As the football news comes to a standstill during this unbearable lull between the mini-camp and training camp, I have, once again, started to see a growth in stories and debates that come up every year and are left unresolved. Much like years in the past, one of the debates moving through the message boards and the blogospheres is whether it is proper for the fans to use “we” when referring to their teams. And unlike years in the past, I have decided to finally join in this debate and add some more fuel to the fire.
Throughout the years, I have seen both sides of the argument. Chris Jones does a great job in stating the argument on why fans should not be using the term “we”. His main argument is that “if you don’t play for, or you are not an employee of, the team in question, ‘we’ is not the pronoun you’re looking for.” Therefore, no sports fan, with the exception of a resident of Green Bay, Wisconsin, who might actually own a part of the team, or a student whose fees directly go towards the maintenance of the college sports teams, should include himself or herself as a part of that organization. Although the argument presents some valid points, it also overlooks many of the unique qualities present in sports fandom that are not as widely present in the fandom of most other forms of entertainment.
Although it is fair to state that anyone not employed by an organization should not be considered a part of that organization, daily we see examples of people who are not employed by an organization who are (or should be) considered a part of that organization. There are volunteers in all different types of organizations that put in constant time and effort without receiving any significant compensation. Even though these volunteers are not employed, they still play an essential part in the proper and efficient functioning of an organization. In my opinion, the employment status of a person with the organization is not nearly as important as the commitment a person shows toward the organization or the connection s/he has with that organization.
It is this connection that often separates the sports fans from the fans of many other forms of entertainment. As Mike Dussault explains in his article favoring the use of “we”, the fans “are there for every moment, the wins and the losses, the highs and the lows, [as well] as the good and the bad transpire on the field.” You will find that sports fans, more than any other fandom, are more in tune with the emotions of the “entertainers”. Although one can argue that a fan of the Beatles is just as dedicated and committed to them as a Colts fan is to the Colts organization, oftentimes, a Beatles fan does not go through the emotional ups and downs that the band goes through. However, sports fans are known for their emotional connection with their respective teams. The excitement felt by a fan after a win or the depression that sets in after a tough loss are similar to those felt by the players and the coaches (although to a lesser degree). If a fan of a band is that emotionally connected to that band, or comes to the concerts wearing a brown paper bag after years of the band being at the bottom of the charts, then maybe s/he should be considered a part of the “band” and should be saying “we” when referring to the band.
I don’t think anyone would argue that fans are not important to the proper and efficient operation of any form of entertainment. The importance of the fans and the home crowd has been prevalent throughout all different sports through the idea of “home field advantage”. Fans play such an essential role in the existence of these sports organizations that the Football teams have started to publicly recognize their importance, as evident by the idea of the “12th man”. Even though they are not paid by the organization, the fans are still a part of the team due to the time, effort, money, and the heart they invest into their teams.