As per usual for me, the other day I was sitting around thinking about baseball-related stuff. One of the ideas that jumped to the front of my mind was a simple yet hard to answer question; what do expansion teams mean to baseball fandom? Specifically, is it okay to jump your fandom from one team to another on account of expansion? It’s pretty simple on the surface but I’m not sure if there’s really a satisfying answer.
First things first, let’s get the specifics out of the way. In this case the scenario I was thinking of involved one of two possible options. First, there is the classic expansion team. Think the Colorado Rockies joining the National League in 1993 or the Gastonia Honey Hunters joining the Atlantic League this year. In that instance the team is brand new in every sense of the word; a brand new baseball team that emerged out of thin air. The second option is that of the team that changes leagues. In this case, think of the Kane County Cougars leaving affiliated ball and the Midwest League to join unaffiliated ball and the American Association. The team itself already existed, but they did not exist in the league at hand.
Now that we know what I’m talking about, let’s get one thing clear, I’m not interested in policing anyone’s choice for their favorite team. Like who you like, jump from team to team, or stick with one team your entire baseball fandom. That doesn’t matter to me because your fandom is not my fandom and I don’t view it as my job to police and judge your fandom (unless you’re a fan of a team with a racist nickname or mascot, then I will judge away). What I’m interested in is how people manage their fandom when a new team comes around.
If, for instance, you live in Gastonia, North Carolina, and are a fan of the Long Island Ducks, what do you do when all of a sudden the Honey Hunters come into existence? Do you say, “Well, shit, I guess I’m a Honey Hunters fan now!” Do you keep being a fan of the Ducks and ignore the Honey Hunters? Or, do you take the tactic of remaining a fan of the Ducks but also cheering on your new hometown team and slowly transitioning into either a fan of both teams or a sole Honey Hunters fan over the years? There’s no wrong answer there, after all the Honey Hunters didn’t exist before and they need fans. Rockies fans had to come from somewhere, I’m sure any number of them were fans of other teams already and switched their allegiance because of factors like their closer proximity to the Rockies.
What if you’re a Milwaukee Milkmen fan and were also a Cougars fan. What do you do now that the Cougars made the jump to the American Association to play, and likely form a rivalry with, the Milkmen? Can you stay a fan of both teams? Do you have to pick only one? Do you stay loyal to the team you’ve been a fan of longer or do you go with the fresher fandom? Again, there’s not a wrong answer to this scenario but when teams start hopping leagues this situation has to of played out at some point.
I haven’t yet changed my fandom because of a new team, though I wouldn’t rule it out. Fandom is very fluid like that, despite what we like to think about our fandom and the concept of fandom in general. It is an intriguing question though; what do we do with our fandom when a new opportunity for fandom arises from nowhere? How do we handle who we cheer for when a new team enters the fray?
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Ballpark Digest