Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bill Simmons On Uniqueness

He gripes in his most recent chat:
[I]t's funny to take heat from soccer fans that I'm a bandwagon Tottenham fan. I mean... of course I am. I am something like 17 months into this thing. But what I don't get about sports like the UFC/soccer/NHL (and even baseball with the saber community towards people who just like baseball and don't want to dive into the stats) is why the diehards are so protective/condescending towards casual fans. What's the goal there? To just drive away everyone who might like the sport and want to become more of a fan? I think there's a difference between local bandwagon fans (like the Pink Hat Red Sox fans) and "I am starting to like your sport, I genuinely want to follow it and learn about it" fans and it would just seem like the diehards should embrace the latter group. Or am I crazy?...
I do think that diehard fans tend to exclude newcomers - the same phenomenon works with music, you always want your favorite band to be the little band that not everyone knows about (and never have them get to the U2 level). I think Kings of Leon are a good recent example of this and even the band members hated that they became "mainstream" because it brought in fans that they didn't necessarily want. The best breakdown of this was in Steve Martin's book about his standup career when he talks about becoming hugely famous and how he started dreading doing his shows because he felt like people weren't there for the right reasons. It's an interesting topic I think.
Once more people join a given group, affiliation loses lots of its signaling benefits due to diffusion. So it makes sense that fans who have invested in a team / band would discourage newbies from joining.

But why do the musicians / comedians themselves not want more followers? That's a bit trickier. Simmons mentions Steve Martin being wary of his new fans, but the same is even more true of Dave Chappelle. When he skipped out on the third season of his show, he turned down millions.

Any theory to explain this phenomenon also has to account for the fact that neither athletes nor academics tend to express these sentiments. Jordan, Manning, Hawkings, Volkow--they do not worry about "going mainstream." Indeed they tend to welcome it.

Perhaps the musicians / comedians are signaling loyalty to their core constituents, and the real emotional and financial costs they pay in doing so just makes their signaling more credible. So it seems that the less badly you want to go mainstream, the more your pursuit is about signaling as opposed to results.