Homerism’s Downside

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The sad thing about being a homer is that it aids and abets bad management.

We’re all “homers,” really. We root for our teams—not for other teams—and we protect our teams like they are personal possessions.

It’s not only an honorable thing to do, it connects us with like-minded colleagues who are homers, too.

Courtesy: Huffington Post

There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s a good thing, generally. But like everything else in life, too much of anything (even a good thing) can be a problem. And that life lesson brings me to the subject of what I call “homerism’s downside.”

Ironically, that downside has nothing to do with sports, per se. It has more to do with human nature and how organizations work.

How so? Homers defend and support their teams even when it’s without merit. Teams bank on that behavior, too, because they need sustaining support–especially when it comes to hell or high water. And we–the homers of sportsland–gladly oblige.

Even when the rest of the world sees plenty of issues with our teams, we don’t see it what way. We look at the glass have full. We make excuses. We magnify good things. We minimize the bad stuff. We keep watching on TV. We line up to buy tickets. We wait ‘til next year … sometimes the year after that … and longer. We do all of that because we’re homers.

Courtesy: The No Homers Club

Here’s how one fan described the dynamic: “If you are a homer, then you are biased towards your team in all aspects of the game. Your team can do no wrong.”

Some fans take an even harsher view. Consider this interpretation: “Homers are simple-minded persons, never cognizant of the world around them.” They act like Homer from the animated series, The Simpsons as in … “I can’t believe you said that. You’re such a Homer!”

That’s hyperbolic! Homers aren’t stupid people. They’re just, well, homers. To say something negative about their team would be like saying something negative about their family. It’s taboo.

Well, in some places, it is. In other places…not so much.

One of those places is Philadelphia. There’s an infamous story—a true story, too—about what happened on a certain Sunday in December during the last home game of the season.

Most fans aren’t like that and homers aren’t that way, for sure. That’s because–time and time again–homers give their teams “the benefit of the doubt.” The interesting thing about that phrase is that it means the person actually has doubt. It means he or she believes something is good–rather than something is bad–despite the fact that the person has the possibility of choosing either way.

The problem with selecting the “good” option is obvious:  your team may not deserve it.

The bad stuff about your team may be really real: bad is what your team is, and bad is what your team’s management has produced.

You and I both know that good organizational management is never distributed equally. Anybody with work experience knows that. Yet, as homers, we either can’t or don’t want to see its application to our team(s) … even when things are bad, and have been bad, for an extended period of time.

What are some of the tell-tale signs? Here are just four.

Management (that includes both front office and coaching on the field) makes the same mistakes, over and over again, which results in a recurring pattern of ineptitude on the field.

Management may have conceptual know-what, but they can’t translate that understanding into field-level know-how.

Executives surround themselves with “yes people,” not with capable people who are now (or could be groomed into being) executive-ready.

Owners, general managers, head coaches and field managers are control freaks.

The list goes on and on. And to make matters worse, we – as homers – assume that winning is the primary thing. For management that may be true and (gads!) it might not be true at all. Consider this. It’s no secret how the Red Sox, and then the Cubs, turned from perennial losers into baseball world champions. The recipe? Great management! But it’s also clear from the record that many other baseball teams don’t know how to win consistently.

Courtesy: NBC San Diego

That helps explain why, year after year, some teams struggle with being competitive, while other teams execute a turnaround. The Padres represent struggle, while the Royals and Indians are turnaround stories. It’s not hard, in either case, to figure out why. It’s good management.

When we support bad teams without critique, we end up aiding and abetting bad management. But so often we’re afraid to speak up for fear that fellow fans will view us as disloyal. So we sit there as though things are okay. They’ll get better. But truth be told, we don’t believe either.

That circumstance can lead to fan struggle, of living in two worlds. Who hasn’t experienced that feeling? I have. The question is how to resolve that dilemma.

One way is to decrease your participation as a fan. Don’t watch as much on TV and don’t go to as many (if any) games. Another way is to interact more with fans who are both supportive and critical. You’ll trade info and insights and learn along the way–especially if you develop a respectful, debate-like relationship.

In the end, though, you’ll need to accept homers for who they are. They see only what they want to see. Trust me: you’ll threaten friendships if you persist in pointing out issues–even if what you say has merit.

In the end, honesty is the best policy–as long as you care about the team and offer constructive (not catty) criticism. Don’t end up being miserable like those Eagles fans.


About Frank Fear

I’m a Columnist at The Sports Column. My specialty is sports commentary with emphasis on sports reform. I also serve as TSC’s Chief Operating Officer and Managing Editor. In that role I coordinate the daily flow of submissions from across the country and around the world, including overseeing editing and posting articles. I’m especially interested in enabling the development of young, aspiring writers. I can relate to them. I began covering sports in high school for my local newspaper. In college I served as sports editor of the campus newspaper and worked in the Sports Information Director’s Office at St. John Fisher College. After finishing grad degrees at West Virginia and Iowa State I had a 35-year academic career at Michigan State. Now retired, it’s time to write again about sports. I strongly support TSC’s philosophy–democratizing voice by giving everybody a chance to write.

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