fans can't organize
(yes, it's been forever since I posted, this isn't hockey talk alone though, so....)
How come, every time there is expressed outrage in the sports world, the fans cannot take it upon themselves to organize and petition or organize in one form or another for or against some tactic or move that has been undertaken by the powers-that-be of the sports world?
All of this jumped out into my mind Tuesday evening as a baseball fan complained about advertisements showing up on players uniforms while the players were in Japan for MLB's opening series between the A's and the Bosox. The horrid thought of MLB uniforms turning into NASCAR jumpsuits or stock-cars marred with stickers and advertisements was what led the person to post in the first place about the atrocity that is advertisements on uniforms.
Through my sports-fan experience over the years, I'm well aware of Baseball and other sports selling out where and when they can. Anywhere to make a few extra bucks -- stick a sign and grab that cash you can. I've seen plenty of idiotic naming-rights battles (the freshest one being Wrigley Field in Chicago) and ridiculous names that come from it. I can understand fans being pissed off about this stuff...
...but has anyone noticed how little fans actually try to organize and openly revolt against such things in any given sport?
Why does cynicism or despair grasp the heart and mind of sports fans that they can't find a common center and voice disgust together and show those powers-that-be their unified force? Why do we take such a lax view when we're openly distraught over a change to the organized sports and pro franchises we love and cherish?
There are three examples I can think of off the top of my head -- two from hockey, one from baseball. All have transpired the last ten years:
1) National Hockey League Fan Association: Probably the most notable organized attempt by fans in pro sports that I know of. The NHLFA was founded by a pair of disgruntled Ottawa Senator fans and gained traction in and around the hockey world for a brief time but never took off. In close to ten years the NHLFA claims under 30,000 members even with it's repeated attempts to draw in the disenfranchised NHL fans that feel powerless to certain changes that Gary Bettman and others in the league have put forward. There is universal disgust among the hockey faithful at any given time, but there is no acceptance of a unified effort to give fans a say in the league.
1.a) The NHL Lockout of 2004-05: It was the biggest opportunity for a unified group to represent the fans at the bargaining table or perhaps gain Gary Bettman's or Bob Goodenow's ear. But instead of a unified effort, there were a number of small groups that would try to start fresh and organize there own anti-lockout faction. In the same light, I can re-tell a personal anecdote of creating a form email that would be sent to both Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux pleading for their intervention in the lockout. When I brought up this form both on Boltsmag and on message boards I was posting on at the time, it was met with cynicism and apathy. "Why would they listen? They don't care." "it's not going to do anything, nice try though." Over and over again the same dissatisfied, despondent response to the attempt to organize in mass.
2) The Montreal Expos: This is the biggest example of how both the feeling of entitlement and a cynical attitude can only help bring an end to something you love. Where indolence and apathy brought on by disgust did not save somethign that was indeed beloved. Montreal did have a baseball fan base. It did have passionate fans that loved the Expos. But it also had fans that felt entitled to being treated better than they were treated. Fans that took that entitlement and would revolt from the luxury of their own personal computers and over the Internet (but no where else). Even then, they were apathetic to do this revolting widely online and instead prefered to bitch and whine in their echo chamber. You can't sway opinions by complaining about Jeffery Loria in one forum and not enlightening people to yoru plight. You can't rally yoru own fans by feeling entitled to the team treating you better BEFORE you'll openly revolt.
3) Rory Fitzpatrick: 2006-07 brought one of the best viral marketing campaigns I have seen by pro sports fans. Unfortunately it was awash in absurdity, it still is the #1 example of fans organizing. It's just a shame that they had to do it as a joke. Starting with a small group of fans on hockey message boards, this started grabbing much more light in the eyes of the blogosphere and th mainstream meadia just after I blogged about it. Yet the movement was real and was ultimately stopped at the top, and likely to the relief of Mr. Fitzpatrick who was said to be embarrassed about things, it showed a sports example of what can be accomplished when fans unite. The NHL had to intervene tos top things...
Looking at the three examples (four) I can only note the personal gratification in each case -- fans do not jump out to do work unless they feel personally gratified by the results. How do fans accomplish that feelign besides chatting with other fans and getting kudos in their discussions? they see that gratification through their personal commitment to a sport or team. But beign active to prevent a change? Even that action goes beyond many a loyalists personal comfort zone. While the power of the Netroots (and I mean this broadly, not in a partisan political sense but internet organizing by and large) can accomplish much, one has to wonder if fans can find satisfaction while taking action for/against a change to something they love?
Of course, what to revolt against or unite against is always subjective... It's tradition infringement that tends to unite fans of any given sport. if Major League Baseball infringes on it's uniforms and starts placing advertisements upon battling helmets and jersey's - will fans do more than express disgust online and go outside their personal comfort zones? What level of grievance must sports fans experience before collectively dissenting and showing the force which they yield as a voice, as an opinion and as a consumer?