The fact is, a fan is both. Human nature makes us prefer winning to losing. It might be somewhat noble to cheer own your high school or college team when they are not doing well -- and let's face it, some of us, such as a few of us that went to college at a large university in Lubbock, Texas, are kind of use to not winning championships. Still, you want the best. After all, it is your school and you have an emotional investment.
Professional teams are kind of different. Both the owners and the players are certainly willing to tell us at every chance they get that it is a business. In fact, sometimes they go out of their way to stick their face in front of a camera just to tell us it is a business. An athlete says, "I would have liked to stay with the Dumas Dumbasses, but they did not offer me as much money as the San Antonio Snotbags, and after all it is a business." Owners of professional sports teams have been known to sneak their teams out of town under the cover of night (see the former Baltimore Colts). No one talks about the loyalty of players or the loyalty of owners because as all of them will tell you, "It's a business and I am a professional."
Yet fans are expected to cheer for the laundry no matter what, and you are looked on somewhat cynically if you are the kind that just jumps on the bandwagon when the team is winning. Sometimes you become the object of derision, "You cannot be a real fan if you don't suffer during the losses." Maybe so. Years ago, however I decided being a bandwagon fan is much easier emotionally. If I buy a washing machine at a major retailer and it is defective, I take it back. I don't endure the bad just because I am a fan of the store. If the retailer gives me an inferior product I expect the price to be lower or that the store manager will do everything he can to make it right.
This is the clear distinction that separates sports from the rest of business, we are told by team owners and our fellow fans that we cannot hold the team accountable, we have to be there waving our pompoms and shouting, "Go!" even as we know deep in the recesses of our neuronic imprints that the team sucks. The separation of heart (we love our team) with the head (our team sucks), is often attributed to separating the good fan from the bad. Truthfully, pompom-waving is frustrating and if your team is a perennial loser, it gets tiring. At some point, doubt begins to creep in, and you begin to wonder is my team really trying. Is my team's management investing everything it can to put a winning team on the field, or is it just going through the motions.
Sometimes it is hard to tell where your team lies. Jerry Jones certainly works hard and spends a lot of money, so neither of those alone -- working hard, or spending money -- is the way to achieve success. Mark Cuban may be the most passionate owner in sports. So passion alone is not enough. Money, effort, and passion are not necessarily the most important issue, often it is a combination of these along with luck and good judgment that produces winners. Athletes know that along with hard work a little luck is needed. Troy Aikman is fond of saying, "It's hard to win."
So being a good fan is not just a matter of being at every game, or passion for the team, it is also about maintaining a balance between emotional investment in a team and just enough of reality to look at the team objectively and say with the current team, "Right now our team is not good enough. This state may not last, it could change in a week, but right now we are not very good."
This does not mean you should give up on the team, or change allegiances. But just as you would not invest your money in a failing business, it does not seem quite right to invest your emotion in a failing team.
So what is the judgment of the Mavericks by these criteria, should we bail and invest our sports energy elsewhere … or continue to hope for the best?
Despite a prevailing wind of despair that seems to be blowing across Mavericks land, it remains too early to tell. The fact is in their last 10 games as of this writing, the Mavericks are 5-5. That is five wins and five losses, for the uninitiated and people from Oklahoma. The fact is in our misery we might be buoyed by the fact that in that stretch of games we are one game worse than the team named after all those Lakes in Los Angeles, the team presumably named after the Celtic people but inexplicably mispronounced, and the team named after the apparel of gay cowboys in San Antonio, not that there is anything wrong with that, and the same record as many of the teams competing for the lead in their respective divisions.
Now, as fans of a professional team, a business, we do have an obligation. Not the one to blindly wave pompoms no matter what, but neither to give up at the first sign of trouble. Our obligation is to hold the team accountable for the product they serve us on the field or the court. Accountability is reflected in our purchase of team merchandise, tickets, and other materials. We also have an obligation to encourage our fellow fans when things are going well, and to gripe, whine, and complain as much as possible when things start coming apart at the seams.
Such behavior does not mean you are not a real fan. Rather, it means you understand that being a sports fan is a business and you are a professional.