Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We're All Fairweather Fans

I passionately follow four sports teams: Bengals; Reds; UC basketball; Ohio State football.

This has always been the case. Since kindergarten. Those four. That will never change. I love them equally.

Except I don't.

At the moment Ohio State football is the team I love most, with the others clawing for the coveted No. 2 spot in my heart.

The reason: Ohio State's been winning with greater frequency than the other three, and winning delivers happiness. Simple as that.

This makes me a fairweather fan, which is perfectly normal. In fact, it might be the only normal thing I do.


Nobody has crazier fans than the Yankees, right? Wrong. To me, 1991 wasn't that long ago, and in '91 the Yankees only outdrew three teams in the entire American League. Three teams! The Yankees! The following year was the exact same.

Yankees win-loss totals in '91 and '92: 71-91; 76-86.

They stunk.

But in '93, they didn't, finishing 88-74 overall and seeing a dramatic rise in attendance numbers. The Yankees went from consecutive years at 11th overall (behind teams like Kansas City, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Texas) up to 5th overall.

I've never written, "Coincidence? I think not." mostly because I enjoy French kissing women, but now would be a fitting occasion.

I know it seems like Yankee Nation (or whatever) is comprised of the most loyal dudes around, but it's simply untrue. They've been No. 1 in attendance every year since '03, and haven't finished lower than third since '97. And I know I don't have to remind you they've been baseball's best team over the same stretch.

I'd love to pile on Yankee fans for showing up only when their team is decent -- really, I would -- but that would make me unoriginal. The reality is that the Yankees have a similar amount of fans now as they did seventeen years ago. But they weren't as loud then, and they didn't feel like paying money to see a lousy product, and they certainly didn't travel to see them play in rival cities. And so on. And so on.

And again, that's fine. We're all like that. Disagree? Take a look around and try to spot a Bengals flag or jersey, or a work truck painted orange and black. Three and four years ago they were everywhere. Now? Not so much. Cincinnati is still loaded with Bengals fans, they just don't have the time or energy to devote to a pathetic product.

Win first, then we'll get "Who Dey" tattooed on our forehead.


The best example of this locally took place the first few months of the millennium: Kenyon Martin was the nation's best player on the nation's best team, and the Reds added a 30-year-old Ken Griffey, Jr. to a 96-win team. At the same time Akili Smith just completed his first season as the Bengals' starting QB (and it was already a disaster), while John Cooper was asleep at the wheel in Columbus.

You mean to tell me I was supposed to follow the Bengals and Buckeyes as intensely as I followed the Bearcats and Reds? That's crazy talk.

I was still a fan. I still watched every game. But I wasn't nervous an hour before kickoff, and I didn't push my nephew down the steps if they lost. I loved the '00 Bengals and Buckeyes, just not as much as Kenyon Martin's Bearcats or Sean Casey's Reds.


This all started a few weeks ago when I was told that it was 86 days 'til Ohio State's opener against Navy. Upon hearing this news I nearly fainted. 86 days. That's not far off. But it got me thinking...the Bengals start their season at exactly the same time, so why am I obsessing over Ohio State, while I'm merely waiting around for the Bengals' opener (opponent unknown)? Three years ago they were equals, and now one is being lapped.

I've never seen Sophie's Choice (and never will, although I'm sure it's great), but from what I understand Sophie has to decide to keep one of her two children, while the other would be taken from her forever (and, I think, killed).

But Sophie's choice probably wasn't so difficult.

One of them probably finished their homework right after school, while the other probably just spilled Mountain Berry Punch Kool-Aid on the living room carpet.

In other words: Brad = Meryl Streep; Bengals = dead baby.

Sophie was a fairweather parent.

-Brad Spieser (