Orlando is a city relatively new to major professional sports. The Orlando Magic, the city's first professional sports team at the major league level, didn't arrive until 1989. It would then be another 26 years before another major league joined the city's pro sports landscape.
Fans of Orlando sports teams have a history of naivety when it comes to professional sports. In 1996, Magic star center Shaquille O'Neal left for Los Angeles during the height of the team's golden years. It was later revealed that a reason for his departure came from a poll from the Orlando Sentinel. The paper asked fans whether their star man, whose contract was soon expiring, was worth the $100 million price tag. When the majority of fans voted no, O'Neal bolted.
This tragic tale shows how little Orlando fans knew about their influence on their home teams. Fans from bigger cities that boast several major sports teams know how fragile the egos are of professional athletes. It's something Magic fans had to learn the hard way.
Orlando is a growing city, gathering a younger demographic. While much of the population is from out of state, the growth of Central Florida in the 1980s and 1990s means that the area is now home to a larger adult population of native Floridians -- people who now make up a majority of the fan base with no earlier generation to learn from.
With Orlando City SC continuing to grow and now being an MLS team, fans once again are learning how to impact their hometown team. One thing many haven't learned, but soon will, is that being critical of the team is a responsibility of the fan.
Through no fault of their own, there is a segment of Orlando City fandom that believes that anything negative said about the team is shameful, be it from media, opposing fans, or local fans. But that's not always the case. Part of the responsibility of fans is to keep their teams accountable and striving for the best.
While Orlando City has steadfastly striven to be the best, as proven by winning five trophies in four years in USL Pro, every front office at some point is accused of becoming complacent. As if making the playoffs or profitability is considered successful. It's important for fans of any team to keep a critical eye on their squads to keep their teams from becoming complacent.
Rather than praising every move the team makes and bemoaning those who disapprove, fans should hold their teams to a higher standard to ensure that they continue to strive for the best. This doesn't make one less of a fan but more of a fan by pushing the team further than maybe even they thought they could go.
This isn't to say that fans should be critical of every move. Being negative all of the time would drive one to lunacy. When the team makes the right move by signing the right player or playing exciting and winning soccer, they should be applauded for their efforts. But when they make the wrong move or play poorly, fans should make sure they realize their mistake. This will help to keep the team from forming a blasé attitude toward mediocrity.
Orlando is a young soccer city which is growing rapidly. As such, those watching the games are learning a lot about how to be true soccer fans. Part of that is not only supporting your team, but also being critical, in order to push them to become the best. It's something that, while some fail to realize it now, will become commonplace in the near future.