Two weeks ago, the New York Mets traded Matt Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds for Devin Mesoraco and cash. While Harvey’s star has dimmed as he’s struggled with injuries the past few seasons, there was a time where he was one o the best pitchers in baseball, the Dark Knight who started at the all-star game. As a Mets fan myself, Harvey became one of my favorite players on a series of underperforming Mets teams, and made each game he pitched a must-watch experience. While this trade made sense from a baseball standpoint, it was a disappointing experience for me because of my affection with Harvey as a player, and although my Mets fandom will not sway, I will definitely be following the Reds more closely, especially on days where Harvey pitches. This made me wonder, how much does the movement of star players influence fans’ interest in the teams they root for?
A good place to start the investigation is with LeBron James. James was arguably the most popular player in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers (the first time around) and had carried the Cavs to success, albeit with only one finals appearance and no championships. In the 2009-2010 season, the Cavs were second in home attendance and also second in road attendance. Everyone wanted to see LeBron play. As a free agent on 2010, James made his infamous “decision” to leave the Cavs for the Miami Heat. In James first season with the Heat, the team became first in the association in road attendance and the Cavs dropped to last. This shows the huge impact stars like James have on a team’s popularity to fans that may not have a team they are loyal to. One of the most fascinating things was looking at a . While the most popular within a region was always a team that played nearby or the always popular Lakers and Celtics (due to their strong legacies), the Heat, who have no such history, were often the third or fourth most popular team in regions all over the map, presumably because of James. LeBron serves as proof that sometimes a people can become fans of players instead of fans of teams.
When players shift to rival teams, however, usually the fans stay put. Johnny Damon leaving the Boston Red Sox for the New York Yankees has left many Sox fans calling Damon a “traitor” to this day but the big reason the fans remained is because the fan bases are so rabid and the rivalry is so strong that it would have taken much more than a single player trade for fans to switch allegiances.
But imagine those long-suffering Cavs fans with nothing to root for before LeBron was drafted, falling in love with the player, and then seeing him leave. The most loyal fans will never switch their loyalties, but those who are more of the fair-weather type cannot help but fall in love with certain players, whoever they may be. There are many “LeBron fans” who supported his transition from being a Cavs fan to being a Heat fan to a Cavs fan again, as evidenced by the Cavs displacing the Heat for the league’s best road attendance when LeBron returned home, a huge jump from 15th the season prior. These fans will probably continue to support him wherever he winds up after his next trip through free agency. Players are entitled to have fan bases just like any other team.
One of the great things about FanWide is that no matter where you live, you can find game watch parties to see your favorite players play. If your favorite player switches teams, FanWide can help you find new viewing parties for the new team. And what can beat the fun of watching a game at a local bar or restaurant with other fans? Fan of a team, of a player, or both, FanWide will ensure you always have somewhere to go to watch sports.