Where Do Your Loyalties Lie? Team v. Player

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

It seems the new and younger generations of fans follow players more than teams.

I started teaching in a new place this last school year and I have some students that seem to be more into individual players and like the teams because of those players. One example that Broncos Country will understand a bit more is Tim Tebow. This student is a big Tim Tebow fan and therefore cheered on the Jets (even though the Sanchize buttfumbled his way through the starting lineup all season) and took every opportunity to trash talk the Broncos and Peyton Manning.

This is just one example, but I see this fandom shift of sorts more lately. I understand it to a certain extent. It is easier these days to identify with one player with as much as they are advertised and promoted, and even with how accessible they are to the general public. I can literally have a twitter conversation with Shannon Sharpe if I want to (and have). Another Bronco I tweet with is David Bruton, he's a cool cat and will take the time to do that. I like Russell Wilson quite a bit and the Seahawks are my NFC team. But make no mistake about it, they face the Broncos and I'm hoping Von Miller puts a hit on the little guy that will make him see stars. I'm a Broncos fan first and foremost, and that is where my loyalty lies.

Some people don't understand it, and I get it. I suppose that is more of an old school view to put the team above the player. It's why I can get over losing players like Shannon Sharpe, Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, Tim Tebow, Elvis Dumervil. Each one of those guys in someway contributed to Broncos history, and while they were Broncos they become the enemy when they leave. Tim Tebow and the season of 2011 was magical. He's still a crappy QB and I'll s@#$ talk him when the subject comes up haha. Dumervil may have been our most consistent pass rusher for a handful of years. Drafted by us, homegrown talent. Guess what though? He's a ratbird now so f@#$ him. It's just the way I am, the name on the front of the jersey means more to me than the name on the back. I'm a Denver Broncos fan. I cheered on the Dan Reeves regime, Wade Phillips stop gap reign, Shanahan's brilliant road to glory and failed road mediocrity later on. I cheered on and defended Josh McDaniels (up until it was clear he was in over his head), and now I cheer on John Fox even though he drives me crazy with his conservative defensive mindset.

I'm a big John Elway fan, I suppose most any Bronco fan is. When we were discussing this the other day Tim Lynch brought up an interesting point. Back in the early 90's Elway was almost traded to the Redskins. It was one of the many things that led to Dan Reeves eventual dismissal from his head coaching post here. Elway is my frame of reference. I was born in 84' and grew up entirely with him as the face of the franchise. We had the three amigos, Karl Mecklenberg, Simon Fletcher, Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater. Steve Sewell, Gaston Green, Glyn Milburn, Clarence Kay, and later on TD, Rod Smith, Eddy Mac, Sharpe, "Stink" and many, MANY, other great Broncos but make no mistake, Elway was the guy in Denver.

Tim said that he probably wouldn't be a Broncos fan today had Elway been traded back then. And to be honest, I don't know if I would be either, I mean he was my hero. So my question then becomes, if you are a team above player fan--what is your threshold? What would it take for you to disown your team? For Broncos fans is this even possible anymore? I mean when you think of the Denver Broncos you think of John Elway and his career couldn't have ended on a better note with this franchise. For me nothing is off limits anymore. I will be a Broncos fan forever. I will put the team above the player because I believe the team and the sum parts of it are greater as a whole than any one individual. Even when Elway managed to get the job done it was because we had an awesome team.

How does the psychology work for player over team fans? Do you like the player's skill set or contributions so much more that you will follow and root them on anywhere? I suppose a lot of it can be chalked up to how sports work nowadays. With free agency and cap restrictions in the NFL, business is business. If a player's cap number far exceeds his contributions or value in the market, you can bet they will be gone. Happened with Dumervil. In the NFL, there seems to be a smaller window for players to cash in. Most good players get one good contract in their career. Given the demands of the game I don't fault them for using their leverage in about 90% of the cases. Player movement is such that it is hard to identify one player as the face of that franchise like Broncos fans do with Elway.

Let's do an exercise right now, I'm going to list all AFC teams and the one player throughout their history who is synonymous and easily identified as one of them:

Broncos: John Elway

Chiefs: Derrick Thomas

Chargers: Dan Fouts

Raiders: who cares?

Steelers: Terry Bradshaw

Browns: Bernie Kosar

Ravens: Ray Lewis

Bengals: Anthony Munoz

Texans: Andre Johnson

Titans: Steve McNair

Jaguars: Mark Brunell

Colts: Peyton Manning/Johnny Unitas

Patriots: Tom Brady

Bills: Bruce Smith

Dolphins: Dan Marino

Jets: Joe Nameth

Outside a handful of exceptions, hard to find examples of guys who are still active. In this era, it is a very rare thing to find a player that starts and ends his career with one team. Quarterback seems to be one position where it happens the most. Franchise guys are hard to find and teams try to keep they around.

This is a very interesting conversation to have with a lot of different layers to it. Perhaps you like the Broncos because you were born in Denver (or Colorado). Perhaps you live in the midwest and this is one of the only teams you have access to. Perhaps your dad was a fan and you had it passed on to you. Whatever the case may be, are you a fan of the team first? Or are you a fan of individual players first? Whatever your position, what is your explanation for it? Let us discuss Broncos Country, cheers!!!

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