Morality of Changing Your Sports Team Loyalty

Inspired by the other sports team loyalty thread…

I’m interested in hearing from fans what they think about switching teams. Is it ever permissible, and if so, under what circumstances? Has anyone else ever switched teams? Personally, my loyalties have changed a few times, mainly because one of the things I most enjoy about sports is being able to follow the discussion on the local sports pages and the local bars, which pretty much demands following the local team (my habits were formed before Al Gore invented teh interwebs).

Personal history: I was born in the Pittsburghy part of Ohio, subsequently moved to Oregon and adopted the Blazers, chose to go with SF over Seattle for baseball and football and eventually lived in SF for a while. Subsequently moved to Wisconsin, but couldn’t stand the Packers (who had a rivalry going with the 49ers at the time) and knew I would be leaving anyway so stuck with the SF teams until moving to Chicago, started rooting for the Bears and Bulls and, once Sosa vacated the premises, the Cubs. Also married into a New York Giant family (but still dislike the Mets).

My general principles: It’s unacceptable to switch teams simply because you dislike losing, but OK (though not required) if you (or the team) have moved geographically, although in such cases a waiting period is appropriate (until most of the players you associated with your former team have moved on). Switching from a team to a major rival is frowned upon. You need not sever all emotional ties with your former team(s), and may certainly root for them once your primary team is eliminated, but it is poor form to suddenly start claiming that they have always been your favorite team once they start winning. Adopting secondary teams because your loved ones root for them is also acceptable.

So, what do you folks think? Am I a poor fan? Am I, perhaps, overanalyzing this just a wee bit?!

You’re overanalyzing. As a sports fan, to me, the #1 rule is that you genuinely care whether your team wins or loses. If you’re happy to see them win, but are capable of seeing them lose in a devastatingly heartbreaking manner and just shrug it off, then you’re not a fan(atic) but a booster. But if even years later, random reminders of a crushing loss still sends you into a momentary depressive state, as well as thoughts of a OMG NO THEY DIDN’T! wins give you a quick lift of the spirits, then you are a fan.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a booster; it’s all only a game, and we’re not even playing it ourselves. But speaking as a fan, the essence of fandom is that you’ve bought both sides of the coin.

Once that’s true, if you get a new coin with each relo, that’s just civic pride.

On the other hand, your dislike of the Mets is completely irrational. You should see a therapist about that before it starts affecting you in other ways.

I believe you are only allowed to change team loyalty in two situations:

  1. Your hometown (or adopted, if your town does not have one) team relocates. This is such a rank betrayal that you owe them no more loyalty. In this situation you are free to chose what team to support. However, this decision is binding, and you can only change it again in case of #2.

  2. A team moves to your new town. If you decide to abandon your team to support the new local team in your town this decision must be made during the first few seasons, not after they become “good enough”.

I don’t think that your moving is an acceptable reason, unless it’s a situation where you simply cannot follow your old team. It’s particularly bad if you move to the city of a rival and decide to root for your new hometown - this is completely unacceptable and I question your commitment…

Some would argue that a team can be so poorly managed that you are allowed to jump ship and support a new team… I find this somewhat dubious, but perhaps allowable.

Of course, it goes without saying that picking a team based solely on how good they are is poor in the extreme, but picking a team based on a star player you particularly like is perhaps more defensible (especially if they have a local connection - i.e. went to a local HS or college).

People that simultaneously root for rival teams confuse and frighten me.

I was always a big Celtics fan. However when the Spurs came to town I immediately became a fan. For a while I could have both worlds since they didn’t play each other. But once the Spurs moved to the NBA then the Celtics were the enemy.

But your recollections of the pre-Spurs days are still tinged with Celtic Green, right?

Jas09 has it. No other discussion is needed. Bandwagoners are first against the wall when the revolution comes.

Justin_Bailey, (mostly) suffering Mets fan since 1988.


I did start out as a Yankees fan (my darkest secret). But I started following baseball in 1961 and lived near New York, so there was no other option.

I was away in summer camp in 1965 and didn’t follow much baseball. But when the Yankees lost the world series, I decided that if I was going to root for a team that didn’t win world series, I’d start rooting for the Mets.

Been a fan every since. I couldn’t think of what circumstances would get me rooting for the MFYs at this point.

Let me ask this here. It seems to fit the thread.

You are hypothetically a man in your 30’s and you have grown up in a Maryland suburb south of Baltimore. Maryland has two current football teams, the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens and previously the Baltimore Colts. There are also two current baseball teams, the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals and previously the Washington Senators. Rooting for any of those teams or for the teams they became after they left (the Colts, Twins or Rangers, respectively) is what would be expected. I would go so far as to include any of the Philly teams as being reasonable as Philly isn’t even that far away.

There is no way you are anything other than a bandwagon jumper if you are both a New York Yankees AND a Dallas Cowboys fan, right?

