Abandoning the hometown team is hardly a sacrifice in an age of sports-viewing packages—MLB at Bat, for example, or NBA League Pass—that allow people to pay a flat fee and see most games around the country. These packages make it easier to root for far-flung teams.
Seismic shifts in the leagues themselves are also accelerating change. Savvy coaches and team owners, many supported by advanced analytics, trade players when their value peaks, even if that means shipping off hometown heroes still in their prime. It’s a business goes the standard defense of such moves. In the past, players have been pilloried for having the gall to pursue their own self-interest, financial or otherwise, in choosing which team to play for. But that stigma is disappearing. Stars now routinely use their free agency to maximize their salary or shop for championship-contending teams, challenging the assumption that they owe a vassal’s fealty to owners who themselves display no such loyalty. In turn, fans are further encouraged toward a more Marxist view of the sporting world, where allegiances flow through labor (individual players) rather than through capital (franchises).