Tuesday night, while most of the country was filling out NCAA Tournament brackets, going to the gym, binging on Netlix, listening to music, getting drunk, watching "The Voice," playing "Call of Duty," Facebook chatting, catching up on Flight 370, going to the movies, getting some extra sleep or reading a dang book for once, Eastern Michigan and Missouri were hosting basketball games.
Those games were part of tournaments known as the CIT and NIT, respectively, but most people know them as "not the good one." Consequently, attendance was awful.
Eastern Michigan drew an announced crowd of 373 in its CIT win over Norfolk state, and Missouri drew 2,403 in its victory over Davidson — tickets were $10 at both places — setting up a strange but common phenomenon of American culture. Americans consider it an act of nobility, even civic duty, to purchase tickets to see the local sports team play, regardless of that quality of the team or the stakes of the game.
As with most social phenomena, this could be observed most clearly on Twitter, where Eastern Michigan senior Glenn Bryant went off on his team’s (hypothetical) fans for not supporting a team they (only theoretically) care about:
We FORSURE got the top 5 worst support in the NCAA, it's almost 30,000 students go to this school smh, y'all at ALL the parties tho
Well, yeah, Harpo’s has beer, pizza and college girls. Mizzou Arena has a mediocre basketball team playing a largely inconsequential game against a team most people couldn’t find on a map.
See what I’m saying here? "True Tiger fan?" What is that supposed to mean? Why do you owe it to your school to buy tickets to its second-rate sporting events? How did we get to the point of shaming people for not buying entertainment products? This is the same sales strategy as the kid who knocks on your door selling overpriced magazine subscriptions so he can expand his horizons with a semester in Spain.
The target of these criticisms is always "the fanbase," which is the ultimate straw man. Who, exactly, are "the fans" that are duty-bound to attend basketball games instead of whatever else it is they like to do with their life? Let’s call them out individually, by name.
The onus is not on the prospective customer to desire the product, it is on the product to be desireable.
So those combined 2,776 people who watched basketball at Eastern Michigan and Missouri on Tuesday are, sure, "true fans," if that’s what you want to call them.