What Would Cause You to Stop Being a Fan of Someone or Something?

Earlier this week, Seth Godin had a post about lifelong fans, and the importance we place on being a fan.

He writes:

This instinct (of being a fan) is so strong that we suspend disbelief (and create belief) based on something as shallow as what logo is on the box. We confuse our rational understanding of what’s important with our emotional connection to a logo or a team name. It turns out that the name of the team (and the other fans) are a much more important part of our narrative than we realize.

Part of being a fan isn’t insisting that your team win every game–in fact, being a fan is defined as showing up even when you’re losing, even when the leaders are wrong, even when logic dictates that this makes no sense at all.

Once you realize that being a fan is an important part of your self-worth, the most generous thing you can do is speak up when management is about to do something stupid. Because when the fans speak up, it’s possible that leadership listens.

Godin’s post made me think about something I’ve often wondered – what would I do if somebody or some team or some company that I was a fan of did something I totally disagreed with, whether it’s a political stance they take or breaking the law. Would my opinion of that person or team or company change?

For example, what if Bruce Springsteen came out as a strong supporter of President Trump? Would I stop listening to his music? Would I stop saying he’s my favorite musician? Would I be able to separate his political beliefs from his music?

What if the Philadelphia Phillies suddenly came out in support of gun rights? Would they no longer be my favorite baseball team, even though I’ve rooted for them for close to 60 years? Would I be able to separate my love of baseball from my disgust with guns?

What if I found out that the CEO of my favorite company, someone I had long admired, turned out to be a real jerk in his personal life? Could I separate my admiration of him as a business leader and visionary from his personality? (and yes, I am thinking of Steve Jobs).

What if you found out that a President you were led to believe was wonderful, and was like you in that he was a Catholic, turned out to be a jerk in his personal life? Would I still be able to admire him as  President? (and yes, I am thinking of John F. Kennedy).

Or as another example, what if one of my favorite comedians and movie directors turned out to be the slimeball that some people are making him out to be? Could I still like his books and movies? (and yes, I am thinking of Woody Allen).

Is part of being a fan, as Seth suggests, showing up even when they are losing, even when the leaders are wrong.

Does that mean that it’s OK to keep supporting someone’s music or athletic ability or business savvy, even when they have done something wrong, or done something you do not believe in?

I know some people who refuse to buy Nike products, even though they love their products, because of the support the company showed to Colin Kaepernick. I know someone who won’t drink a certain beer brand because the CEO is a Trump supporter, even though he liked the beer prior to his election.

I think I’d have a hard time not liking Springsteen’s music, even if he became a Trump supporter.

I still admire Steve Jobs, even though he was incredibly rude to many, many people.

I also think of baseball and the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose is one of the best baseball players of all time. He gave 110% on the field, and clearly has the baseball stats to be in the Hall of Fame. However, because he bet on the game, he has been barred from being elected into the Hall of Fame. Personally, I think think the two things can be separated, and he should be in the Hall of Fame.

But at some point, I think it is possible for someone or something you admire to cross some imaginary line in the sand you have created, and when they do so, it would be hard for you to continue to be a fan.

For example, and a purely hypothetical one, If I found out that Springsteen was selling opiods to his fans in the parking lot after his concerts, I think that would be the end of my listening to his music.

Do you have a line in the sand for the people and companies you admire, and if they were to cross it, that would be the end of your relationship with that person or company?

Or is Seth suggesting that if we “speak up, it’s possible that leadership listens.”, and by doing so the person or company will change their behavior, allowing you to continue to admire them?

Hmmm… I don’t know, but as usual, Seth got me thinking…

P.S. Springsteen is not a supporter of President Trump, and he is not selling drugs after his concerts…

*image from Forbes


47 thoughts on “What Would Cause You to Stop Being a Fan of Someone or Something?

  1. Thought-provoking topic tonight, Jim. My take is similar to yours—I generally will remain a fan unless the team or individual has done something so egregious that I can no longer support him/her/them. The confusion arises when you decide what constitutes egregious. Perhaps, I’m bending my principles to some degree. That doesn’t speak highly of me. For example, I rooted for Tiger Woods as a golfer for years. As you probably are aware, he became a serial womanizer, a behavior I find to be despicable. He also was married at the time. Logic tells me that I should now root against him, and I imagine if he was someone I had no opinion about prior to this behavior, I would.

    Another example is Lance Armstrong. I don’t think I can ever say I was a passionate fan of his, but I found myself rooting for him simply because he was an American. When it came out that he not only used steroids, but then lied and tried to destroy others’ lives, I strongly disliked him. I don’t remember if he was allowed to race again after that, but there is no way I would have supported him after that.

    Since the moral behavior of each was despicable, I should not support either one. I wonder why I still root for Tiger? On a slightly different topic, I have a hard time cheering for some star athlete that I have typically rooted against if he gets traded to one of my favorite teams.


