The Duality of Fanhood and Morality in Sports

As Legarrette Blount boomed into the endzone for his second touchdown of the day on Sunday, New England Patriots fans jumped for joy. Picking up Blount after he cleared waivers earlier in the week, the 250-pound beast rushed the ball 12 times for 78 yards with the two scores, as New England dominated the Detroit Lions by the score of 34-9. With every fist pump and cheer, Patriots fans conveniently forgot, were unaware of, or didn't care about the circumstances in which their team acquired Blount, who was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers after Week 11.

After not seeing a single carry against the Tennessee Titans, Blount walked off the field before the game was over, seemingly giving up on caring what would happen the rest of the game. But most Patriots fans don't care, as long as he produces on the field. Blount has been a troublemaker dating all the way back to his college days, when he went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, likely due to the repercussions of famously throwing a sucker punch to a Boise State player after a game. But most Patriots fans don't care, as long as he produces on the field.

In five seasons, this is Blount's fourth team (counting the Patriots twice), as he has been rumored to not get along with his coaches throughout his time in the NFL. But most Patriots fans don't care, as long as he produces on the field. Prior to this season, (quite ironically because of his last name), Blount was cited, along with Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, for possessing marijuana in a boneheaded move. But most Patriots fans don't care... Okay, you get the picture.

The question I'd like to explore is: at what point are fans overtaken by their own morality?

In other words, at what point do/would fans refuse to support their own teams based on their own personal beliefs? Why should Patriots fans support a player like Blount, just a week removed from him quitting on the team that paid him millions of dollars to suit up and play a game? Should they or shouldn't they? That's up to you to decide, but here's some more food for thought concerning four of the most controversial athletes in recent memory: Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Aaron Hernandez, and Ray Lewis.

Alex Rodriguez, part-time baseball player and full-time liar and cheater, has been in the negative public spotlight dating back to 2007, when he was one of the nearly 100 players named on the famed Mitchell Report. A-Rod confessed to using steroids as far back as 2001, and coming off of an unprecedented season-long suspension stemming from his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, he will likely be a part of the 2015 New York Yankees ball club. Manager Joe Girardi was quoted multiple times saying that he will welcome Rodriguez back, and so will the majority of his teammates. If he produces next season, Yankee fans will support him. Mark my words. Here's Girardi explaining his excitement to WFAN's Boomer & Carton.

Ryan Braun, also a part-time baseball player and full-time fraud and liar, made national news after he famously denied any involvement of using PEDs at first, pointing blame at Dino Laurenzi, Jr., who collected urine samples for the MLB. ESPN even called him a victim.

After he was caught, he offered a "sincere" apology, served his league-mandated suspension, and returned to a hero's welcome in his first at-bat in the 2014 MLB season.

Brewers fans didn't care about the lies and the depth of Braun's actions. All they cared about was getting their No. 3 hitter and MVP-caliber player back in the lineup.

My personal favorite, however (and the most extreme case of fan loyalty I've personally ever seen), are the Patriots fans who lined up outside of the Massachusetts courtroom Aaron Hernandez had his first hearing in following his arrest for felony murder. The Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tight end combo made New England virtually unstoppable on offense and Hernandez just signed a four-year contract extension. Life was good for New England fans. Then the bombshell was dropped. These delusional Patriots fans supported him-- despite the dire circumstances.

Finally, Ray Lewis, former Ravens linebacker and current ESPN analyst,pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice following a murder that happened back in 2000. He was originally charged with murder, but struck a deal with prosecutors for testimony against two of his friends that were with him that night. He never directly linked those friends to the murder, they were acquitted, and he received one year of probation and a $250,000 fine as his punishment. There was damning evidence against him in the case.

Years later, he remained one of the most well-liked, most-respected individuals in the NFL and in the entire world of sports. His going-out party, which ended with a Super Bowl victory, was chronicled by the media as a goodbye to a hero and Hall of Famer. Ravens fans wept as their beloved linebacker retired. He now works at ESPN, weighing in on important current issues, such as the Ray Rice situation, which is quite ironic.

At what point must a fan stop, say "hold up", and refuse their support of a team. Is that even a potential scenario?

Consider the following situation. You're a fan of the Indianapolis Colts. Ray Rice, who received a great deal of public backlash following his despicable punch of his then-fiance, now-wife in an Atlantic City elevator, is reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Colts sign him, as their running back situation needs an upgrade. Rice returns and rushes for 100 yards and a touchdown in his first game. How do you react? Do you smile? Do you fist-pump and go out and buy your Rice Jersey? Or, does it eat at you? Do you lose respect for that organization and refuse to support the team for as long as he's a part of it? It comes down to these two colliding factors... the duality of fanhood and morality. What's more important: shooting for a Super Bowl at all costs, or putting together a team of individuals who have shown that they deserve the privilege of playing in the NFL?

While there are certainly different levels of fanhood, such as bandwagon fans (I'm thinking about you, Drake), game-day fans (casual fans who will go out and watch the game in a social setting, but who don't know every player on the team), and diehards (who know every player and all their stats), there are also different and conflicting views on ethics and morality that makes this a murky topic to discuss and analyze. Believe it or not, some people out there don't believe hitting a woman is a despicable action. A lot of people think PEDs should be legalized in baseball, so we can go back to the Bash Brothers days of the past. Then, on the other hand, there are many others who possess the exact opposite sentiments.

It comes down to you, the fan, and this is just one of the phenomena that makes the world of sports so damn interesting.

Ask yourself: which side of the coin do you fall on?

Dan Karpuc is the Director of Content, editor, and also frequently contributes toBleacher Report.