I'm reading the book Soccernomics, which brilliantly breaks down some of the ins and outs of soccer life. There's a chapter devoted to fandom, entitled Are Soccer Fans Polygamists?, with the subtitle A Critique of the Nick Hornby Model of Fandom. Nick Hornby wrote Fever Pitch, a memoir of soccer fandom. The fan as described in Fever Pitch is someone who falls for a team as a child and sticks with them throughout their life.
Baseball fandom is often described the same way. Root, root, root for the home team is the saying, and the expectation is once you've got that local team (or the team of your father, or the team with Vin Scully's voice) you're supposed to stick with them
Soccernomics refutes this statistically, siting that every year there is a turnover of old fans who stop buying tickets and new fans who buy in. The obvious problem here is that it's assumed that a requirement for being a fan is attending games. Not included is the fan who watches close to every game on television.
What I'm hoping to get at is the line between Soccernomics' statistical model of fandom, and the mythical creature that is the fan in popular culture.
In '97 Fletcher Research found that less than 5% of people who claimed to be a supporter of a soccer club actually attended soccer games. The overwhelming majority of sports fans do their cheering from their couch. Life is a big reason for this, children and work and spouses. Money is another huge factor, baseball and soccer have gone from working class pricing to middle class pricing.
Which means it takes a real sense of fanaticism just to push someone to attending one game. The next question then is if one feels passionate enough about baseball to go to a game, is their loyalty to just one team, or do they go to the best game in town?
In England it's different. It doesn't require a whole lot of effort to switch from attending Chelsea matches to Queen's Park Rangers (a difference of about two miles or so). However, in Los Angeles, Chicago, the Bay Area, and New York, one could flip their allegiances without moving to another city.
So the first question for the group is, if your favorite restaurant started giving you awful service and a terrible product, it's highly likely you would stop going. There's no satisfaction to be had. How bad would the gameday experience at Dodger Stadium have to be (quality of team, atmosphere, etc) before you would stop going to games? Is there any chance you might start attending a rival team's games?
However, that only speaks to the minority of people who invest money into their baseball experience. There's still that majority that watch every game on TV. Perhaps then fandom is more like branding, you prefer Coke over Pepsi. What if Coke changed the formula? Is there any Dodger change (Scully leaving, uniform change, ballpark renovation) which would make you watch a rival over the Dodgers?
Finally, is there a level of polygamy to fandom? It's more acceptable to claim allegiance to one team, but is it realistic? If what you love is baseball and not some ideal of roots placed in the Los Angeles Dodgers, wouldn't it make sense to consider a popular winning baseball franchise as a preferred franchise?
Just some conversation fodder. The fan lies somewhere between the ideal we espouse to and the reality that we live, and I'm curious as to what that is.