Chances are that if you are reading Totally Tigers, you are not the type of fan I’m about to describe.
We know them from the social media threads. The ones who constantly defend the team no matter how badly they play or manage. Fans who never complain about the horrible defense, complete lack of fundamentals or the problems that payroll is now creating. They see no issues with players underperforming, pitchers being left in to get shellacked or coaches who send runners to their doom. In their world, each and every person associated with the team can do no wrong.
They live in a world of absolutes. And they also believe that if you are even remotely critical, well, then, you aren’t a real Tigers fan. And they often post more than anyone else in the comment section – usually refusing to back up their statements and often resorting to denigrating the poster as well.
So why do they behave this way?
Sure, there are some who only blindly follow and never question. And others who take personal loyalty very seriously. But there are still others who simply don’t want to believe that their trust has been misplaced. That they made the wrong choice. That the team they have devoted their attention and money to has not been practicing good faith towards the very fans who support them. That discovering the team has priorities over making them happy, or even winning, may just hurt.
Just maybe the reason they so vehemently support the team even in the worst of times is because they don’t want to hear the real truth. In other words, that reality may just bite.
Or, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!”
And these fans are the real villains – not the ones who question the actions of the team. But unfortunately, their group has an even bigger representation in the larger sports world. Especially in certain cities like Detroit.
It’s because of their unwavering support in the face of poor organizational decisions that the team does not have the incentive to change. Why alter how you do business if the overall fan base continues to support you with their money?
No matter what anyone says, baseball is a business first and foremost. Teams are bought to generate income or enhance the bottom line of the owner. And that owner is usually a billionaire and one of the savviest people out there on how to turn a profit. And they usually base all of their decisions, at least initially, on how it impacts their bottom line.
So, if you have a team that repeatedly shows mediocre or bad performance, and still pulling in some significant attendance figures, blame those fans. They may think they are supporting the team but what they are actually doing is supporting the status quo.
I can guarantee you that with significant empty seats, ownership will get the message. And they will make changes. It happens on the East Coast where I live and fans overall have less patience to watch poorly-performing teams. Look at the NFL’s former darling, the Washington Redskins, with their 2+ decade waiting list for season tickets. A change in ownership and a sudden cheap attack by the owner drove fans away, eliminated that infamous waiting list, emptied the seats and forced management to make significant changes.
And now look at the history of the Detroit Lions. I think you get the point.
Fans who continue to come out and support their teams in significant numbers get the teams they deserve.
So what about the fans who criticize and find fault? Sure, there are those who are just never happy. But the majority come from a desire to see their team perform at their best. They love their team and want to see them rise to the very top.
And in many instances over the past couple of years, these fans have been spot on about the concerns they see. They come from a position of reality. You could say that these fans are the ones who love their team the most. It’s called practicing tough love.
Which brings us to today’s Detroit Tigers. A team right now that scares the heck out of a lot of fans. A team that is showing bigger cracks and has little positive going for it this year. A team that appears to be sitting on its collective hands and doing little to stop the free-fall descent.
And one of the reasons that the Tigers don’t appear to be proactive in stopping the bleeding has been written about here several times this week. The fact that the team is still pulling in some of baseball’s highest attendance per game. Seriously, if you were in charge of the team, would you change things? Admit that there were some big concerns? Change personnel?
Of course not. You don’t mess with your bottom line unless the bottom falls out of your turnstile stats.
And that will be a huge concern going forward. If fans continue to prop up those attendance figures, the Tigers will be loathe to make the changes required to make this team competitive. The Tigers are a business first and foremost. They are not a charity nor a non-profit with a goal of providing free entertainment. They are in it to make money.
This is a team that could languish in the cellar due to the crutch of misguided fan loyalty.
As harsh as it seems, the best things fans can do is to vote with their wallets if they want to send a message about the current state of the team and where it is headed. A message that long-term mediocrity will not be acceptable. It just may force moves that otherwise may not happen. And that may just make the difference between the number of years the team may spend wandering in the wilderness.
Fans must create an impetus for change. That’s going to be the best way for it to happen.