    1. Hi Pete, thanks fo rsharing your insights. I forgot all about Tiger, I’m just like you. I don’t even golf, but I’ve been a fan of his since he first came on the scene. And for whatever reason, I still root for him, despite what he did to his wife. I think he worked hard to change his poor behavior, and from an outsider’s perspective, I think he has succeeded. As for Lance, again, I was a huge fan, not only because of his racing success but because of all the money his foundation raised. I think what hurt him is that he continued to deny what he had done, and he lost a lot of credibility as a result.

      I can’t think of any athlete I would root against if he or she joined one of my favorite teams. I wonder what it would be like for Jets fans if Tom Brady had signed with the Jets?

      Have a great weekend!


  2. I start from realizing nobody’s perfect. There are many things I can forgive especially if forgiveness is sought sincerely. If people do bad stuff, don’t lie bout it. That’s my problem with Rose, Bonds and the Astros. My redlines are mostly around racism and far right political beliefs like fascism and nazism. Those are no brainers in my opinion.

    I still admire JFK in spite of his private life. No one knows how he might have changed had he lived. I still root for Tiger even though I assume he supports Trump and he refuses to use his platform to discuss issues affecting the black community. Good question, Jim.


    1. Lots of great points, John. I agree with you about Tiger. What he did was terrible, but I think he honestly has tried to change his behavior and become a better person as a result. On the other side, as Pete mentioned in his comment, you’ve got Lance Armstrong who just continually denied his behavior (I actually could have cared less if he was using performance enhancing drugs, just don’t lie about, and accept the consequences). As for Pete Rose, he is still fighting things, but believe entry into the Hall of Fame should primarily be based on your stats. Of course, if he had committed some high crimes, then yes, that should be considered. beth offers a list of what would be over the line for her; I am sure there are many people in the Hall of Fame who went over the line, and inyou case, I am sure there are several players who were racists.

      Have a great weekend!


    1. I guess that means you are not a Hamilton fan. I don’t know too uch about racing, but is there a reason why? I watched an interview Hamilton did with David Letterman, and he seemed like a great guy…


  3. interesting to consider. it seems we all have a line, each of us has a unique limit. examples i can think of – horrible crimes against others: assault, murder, cruelty, harassment, all are in my book as over the line. as for political affiliation, it has never been something that bothered me, but it seems to have become a tipping point for me in the current times, as i feel a lot of cruelty and disregard for others involved where some are concerned.


    1. thank you, Beth for your thoughtful comments. I’d put all those items you listed as deal breakers too. And just like you, I was never really bothered by someone’s political affiliation or beliefs until the past couple of years. It is a shame to see how divisive things have become. Enjoy your weekend.


  4. Interesting question, Jim. I don’t quite know where I stand with it. A lot of people have been accused of paedophilia, a crime which I totally abhor and fail to understand, but I still love Michael Jackson’s music. I did from the early days of the Jackson 5 before any of this came out. While I still love his music, I can no longer listen to it without thinking of his deeds. Sometimes, I’d rather not know of the personal lives of artists so I can simply admire their work. As salsaworldtraveler says, none of us are perfect, least of all me. Perhaps there are things about me I’d rather leave hidden lest I be judged too harshly.


    1. great example with Michael Jackson; a phenomenal artist with a major flaw in his personality. And I agree, sometimes I’d rather not know some of the personal background of people whose art I admire.

      As Bob Seger sings, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”


      1. If you are asking about Bob Seger, I don’t know much about him. I’m a big fan of his music, and from what I’ve read, he seems like a decent guy.


  5. Jim, this post raises such a relatable and thought provoking question. I had to think long and hard on this. I felt like I was sitting in your lecture and you just made me question everything I hold dear. And with that introspection comes knowledge of the self, and that knowledge applied correctly becomes wisdom. The result – Our failings are as long a list as our accomplishments. We all have done good things and we all have failed at being the person we want to be. Am I willing to be judged as harshly as I judge other’s behavior?

    I can be against anyone’s behavior or actions that I think have a negative impact on an individual or our society as a whole, but I cannot undo their accomplishments. To think that someone has done something wrong and that somehow negates every right thing they did is pure folly. Would I choose to die if I found out the doctor saving my life had been convicted as a pedophile in his past? Does Michael Jackson’s music suddenly sound different to newly educated ears? Would the ‘Mona Lisa’ look different if you learned Rembrandt was a fascist?

    All people are a sum of their parts. Some good and some bad. Are any of us willing to be judged only by our worst days? We must separate the actions from the individual. I allow myself to love the things that people get right, and hate the things I see as being wrong. And I accept that individuals can earn share of each aspect.


    1. Brad, thank you for such a thoughtful and well-reasoned reply. It makes sense ot look at the total person, and everyone has their good points and bad points and we have to accept it all.

      And if you had been sitting in one of my lectures, you probably would have missed this question, since you would have likely been sound asleep like everyone else.

      Have a great weekend!


