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