I Pay Your Salary OR The Sociology of Fandom, Part Whatever
"I pay your salary."
There is a common delusion among sports fans that players are in some way beholden to their fans because the fans "pay their salary" through their economic consumption of sports.
Unless you are writing a check every two weeks that says "Frank Thomas" on it, you are not paying his salary. Even if you write a check to the Denver Broncos or to their ticket office, you are not paying Jay Cutler's salary. The movement of dollars through various entities transmogrifies it. It is no longer yours, it no longer carries your dreams and desires, if it did it in the first place.
Aside from highlighting a particularly childlike view of basic economics, this trope is a good example of how fans feel alienated from modern sports and how they attempt to bridge this gap.
This update was borne out of a Clinton Portis anecdote about interacting with the public. Here, the gap was bridged physically, the player controlled. The semantics of the utterance "I pay your salary" is then exposed as having much deeper meanings than the surface interpretation. For most of us, if our boss/supervisor, someone who far more literally pays our salaries (although it's more that they provide us with the opportunity to be paid, we'll skip over that for now), were to grab us like the unnamed fan grabbed Portis, it would be inappropriate. This is not to say that this hasn't happened or would automatically result in termination or some other censure for the higher-up; it would still represent a breach of the social contract and an action that most would deem as unacceptable, especially in a professional environment.
Instead, what is meant here is "I Own You", replete with all the racial connotations inherent in a white fanbase rooting for a largely non-white pool of athletes. I'd like to say that this is borne out of sports being increasingly dominated by economics, with astronomical numbers increasingly becoming the norm; I think this has always been around though, the feeling that as fans are a tribe, the players are not the leaders of the tribe, they somehow owe their existence to the tribe. Some sort of reversal of the standard cosmological religious relationship, where the masses are aware that they have created their gods and thus establish their primacy, fandom wresting the title of Demiurge from their pantheons.
This is all because sports are now effectively completely abstract in terms of their relationships to the geographical commuities that they are supposed to represent. While it seems that nothing except Liberated Fandom is a reasonable stance to take in a situation of We Have Always Been Conference Rivals With Oceania, the old allegiances still reign supreme, a bit weathered and faded as people take on "second teams"; yet still the Manichean view pervades, obscuring Truth, Reason and Beauty.