Loyalty is a great quality in life and in business. It’s something we talk about a lot in public relations because it communicates a core value that brands work hard to establish with their stakeholders. But over the past several decades, loyalty has become less common and less valued.

Employees no longer work 30 years for one company and retire. Most of us have several career changes over the course of a lifetime. Employers promise pensions and healthcare benefits to loyal employees but dump them in a heartbeat when times get tough. With rare exceptions, pro athletes don’t spend a career with one team anymore; they take the money and run to the highest bidder. 

Which is why the Colorado Rockies management style is so unusual. The organization places a high priority on loyalty. Ownership is loyal to the GM. The GM is loyal to the manager. The manager is loyal to his coaches. The coaches are loyal to the players, especially home grown stars like Todd Helton who’s shown his loyalty to the team and the fans by playing his entire career in Denver. 

It’s easy to admire this sense of loyalty because we don’t see it very often. But lately it’s become an albatross preventing the team from finding solutions for a myriad of problems that have begun to anger the Rockies’ supremely loyal, optimistic and almost impossible to upset fan base. The irony is that this crack in the always rose colored glasses of the endlessly patient Rockies fans comes during the Rockies Year of the Fan campaign, celebrating the team’s 20th anniversary.

While it’s true that most Rockies fans come to Coors Field because it’s a nice night, the stadium is fun, or the other team is pretty good, a few fans have started noticing that the Rockies really suck. No longer placated with free t-shirts and silly scoreboard promotions, the fans and media are starting to demand some accountability.

What is loyalty without accountability? The Rockies management style, of course.  Nobody ever gets fired, they just get reassigned.  The GM and manager have lifetime contracts on a handshake. No matter how bad the team plays or how many bad deals the GM makes, they still have the owner’s loyalty. Because the owner belives that the fans will always keep coming regardless of the play on the field. No empty seats, no bags on their heads, no reason to be accountable to anyone.

Loyalty is a virtue that deserves our respect and admiration. Blind loyalty is a fault that deserves our criticism. When the cheers turn to boos, that message will finally sink in. Then we might see more accountability and a shift in the way the Rockies communicate with their fans. And that will be a valuable lesson in public relations that you don’t have to be a PR pro to appreciate.