quarterback. Not goaltender. Not pitcher. Not point guard.
Fan is the most important position in professional sports.
We win and lose, live and die with our teams. Yes, the players and coaches and owners care. But long after they are all gone, we will still be here.
We are the fans.