Whenever I am in the building and see a fan wearing another team's jersey, I always ask "Where do you live?" It amazes me how many fans of competitive teams live in our area and don’t come to games except when we play that specific team. Probably that is what I dislike, that people don’t come for the love of the game. They just come to one, two or four games per year to cheer against us and for their team. This article is well done and addresses the issue. It has a strong point of view. What do you think?The editor of this blog is Leonsis' perfect case study: I live and work in Arlington, Virginia (right across the river from DC, if you didn't know). My house is within walking distance of the Caps practice facility. I am not a Capitals fan.
This is a complex issue because we as a team have lots of long distance fans as well. And I would expect when my children fly the coop, they will take their passion for the Caps with them as my son has on the campus at UPenn in Philadelphia. I see both sides of the issue. I have empathy but don’t hate on me because I want everyone to be a Caps fan that lives in the area. I am an evangelist for Caps hockey. It is who I am now.
Leonsis mentioned that he's switched allegiances three times in his lifetime (first a Rangers fan, then his beloved Bruins and then finally the Caps). May we refer him to the Will Leitch school of thought:
"...essentially I argue that when you are a sports fan, you are a fan of a team year round, no matter whether they're playing or not. When, exactly, am I supposed to suddenly switch my loyalty, and start caring about THESE guys rather than THESE guys?
...There's a certain lack of logic about being a sports fan, and bringing that kind of emotional, civic betrayal to the situation just betrays that. I stuck with the Arizona Cardinals because I started cheering for them and couldn't suddenly pretend I liked another team more just because they moved closer to me. I can't exactly talk: *I* don't exactly live in St. Louis anymore either. [ed. Note: Leitch is a HUGE Stl Cardinals fan]
Personally, I've never lived in Pittsburgh. My parents did and much of my extended family lives there, so I've visited often. My parents encouraged me to choose my own sports affiliations. However give a kid access to Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and the bunch and it's easy to see why I'm a Penguins fan.
What Leonsis doesn't seem to grasp is: why isn't someone like me, an inhabitant of Caps land, still hanging on to my original team and not switching allegiances to my new hometown team like he did several times.
The simple answer would be loyalty. Not at all to say Ted isn't a loyal guy or anything, but I couldn't imagine myself being anything but a Penguins fan until the day I die. Perhaps a good analogy might even be marriage; I don't think a good husband would leave their wife just because they've gone away on a business trip or have to deal with a distance issue. For me, and many other fans, who you cheer for is very much ingrained on you. And once the choice is made, there's no turning back, no switching horses in the middle of the stream.
But luckily I'm not the type of fan Leonsis doesn't like; I do support the Caps, I've got nothing against them. I've been to at least 10 games this season, more than just when they play Pittsburgh. I've gone out to functions to meet players like Mike Green and Brooks Laich and found them to be pretty cool. But there's nothing that can be done to ever convert me over. While I do love the game, the main reason I love the game is watching my team play.
So what canTed do for his problem? Not too much, I'm afraid. With so many transplants to the area that there will be a heavy contingent for the opposition for a long time. But kids in this area, where organized hockey is continuing to grow, will no doubt be looking up to Alex Ovechkin as I did Lemieux. That's where you hook fans, that's how you get them for life. The Caps are fortunate to have a sensational player, it will take time but he'll keep on reeling in supporters.