Being a sports fan can be a difficult journey. One season you’re on the top of the world, the next you watch the team implode before your very eyes. Sometimes it’s years of losing seasons, but you keep watching with the hope that eventually you will be rewarded for your loyalty. You don’t personally know the people on the field, but yet you’re so invested in what they do.
Every week, only half of the fans can be happy; the others are pissed, sometimes even crushed. This past Sunday, I was one of those crushed fans.
I’ve been a Jets fan my whole life, even though I’m a born-and-bred Californian. My father is from Long Island, NY; as a boy he watched the Jets conduct their summer practices at a local college near his house. He passed along his Jets fandom to me, and I’ve remained faithful ever since.
It hasn’t always been easy, especially lately. There are 31 other teams that I could choose to root for, just like customers can go to a wide range of companies for the same service. But I continue to put on my Jets T-shirt and watch the games every Sunday (sometimes working myself up into a fury).
As a West Coast fan of an East Coast team, I don’t have many opportunities to see my favorite team in the flesh. Finally, though, the chance came with a Jets visit to the San Diego Chargers. I went to college in San Diego, and it was the perfect excuse to visit my old stomping grounds and also finally get to see Gang Green in person. I ponied up for some pricier tickets close to the field and waited excitedly for my trip.
At last the day came. I put on my brand new T-shirt and headed to the stadium. I was surprised at how excited I was to actually see the players in person. After watching on TV for so long, it was a rush to be right there, seeing the game in 3-D.
Let the record show, I wasn’t naive. The Jets have been dismal this season, while the Chargers continue an impressive start under Mike McCoy. They have a multitude of offensive weapons and an underrated (in my opinion) quarterback. I wasn’t expecting the depleted Jets roster to come out with a W.
I also wasn’t expecting to watch them go on to lose 31-0—the first shutout of the 2014 NFL season. After years of loyalty, I finally get to see them in person, only to hang my head in shame as they played so epically bad. My one moment where I got to stand up and cheer? An interception by Phillip Adams. Finally, the Charger crowd got a little quieter.
Moments later, Jets running back Chris Johnson fumbles the ball—and the Chargers recover. I think the Chargers scored another touchdown a few plays later. I wouldn’t really know; I stopped watching, sipping (err...chugging) my beer in silence.
It was on the ride back from the stadium that I decided to write a letter to the front office of the Jets, demanding at least a partial refund for my $107 (plus fees) ticket. As a loyal customer, when I pay $107, I expect to see something. Anything. A field goal? Nope! We didn’t get close enough to the red zone to even attempt a field goal! An impressive defensive performance? Not even close—four touchdowns and a field goal from our opponent! An interception that wasn’t immediately nullified by an offensive turnover? Keep dreaming.
No company would expect a customer treated this badly to purchase anything ever again. Think of a restaurant that takes your order and continues to get every single thing wrong—your drink order, appetizer, main course and dessert. A smart company would do whatever it takes to make it right so that customer has a small chance of returning some day (or at least so they don’t go telling everyone on social media about their terrible experience).
NFL teams may think that they don’t have to work for our loyalty. I’ll be a Jets fan for life, no matter how badly they play—and the league and the team owners know that. But I certainly have better things to do with my time and attention than pay more than $100 for an exercise in frustration. If my team wants me to keep paying for T-shirts and tickets, they’ll have to start caring about their customers.
Just as the restaurant in my example would be wise to comp the bill of the fuming customer rather than expecting him to pay for such a horrible dining experience, the Jets should refund me my $107. Or maybe at least $60—one dollar for every minute of playing time that I spent sinking lower and lower into my seat while the Chargers fans around me jumped up and cheered for the team that hadn’t totally let them down.
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