Several years ago, I got railroaded into coaching a soccer team for seven-year-olds. I didn’t want to coach at all. Not just because I knew absolutely nothing about soccer, but mostly because I didn’t want to deal with parents – the players’ biggest fans. By the end of the season, which concluded with zero wins, one parent refused to even speak to me.
Coaching can be a thankless job.
On Friday night, the Red Wolves mens basketball team delivered its first win over a division one opponent – one that is among the worst teams in the nation who had already defeated us twice. The victory wasn’t even decisive – a controversial call at the buzzer prevented the game from going into overtime. Still, a win is a win.
Head coach Mike Balado has every right to relish the victory. The team played well – or at least better. And being held winless against Div I opponents must have been gnawing at him. It was good to get that chimp off his back.
But he wasn’t satisfied with mere victory.
Man, I get it. Fans can be sonsofbitches. Take me, for instance. One minute, I’m heralding you as the high-energy savior of the program, the next I’m criticizing your tweets. So fickle!
Here’s one thing I’ve observed over twenty years of checking in on the sports universe: making war with fans is futile and self-destructive. Fans may be dicks. They might be armchair athletes. They may even post unflattering blog posts, but Fans rule with an We’re #1 Foam-Finger Fist. Provoke them at your own peril.
This post isn’t about trashing Coach Balado – and it’s definitely not about pointing fingers at fans. (I take the fan’s side over the program’s side anytime.) This is more a 30,000-foot observation, the conclusion being that this basketball season is bad enough without the head coach determining who’s a good fan, and who is not.
After all, who’s a good fan? Is it the one who tweets, “NOT THE OUTCOME WE WANTED, BUT WE PLAYED HARD?” Is it the season ticket holder who dutifully buys four seats, even when the product as been subpar for two decades? Is it the fan who shuts up. until told to stand up and cheer?
Listen, the Twitterverse and Message Boards are a universe of unhelpful negativity. I spend half my tweet expenditures begging for Balado to wear a sweater. The noise is useless. Yet Coach Balado is listening to it, and he apparently doesn’t like what he hears.
Here’s what I learned after several years of working with U.S. Soccer – the only way to shift fan attitudes is by winning. It can’t be improved by a catchy slogan or an appeal to loyalty.
It’s win, or boo.