Oscar Wilde once wrote, on the subject of loyalty, “My dear boy, the people who only love once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination.”
He was talking about young love, but I think the concept applies to broader conceptions of loyalty. A concept that, while noble and respectable, is often mistakenly considered irrevocable. There’s this notion out there that loyalty must be blind and never-ending. Which, frankly, is bullcrap.
Loyalty is earned — or at least it should be — and loyalty that is taken for granted or even abused is misguided in the extreme. When the facts and circumstances which gave rise to that loyalty change, it’s entirely reasonable to question the very basis for that loyalty.
I won’t get into matters of love, but I will apply it to sports.
As I’ve written in the past, due to geography and circumstance, I was a Detroit Tigers fan when I was a child. In 1985 I moved away to West Virginia where I could not see or hear Tigers games anymore and, in 1985, the technology simply did not exist to let me follow them remotely in anything resembling a satisfying way. The Braves were on TV every day, however, I began watching them because I loved baseball. Seeing them every day, over time, made them my team. While I always have been and always will be fond of the Detroit Tigers of my youth, staying “loyal” to them going forward in the way sports fans usually think of that term when it comes to rooting interests would’ve been unreasonable, right? If you disagree, how was I supposed to maintain that loyalty in the pre-Internet and pre-Extra Innings Package era?
There might be other reasons for one’s rooting interest to change. The team may betray your trust as a fan. It may show itself to be unethical as an organization. It may cynically choose to alienate fans via sharp business practices or it may cease to truly care about putting the best team it can on the field in either the short term or the long term. That — along with the simple fact that, while you may have pledged your loyalty to the team, the team has never pledged its loyalty to you — could certainly justify you changing your rooting interests.
All that said, I don’t know too many people who have, actually, changed their rooting interests. Most I know were like me, who did it when they were 11 years-old or something. The latter example — a principled and reasoned change in rooting interests — is pretty rare. Indeed, it’s more likely that such a person may just decide to give up following sports all together rather than switch from Team A to Team B.
But I’m sure it happens, and I want to know: have you ever switched — permanently — your primary rooting interest? If so, tell me your story.