I was loyal to our home baseball team until I was five. At that point I got some baseball cards, asked what trading meant, and discovered that the players not only weren’t local lads, but had played on competing teams.
At that point, since the players had no association with our town and no permanent loyalty to our team, I didn’t either. I felt really used, being asked to root for these carpetbaggers.

In order for “morality” to be involved, I would think it would require the team having a reciprocal loyalty to you.

Which they don’t.

Everyone’s a free agent as far as I’m concerned. Bandwagoners don’t bother me at all.

Anyway, why should failure be rewarded?

Nope. If you’re a fan of the team, you stick with them no matter what management does. You may not like it, but they’re your team.

Harborwolf. Detroit Lions fan.

There’s a third, even better reason: a new team signs your paycheck! I spent twelve years working for the University of Illinois. I wasn’t an Illini fan until I went to work for them. I immediately became a fan and cheered them for the 12 years I was there. I still cheer for them.

Now I work for Georgia Tech. Not quite the same, because I grew up in Atlanta and cheered for them when I was a kid and never stopped. But if I had left Illinois to go to work, say, for the University of North Carolina, I would have become an instant Tar Heel fan.

From Bill Simmons’ "Rules for Being a True Sports Fan " Column from a few years back:

Certainly, my sister also lives in Boston so the connection still exists. I’ll root for them over everyone else but if they play the Spurs in the finals then I want a sweep with no game closer than about thirty points.

Yeah. Think about how good our seats will be when the Lions do win, though.
Please shoot me.

I am of the opinion that you should root, root, root for the home team, even if they suck. I live in Denver, where there were years of no MLB, and while I went & got sunburned at various games of the Bears and the Zephyrs (I’m thinking there was a time they had still another name for a triple A team, but maybe not), my true loyalty at the time was the Dodgers (even though they sucked, mostly), because they moved from someplace else to my hometown when I was a small child and it was a Great Occasion.

But I get a little pang when the Rockies beat the Dodgers. It’s kinda like watching my sons who went to different high schools playing tennis against each other (for their schools, not on their own–for some reason it was different then even though they were still competitive). I suppose if I ever overcome inertia and get out of Denver I will still always kinda follow the Rockies, too, even if there’s another MLB home team wherever I move. In my ideal world it would be Da Bums again.

Anybody but the Yankees, though.

Oh man, it just hurts my head to think that people can rationalise switching sports teams. You just…dont. Its wrong, it does not compute.

I was in Lisbon a few years back, and joined some American girls from the hostel as they went to the Hard rock cafe to watch the superbowl. I dont remember the teams involved, but anyway, they told me who they were going to be supporting that night. Now I knew that the teams didnt match up to the states they had said they were from, but I just thought
“hey, they must be just picking a team to add a bit of extra fun to the night, it wont really mean anything to them”

I swear, I have never seem two girls get as worked up over anything in my life. They lived and breathed that game, from start to finish.

I tried to get them to make sense of this the next day, to explain it in small words for me. No, they had never cheered for that team before. Nope, never lived there. Yep, will probably cheer for different team next year. Yep, this is quite normal. Yep we are happy, OUR team won. I could only assume that they were a reflection of something in the American culture that could see no problem with migrating loyalties and let it pass. But I just couldnt get the mindset. They really considered themselves proper fans that night, and I couldnt shake the opinion that it just wasnt proper.

I guess the big reason for that is the sport I play, Gealic footbal, is so firmly community centred. You dont support your club, you ARE your club. The idea of switching to another team would be like changing gender because there were some nice frilly dresses in the sales you liked, it just isnt done. EVER.

As it happens, I have supported the same team, even though I have moved far away from them.

But I’m not sure who you are ‘letting down’ if you switch teams.

Presumably it can only be yourself, because there may be no-one else who even knows who you support? Certainly your team doesn’t care.
How come players can switch teams for more money and you can’t?

Why should I be loyal to my team if they’re doing poorly? They aren’t showing loyalty to their fans by putting a bad product on the field. If I continue to root for that team, what message am I sending?

Take my Nebraska Cornhuskers. Last year, we had our second losing season since 1962. Our football program, which has the resources to compete for the national title, lost to Kansas, a basketball school, 76-39.

I was a more loyal fan of the program by rooting for Nebraska to keep losing in order to purge coach Bill Callahan.

I know quite a few guys who are STILL fans of the teams that the chose to follow when they were kids because they were winning championships and popular. I know one guy who grew up in the 70’s and is still a Steeler fan, a few guys who grew up in the 80’s and are still Laker fans, and I know a few guys who grew up in the 90’s and are still Bulls fans. I would be OK with those guys putting aside their childish bandwagoning and go with an adult “local” or other geographical or college inspired choice. Personally, I have kept the same geographically inspired teams since birth (I had a Dallas Cowboys infant sleepset).