My Two Cents
July 3, 2020, 10:49 AM

I am a fair-weather fan.

There it is. I’m not proud of it. But, I confess that when the team I follow is buried in the cellar, I find it difficult to stay interested. And, yes, over the years I have changed allegiances a few times.

As a little kid, I loved the Baltimore Colts and, along with every other kid my age, adored Johnny Unitas. Then, about the time the great Johnny U’s career faded into the sunset, the team that plays in Washington began to make some noise. They had a very successful run throughout the 70s, 80’s and early 90’s with nicknames like “the Hogs” and “the Smurfs” and I was all in. Then the Ravens came to Baltimore the same year we did, and I switched allegiance again.

As far as baseball goes, there is more allegiance to ‘dem O’s. But I find it hard to sustain my enthusiasm when the team is struggling, which it has been lately- a lot.

I admire what I consider to be true fans. I wish I were like them. But, alas…

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a fan lately because the team our whole family loved to root for back in the day- the team around which we would build our Sunday afternoon schedule- the team that plays in Washington, has a mascot that is unquestionably and unacceptably racist. It’s time for the mascot to be changed.

Having said that, I will hasten to admit that I was among those who enthusiastically sang this team’s fight song, with its stereotypical “war dance” interlude. I loved their earthy burgundy and gold colors and the old helmet featuring a stoic silhouette of a Native American. There was certainly a time when I would have said, “Come on, man” at the suggestion that the mascot be changed. “It’s just a name.”

Come to think of it, about the time many of us were adoring the team that plays in Washington, we were also walking out of school to protest court-ordered desegregation, using homophobic slurs against people who were different than we were, and at least tolerating- if not actively promoting- the objectifying of women.

And so it occurs to me that, while being a true fan is admirable, it’s about time for an entire generation of those of us who have been the beneficiaries of privilege to become fair-weather fans. It’s about time we question our undying allegiance to organizations, mascots, brands, statues, and even towns that are steeped in racist history.  Now that the curtain is being raised on so many of the ways the institutions we thought were benign have actually perpetrated injustice, we need to look at what is plainly there to see.

It’s true that shifting our allegiances and withdrawing our support might incur the wrath of our fellow diehard fans. But, as John Prine says, “it’s better to have names thrown at us, than to fight for a thing that ain’t right”.

So, here’s a question for all of us to ponder this summer. How should our newly raised consciousness, about things as minor as ball team mascots and as major as the police force, affect our allegiances? And if thinking about this question leads us to evidence that is credible and persuasive, maybe we need to give ourselves permission to re-evaluate that which we have held dear for so long.

Maybe there’s a place for the fair weather fan after all, especially when the storms are particularly dangerous.

Sabbatical time is here! See you soon,

Rick