Hi, my name is Brady Klopfer, and I used to be a San Francisco 49ers fan.
Used to be. I’m not anymore, which is probably why you’re reading my words on a San Francisco Giants site, not a San Francisco 49ers one.
The 49ers never fully lost my fandom. The NFL did, for reasons I won’t get into (except through links to sate the curious readers). But by the time the NFL came knocking, asking me to renew my fan vows, my relationship with the 49ers was fractured enough that it was easy for me to say “nah, I’m good,” and start taking advantage of going to Costco during NFL hours. You can thank me later for that bit of advice.
That fracture occurred over a few months, as rumors swirled that the team was forcing out Jim Harbaugh. And then, against the wishes of the fanbase and players, they did. And then they replaced him with your friendly neighborhood auto mechanic. And then they were horrible, but their egos were fully intact.
I remained a fan through that, and for a while afterwards, but it wasn’t the same. Suddenly friends who made Sunday afternoon plans found me accepting them. Sometimes I’d forget to even check the score until an hour or two into the game. Often I found myself shrugging when I saw that they lost; that was the full embodiment of whatever disappointment I mustered.
To borrow the parlance of a seventh grade debate team, Webster’s defines “fan” as, “an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator.” They’re not quite right. It’s not always enthusiastic, and it often slowly is diluted to something far from devotion.
I bring this up for obvious reasons. If I thought Jed York’s ego being larger than his desire to win football games was a test to fandom, it was nothing compared to what the Giants have done in the last week.
By now you likely know all about Gabe Kapler, the team’s newest manager, whose list of mishandling serious ethical situations is nearly as long as his list of idiosyncratic managerial tendencies. And with him comes the knowledge that Farhan Zaidi, baseball savant that he very well may be, perhaps does not possess a fully operational moral compass.
And so you, Giants fan, might feel conflicted. Conflicted about the team that you have been an “enthusiastic devotee” of for years, and likely decades. Conflicted about a love and passion that you’ve held for a long time suddenly throwing a roadblock that you’re not sure you actually want to get around.
You might not know how to fan. And that’s okay.
There are two ends to the spectrum for a conflicted fan. You don’t need to land on one end or the other; the middle is a good an option as any.
One end: Protest
At one end of the spectrum we find protest. This is likely one of the first things you thought of upon the announcement that the Giants would rather go through the public relations version of a 12-hour day at Six Flags than hire an equally qualified candidate with no baggage.
Protest is straightforward: You don’t like the team you’ve always loved, and you act accordingly. You stop going to games. Stop buying merchandise. That 2010 World Series t-shirt gathers the unmistakable stench of an item that sits in the back of the closet for eight months between uses.
You read more books, spend more time with friends, try Thomas Keller’s MasterClass (15% off with my discount code, “DISGRUNTLED_SFG_FAN”).
You live a life relatively devoid of Giants baseball. Maybe you become an A’s fan. That’s okay.
If you don’t like a food, you stop eating it (sometimes). If you don’t like a TV show, you stop watching it (sometimes). If you don’t like a baseball team, you stop cheering for it, consuming it, tethering parts of your life to it along the way.
The other end: Don’t give them that power
When the 49ers parted ways with Harbaugh, I turned to my mother for counsel. I always advise doing such, if you’re fortunate enough to have that ability.
Now, let me briefly describe my brilliant mother. She’s a hippie, back from the time when that word meant something beyond a certain social media je ne sais quoi. She’s put in her time protesting, and then put in her time evolving and deciding what is worthy of her protest.
When I told her I might relinquish my Niners fandom, she nodded in understanding. Then she said, “or you could not give them that power over what you enjoy.” And then she went on with her day.
There’s something to be said for that. Something to be said for not letting Zaidi’s recklessness and Kapler’s immorality take control over something that you’ve invested thousands of hours into. Something that’s brought you endless amounts of joy.
It can be empowering to say, “No. I don’t like you. I don’t approve of you. But you are not taking this from me. You are not ruining this for me.”
That’s an option.
There’s no one way to fan. No right way to fan.
There are a million homes between the two ends of the spectrum - between handing in your fan card, and still watching 150 games a year in black and orange clothing - and you can inhabit any of them.
There are 129 days until the Giants season begins. Somewhere between now and then, you’ll naturally fall wherever you do on the spectrum.
And that’s the right place for you.