By:  Holly Horning

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.

23 thoughts on “JUST DESSERTS

  1. Holly, I totally agree that today more than ever, professional baseball is a business. And I have to believe management is watching attendance as you said. I feel they know a change has to be done but not at the risk of slowing the turnstiles. That is why I say bring in Leyland as the interim manager and put Gibby on the bench with him. It’s all about marketing as well, right??


  2. Many years ago I was complaining about how predictable and repetitively stupid our coach was,year over year. My mother told me just because he’s our guy doesn’t mean the other coach isn’t better. Mom was Right and I started fallowing the Stanford coach over the years. Mr Walsh did all right in San Fransisco. I think that’s when I stopped being a homer and started thinking about just what was happening.


  3. ” the crutch of misguided fan loyalty ” …
    Seems to be a lot of that around professional sports. Teams that miss the playoffs drawing millions of fans . Spending money just because they enjoy the entertainment of it all. Win or lose


    • Hi, Rick – The main theme is not about fans who spend money for entertainment, nor attend games of teams that miss the playoffs. It’s about how fans can impact the product on the field and decisions made by ownership – should they choose, especially if that team doesn’t do well year after year. It’s also about fans who complain about how the team performs, yearn for change yet continue to line the pockets of ownership and thus “feed the beast.” Thanks for reading! – Holly


  4. I get mad at the Tigers at the same time I support and invest time with them. I see the flaws in direction and execution and I want to share what I think is best but they are their own entity. I talk with friends about them (TT Plug) and proudly wear the old English D. They need a change no doubt and maybe showing dissaproval will send the signal but, they will always be my Tigers.


    • I’ve been complaining about them since Leyland’s last year, 2013. I’ve been calling for a housecleaning since. Holly is superb at articulating the necessity & urgency of this, once & for all. It’s coming, I fully believe. In the meantime, im guilty-as-charged-diehard Tigers fan. Although, I DID stop my season ticket package out of displeasure. I call on everyone to do the same.


  5. Been a loyal Tiger fan since ’65. I Totally agree with your assessment and haven’t fed the turnstile for a number of years. Because of the team’s play (and apparent indifference to correct failings), I’ve decided my time is better spent not watching games. TV ratings are determined electronically and by watching this “train-wreck”, I feel that I am compliant in supporting the status quo!


    • Long since my father passed away I can still remember going to games together . I can’t tell you whether they won or lost . It was about my exclusive 3 hours just me and my dad . Some fans stop supporting their team and due to poor attendance the team leaves. No thanks


  6. What has changed is the attitude of professional reporters. Once upon a time, they knew that all they had to sustain their career is their CREDIBILITY, a reflection of character. Today, they seem willing to sell their souls to keep fans, readers, and viewers coming back, but seem to have forgotten that some of us are more apt to keep coming back when we TRUST them. Thank you for providing one of the rare venues where we can actually be exposed to honest reporting.


  7. I bet they get hot, go 8-2 on this homestand, team doesnt trade anybody, gets in and stays in the wild card hunt, attendance increases slightly due to this, stays in the hunt till the final weekend of the season till they blow a very important and sizable 9th inning lead, thus taking most fans for fools yet again. Then the rebuild begins.


  8. This phenomenon is not limited to sports. If you point out that other nations seem to do a better job than the U.S. of providing (for example) health care and the opportunity for upward mobility to their citizens, or that, heaven forbid, perhaps we might consider emulating some of their successful policies, you are castigated for “hating America”.


      • Denmark’s budget deficit as a percentage of revenues is less than two thirds of ours. So who is “running out of money”?


      • Denmark and everybody else who spends more than they have coming in. Spending more than you have is never OK, no matter who does it. I’m always amazed when anyone older than 4 years old uses the “but he did it too” excuse.


  9. Every point that Holly makes is true and has been covered the last 50 years with Detroit’s loyal & unrelenting love affair with the Lions. The Fords were faithful to a fault with Russ Thomas. The Wings had to go through the “Darkness with Harkness” to get the ship turned. The Tigers DONT have to go in the cellar for a decade but every ” flavor” of Tiger fan needs to put their money back in their wallet for a “bit.”


  10. The Tigers are in the worst division in baseball. Also, Avila is adverse to turning the roster over, of having a selloff. He knows that would be the initial step to inexorably moving toward him losing his job. So they will continue to push the narrative that everything is rosy and Ausmus is doing a good job.


  11. Holly I always appreciate your opinions on the Tigers. I agree that until something affects the bottom line the “big rebuild” isn’t going to happen. I know the exact fans you are talking about that bully everyone who even think of saying anything critical about our Tigers. At the end of the season I can’t wait to hear from them in the comment sections about how great the team played this year. Keep posting, I enjoy reading reading your articles and posts.


  12. Been a fan since the first game in 1964 at Tiger Stadium..(.I think they beat the Indian’s 6-4 but my brain is pretty fuzzy at this point) but having gone thru the upside 1968,1984 while they didn’t pull it off 2006 but after years of being god awful & thru the downside (most of the 70’s) and then like 1990 to 2006,,so this is just another cycle……hopefully this doesn’t last as long as the 90’s to 2006


  13. The franchise dismal record for championships despite being one of the oldest teams in a single location tells a story all its own. It is the ownership, leadership and team culture that has failed to produce even average results. This is truly disappointing to life long tiger faithful, who can put up with losing seasons as long as every now and then we get the golden time.


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