  6. I’ve given up lifelong friendships based on certain behaviours and actions of friends, while forgivable, I couldn’t continue to maintain relationships based on what I’d learned about their private matters. It would be much easier to stop supporting a favorite musician or sports franchise or public figure I admire if I didn’t agree with their personal choices.


      1. Regrettably, this one friend is a repeat offender of a crime that society looks upon very unfavourably. I’ve reached out several times as have others in our circle over the past several years, but he never responds.


  7. I certainly would stop being a fan if someone declared themselves a supporter of the yammering yam. But then I tend not to be much of an ardent fans of anyone or anything. I don’t like the Patriots because of their tRumpitude but then I don’t follow football so it’s rather irrelevant. If Springsteen came out as a tRumper I would think he had either lost his mind or that he was never sincere in the first place.

    The best example i can think of is Wagner. I like his music in spite of his anti-Semitism and appropriation by the Nazis. Uncomfortably to think I share something with Adolf Hitler but then – we are both human and that’s a big sharing right there. So I don’t admire Wagner’s opinions but his music is extraordinary.

    Most of us seem to have a simple minded tendency to divide things into extremes. People are either heroes or we are indifferent or opposed to them. Am thinking of the job that Andrew Cuomo is growing into so well as governor of NY. Leaving aside his initial slow response to the crisis he has emerged as a solid thinker and communicator and deserves the praise he has been given for that. His budget- however – is an abomination.

    Same kind of thing with John McCain. His vote to save the ACA took courage and thank goodness for that. However – this is the same man who vowed to block any SCOTUS appointment that Hillary would make as President. And so on.

    You have raised an interesting dilemma. And I shall have to ponder more.


    1. thank, Josie, for your wonderful insights. I like the examples of Wagner and Cuomo and McCain. As Brad noted, everyone has things we like and on’t like about them, and I guess we just have to accept that person as he or she is. I think Seth Godin would suggest that perhaps a fan would try to encourage the person to fix their bad behavior.


  8. I think that it is important, but also difficult, to know how to distinguish between the art and the artist. Just because the artist have a crappy political statement, doesn’t mean that his/her art is crap. And that’s a very fine line that is hard to see. But I think that we have to. We have a tendency to set our idols in an image of perfection, and that we have to let go. Even our heros aren’t perfect.


      1. I can follow that. I haven’t actually been in the situation yet of some artist I like having a meaning about something I am passionate about, but indeed it must be hard


  9. I have always had a problem with celebrities who use their popularity to get on their soapbox and somehow become an authority when it comes to politics or social issues. While everyone, ( including white, cisgender, middle aged, Christian conservative bloggers) are entitled to their opinion, why are certain opinions valued more? Some musicians, and I immediately think of Tom Paxton, who can write about politics/social issues without getting mean spirited, like (forgive the blasphemy), his highness, Bruce Springsteen. I have found a little more respect for him since he and Patty raised a son who is now a career firefighter in Jersey City. Same thing with movie stars who lecture us on saving the planet and gun control while they fly on private jets and travel with armed security. Rant over. Happy Easter.


    1. I agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I have no problem when a celebrity endorser uses the platform they have to state their opinion. I don’t think that means that their opinion carries more weight than anyone else’s. I tell my students I don’t care where they stand on an issue, but I do want them to start taking a stand on issues. And I feel the same way about celebrities, why should they have to keep silent just because they are famous? And I agree, many times celebrities are inconsistent with what they say and what they do. And as far as Springsteen, I think you know where I stand, so I won’t fall for your trap 🙂


  10. It takes so much to make me hate someone. And I think it’s impossible for to stop being a fan even if that person is an asshole because to begin with I’m never someone’s fan. I love Springsteen songs so I’m a fan of his songs. If he supported a public enemy or hid a criminal in his home. The fact that his song is one best doesn’t change.


  11. I think if a company/person I was a fan of did something really unethical- like something to do with racism/sexism or anything in that ballpark- I would probably stop being a fan.


      1. Yeah I agree it would be very difficult and I guess that’s why a lot of people continue to have die hard fans despite doing very questionable things.


  12. A thought provoking post, Jim. I am a follower of Seth’s work and have a heart memory, as he kindly replied to an email I sent him about a post he once wrote. A humble man. Your post made me think, thank you. I feel drawn to some souls thoughts & words, musical & artistic creativity, projects and work. Everything to me is an energy, so if the energy is loving, kind, uplifting, thought provoking, supportive and/or expanding for others, then it feels balanced. If it jars, then I let it flow past. There is a physical distance between ‘well known’ souls and myself, so it is easier to let anything jarring flow past.


    1. thanks for your thoughtful comments, Jane. Seth has written back to me as well, I was quite impressed by that. I like your point about how there is distance between us and the famous, and that makes it easier to separate ourselves from them.


      1. I agree that saying they are not the only one is not a good defense, but more so that Apple shouldn’t be the only one picked on for such practices…


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