Pay It Forward

It's been bothering me a lot lately and the other day while reading the Simmons mailbag I caught an exchange that, while about sports in particular, was exactly how I currently feel about music.  Here is the exchange:

Q: Soccer still isn't going anywhere in America for this reason: People like me, who only watch soccer whenever the World Cup is on, are hated by actual soccer fans. They would rather have us not watch soccer at all rather than start watching soccer and rooting for the U.S. during the World Cup. It kills them to see people watching who don't normally. I have heard people say things to other people along the lines of "you don't even know the rules" and "if you don't know what's going on then don't watch." Ironically, diehard soccer fans here are actually hurting soccer's progress here in the U.S..
-- Brandon P, Zanesville, Ohio
SG: You just introduced a premise called "The Cult of Status Quo." Sometimes when people become die-hard fans of something that isn't mainstream -- a writer, a band, a player, a TV show, a sport or whatever -- they want to keep that thing the way it is over seeing that thing take off. Why? Because it's cooler to like something that isn't mainstream popular. Because mainstream popularity begets bandwagon fans and people who aren't as sophisticated about that product. Because it's more fun to love something before it takes off than after it takes off.
Hence, it's easier for original fans to dump on newer fans than to tolerate them and hope they advance the cause of whatever they like. I notice this every time I mention the UFC or poker -- there's this bizarre (and totally dismissive) backlash, as if I'm not allowed to watch those sports or even mention them because I'm not a real fan. Well, how do you become a real fan? By liking a sport without disliking the core people who like it. So it's a self-perpetuating cycle, and as weird as this sounds, the original fans like it that way. It maintains their ownership of the product. When the product outgrows them (specifically in the case of a creative entity), that's when the core fans start throwing around phrases like "jumped the shark" and "sold out," mostly because they're bitter it's not just them and the product any more.
With soccer, die-hard American fans love the World Cup itself, but they hate everything that comes with it; the World Cup drudges up the same storylines they've learned to despise ("Soccer can't take off unless X, Y or Z happens," "Our best athletes don't play soccer," "It can never be big here unless there's more scoring" and "They should get rid of offsides," to name four). I don't blame them for reacting negatively to that stuff, but you wouldn't call them welcoming, either. And they have taken a ton of crap over the years, which tends to harden the line between real fans and everyone else. I can tell you that in the past 15 months, when I wrote about soccer a few times and it became clear that it was more than a bandwagon thing, and that I was actually starting to understand what I was watching -- the feedback from die-hards has been tremendous (and much appreciated). They just need to be a little less condescending with neophytes.
For fun, I asked David Hirshey (soccer historian, author of "The ESPN World Cup Companion") and Michael Davies (TV producer, World Cup blogger) for their takes:
Hirshey: "The question of authenticity among fans is hardly soccer-centric. I started watching 'Mad Men' after the third episode had aired. I have a friend who became obsessed with the series once the first season DVD came out. Now he never misses an episode. Are we bandwagon jumpers? Sure, if you want to view it that way. Me, I just want everyone to love soccer the way I fell for it back in the late 1960s -- when you had to walk 10 miles (OK, blocks), in the snow, just to hear the score of a Man U-Arsenal game. Does being a fan for the past 40 plus years make me any more legitimate than someone who embraced the sport this summer because Landon Donovan scored a dramatic goal in the World Cup or Diego Forlan has great hair? Absolutely not. Are there still so-called 'die-hards' who want soccer in this country to remain a kind of secret Skull and Bones society where membership is passed down through generations? Sadly, yes. I say De Jong them in the chest and tell them to get over themselves."
Davies: "I completely agree that many die-hard soccer fans in the U.S. have learned to become just as annoying and condescending as die-hard soccer fans in England and all over the world. Globalization is a wonderful thing. But that doesn't seem to be the main premise of the Q from Zanesville. What BP is actually arguing is that soccer still isn't going anywhere in the U.S. And whatever Glenn Beck says, it's just tough to argue against the empirical data -- TV ratings, website traffic, bar tabs. They're all going up during and around soccer games. That seems to indicate that however annoying or casual the fans are, or however annoying they are to each other, they are still watching. Yes, the World Cup more than anything else. But U.S. interest in the English Premier League and Champions League and the ratings and website traffic surrounding those leagues is growing significantly, too. There are even people who watch Major League Soccer. And that may be the biggest miracle of all. And the biggest proof that soccer must be going somewhere here. It's like Daniel Kellison's [former executive producer of 'The Man Show' and 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'] heterosexuality test: Any man can have sex with a model, but only the most heterosexual of men can bring himself to have sex with a truly unattractive woman. The fact that American soccer fans can sit through 90 minutes of MLS is proof of a love of soccer beyond anything the rest of the world can possibly fathom."
 I'm 100% on board with how the Sports Guy feels about this subject and I feel the same way about music these days.   I mean don't get me wrong, I have been guilty of this as I'd like to think everyone is at some point in their braggeries.  I'm still coping with Kings of Leon turning into U2 and cancelling gigs for shitty reasons.  But it's really not worth it.  I am making a conscious effort not to hold a band over someone because I found them first or saw them before they blew up.  I'm getting douche chills just writing that.  No one can be aware of it all, so at some point we are all bandwagon jumpers.  Just because you jumped on first, is there a badge or a cookie that comes with that?  I think finding out about new music/sounds is one of the coolest and most exhilarating things out there, and I know people feel the same.  Ever listen to a song for the first time and it gives you the shivers its so good?  Everyone should find out about that.  Don't bogart that music man!

Idea Gripped from Hipster Runoff

  • Am I a dick for acting like I am higher than thou for gloating about music discovery?
  • Do you agree with every word that I write, as a gospel of sorts?
  • Does this post smack of desperation?
  • Do you even give a shit?

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