Fickle Fans and Public Opinion

Fickle Fans and Public Opinion June 28, 2016


By Mike Coyner

I was home last Wednesday waiting for some repairmen to arrive at our house, so I watched some of the celebration in Cleveland. They deserved a time to celebrate after all of those years of frustration. Finally, their beloved NBA team, the Cavaliers, had won a world championship and ended their long drought. Over those years many times they had been close with football, basement, and basketball – but now finally they had a chance to celebrate being champions. In many ways I was happy for Cleveland.

However … Those Cleveland fans represent the fickle nature of fans. Just a few years ago those same Cleveland fans were burning the jerseys of LeBron James in protest over his decision to leave them and go to Miami. Their owner wrote some terribly harsh words about LeBron, and everyone vowed to hate him for leaving Cleveland. Now, with LeBron back in Cleveland and bringing them a title, all seemed to be forgiven as they gathered by the hundreds of thousands to cheer the same player they had vowed to hate. Cleveland is a great example of fickle fans.

They are not alone. I am always amazed how quickly fans change their minds and flip-flop from cheering to jeering to cheering. I remember being at a football game a few years ago where the starting quarterback was struggling. Soon the fans shouted and clamored for the back-up quarterback to come into the game. Finally, the coach relented and brought in the back-up quarterback who promptly fumbled the ball and then threw two interceptions. As the crowd grew quiet, one fan stood up and shouted to his fellow fans, “You all wanted this guy in the game. Why aren’t you cheering for him now?”

Good question. Why does the crowd so quickly turn? The once-popular leader or cause is abandoned quickly, and the crowd moves on to cheer for someone or something else. Hence the danger of making our choices by the desires of the fickle fans or the short-term trends of the crowd. When we simply follow the crowd, we find ourselves turning in circles of inconsistency.

Scripture remind us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). As Christians we are called to live our lives by the example of Christ, and not yield to the fickle fans or the Facebook posts of others. Maybe that is why my parents were never swayed by the argument we kids sometimes offered, “Everyone else is doing it” or “Everyone else is going.” They were consistent in teaching us to make decisions by other factors than what the “crowd” was doing.

All of this is to say that when we deal with a variety of difficult social issues, the least persuasive argument that people offer is to quote “public opinion.” Yes, we live in a democracy or a democratic republic, and yes, we do take votes make certain decisions. But our values must be more – much more – than simply following the fickle crowd. The crowd can be wrong. The majority vote can be a mistake. The current “trend” is not always the wave of the future. And popularity can be misleading.

Now is not a time to follow fickle fans. It is a time to be faithful to the Gospel of Christ.


Mike Coyner is the bishop of the Indiana Area of the United Methodist Church. This post is reprinted from the INUMC website.

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