It’s okay. Don’t feel bad for not going to any Astros games this year. I don’t blame you. Yes, I believe you when you say you’re still an Astros fan, but you don’t need to waste your disposable income on a bad team. It’s okay.
Many times I’ve heard sports fans accuse others of being fair weather. Some take it as a personal insult when called fair weather as if they were just accused of a felony they didn’t commit.
“Their fans aren’t hard core like we are!”
Is it really a compliment to be considered hard core? What defines a hard-core baseball fan from a fair weather fan?
In terms of baseball, most real hard-core fans are quietly so. They’re not self-appointed hard core. They quietly follow their favorite team through the standings, statistics, television, radio, columns, features and, occasionally to frequently, attends games. Then there are the self-appointed hard-core fans who generally flame out when the team drops below .500 and/or beer vendors pack up for the night after the seventh inning.
The teams most associated with hard-core fans are the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. These also happen to be large-market teams.
New York Yankees
There are many ways to define a fan base. Are Yankees fans hard core, or fair weather? I’ll keep this simple and look at attendance figures. If a fan base is fair weather, the attendance would rise and fall with the team’s win-loss record. It’s difficult to gauge with the Yankees because they’re almost always good. We’ll have to go back to 1992 for the Bronx Bombers last losing season (they were 76-86, fourth of seven teams in the AL East). That season the Yankees drew just 1,748,737 fans to Yankee Stadium, 11th of 14 American League teams. In 1991, when they won only 71 games, they drew about 100,000 more fans and were 11th in the league. Wouldn’t a hard-core fan base show up for more games?
Fast forward to one of the greatest baseball teams in the history of the game: the 1998 Yankees. New York won 114 regular season games and then breezed through the playoffs and won the World Series. Their attendance that season (2,955,193) ranked third in the league. Perhaps the fan base needed to witness history to get back on board? Their 1999 attendance also ranked third. It wasn’t until 2003 that New York topped the American League in attendance and has stayed on top since.
Based on these numbers I’m going to label Yankees fans as fair weather … not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Boston Red Sox
… or as a friend of mine likes to call them, the New England Yankees. Baseball fans know how hard it is to find a ticket at Fenway Park these days. The team is a step below the Yankees (though, a big step) in terms of payroll and Theo Epstein has made the right moves amounting to two World Series championships in the last decade along with six playoff appearances. The fans are known as extremely loyal as most of them had to endure over 80 years of the curse of the Bambino.
It’s a bit tougher to gage the team’s fan base by attendance as Fenway Park can house only about 39,500 fans. Like the Yankees, we’ll have to go back to the nineties to find the last sub-.500 season from Boston. In 1997 the Red Sox were just under .500 (78-84) and ranked seventh in attendance with 2,226,136. With capacity at Fenway Park at 34,218 in ’97, this averages about 27,500 fans a game.
Strangely, in 1998 the Red Sox won 92 games, yet only 2,314,704 fans went through the turnstiles, ninth in the American League. Did the low attendance have anything to do with the fact that the Yankees, their biggest rival, were spectacular?
Like the Yankees, it’s hard to decifer hard core from fair weather as the Red Sox are really good most of the time. Boston has had six losing seasons in the last 30 years and none since 1997. Are Red Sox fans fair weather or hard core? They’re more hard core than Yankees fans, but they’re still fair weather … not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The north side of Chicago has not seen a World Series since 1945, but Cubs fans still don’t give up. They’re known as the lovable losers even though Philadelphia Phillies fans have seen a lot more of it. Wrigley Field is almost always full despite how horrible the Cubs may be. Looking at attendance figures, 1986 was the last time Chicago didn’t draw at least two million fans for a full season. That’s devotion. After years and years of losing, it slowly got cool to root for one of the least successful teams in baseball history.
Cubs fans show up to beautiful Wrigley Field no matter what. Of course, it helps the team plays in a big market and WGN has spread the word through cable wires and satellites across the country. Like the Red Sox and Yankees, the Cubs spend a lot of money on their payroll, but with far worse results.
With this being said, Chicago Cubs fans are not fair weather (at least, in the last 20 years) and are hard core … but there’s something wrong with that.
Every (sane and mature) fan is fair weather
There’s no shame being labeled a fair-weather fan. It’s the level-headed choice. If your team isn’t playing well, or downright horrible, there’s no sense in spending your money on them. How else should you let the owner know you’re disappointed? Sure, a good fan will keep an eye on the box scores and any transactions. But a good fan will also not follow the team blindly by spending lots of money on tickets, souvenirs and concessions at the game.
As a Twins fan, I’ve been lucky in the last decade. It’s been easy to follow the team and go to games when everything’s still meaningful in late September. Of course, before Minnesota won 85 games in 2001, it endured eight consecutive losing seasons. No matter how horrible the team was, I always check the box scores and game stories and watch them on TV if it fit my schedule. Am I fair weather because I paid less attention to the Twins when they were in last-place team than now? Or am I hard core because I will always root for the Twins no matter what the standings and never turn to whatever team has done well in the last decade?
We’re not cattle. You won’t keep going to a restaurant if the food didn’t taste good and you got bad service, so why complain when fans don’t show up to the ballpark for a bad team?