In recent weeks, I have run into a situation unique to Chicago Bears fans: do I always cheer for our quarterback who is scoring points at a prodigious rate? Here is where loyalties can be divided:
- In one fantasy football league, I drafted Justin Fields at the beginning of Round 5. This put him after all of the established quarterbacks and somewhere in the middle with a number of other unproven players. (Trevor Lawrence went next, I drafted Tua Tagovailoa at the beginning of Round 7, etc.)
- In other fantasy leagues, I have now played Justin Fields as the opposing QB in multiple weeks. He is scoring a lot of points recently – but now against me.
- As a fan of the Chicago Bears, I almost never draft Bears players because for decades the Bears have not scored consistently. Even with an exciting young quarterback, the Bears are still not winning. Should they lose more for a higher draft pick? Should they do more for their young QB?
Fantasy sports and gambling has introduced this conundrum for years: do I enjoy watching sports or do I reduce my teams and the players to individual components that I can profit from?
If I had to decide, I go with my lifelong fandom with the Chicago Bears. I want them to do well. Even as I have played fantasy football for almost two decades and Madden football for three decades, I enjoy being a sports fan, even of an unsuccessful team.
It is less clear whether others sports fans agree with this. It is much easier to follow particular players or certain teams as they become famous and successful. Why stick with the Bears when you can enjoy the play and exploits of others? Why not turn it into a matter of my own success?
Perhaps sports fandom will look very different in the coming decades. Sports will continue and I suspect the push toward individualizing the fan experience, particularly prioritizing those teams and players who are successful, will as well.