What does it mean to be a fan and how do we become one? Is it a casual interest that we only allow to fill our free time or is it an obsession that sticks with us every moment of the day? Is it something that we invest money and time into or do we invest all of ourselves to it? What makes a fan, fanatical?
This has been something that has been rolling around in my head the last few weeks. A friend of mine’s girlfriend was trying to decide what basketball team she should root for. Her boyfriend is a Heat fan because he loves Dwayne Wade but he also casually supports the Jazz. She also was considering the Lakers because her boyfriend’s older brother (my buddy) is a Lakers fan. I was trying to convince her that it was silly to pick a team based on who guys in her life were cheering for.
This made me start to think about my fandom. I think I am a pretty extreme fan though. I’d like to think there was a scale or gradient of fandom that ranges from casual observer to obsessed nutcase. I would most certainly fall closer to the obsessed nutcase end of the spectrum. I’m the type of fan which takes everything personal. I refer to myself as being a part of the team. I talk in "we’s" instead of "they’s." I take every win and loss as if my life depended on it. My moods change depending on the outcome of games. On top of that, I spend an unholy amount of time reading, writing, watching, loving my sports teams. I’m the guy that watches games at almost any cost. I bail on friends, family and responsibilities to watch the games as much as possible. My friends actually check game schedules just to make sure I’m free on certain nights to hang out. Then, just to take it one step further, I get myself invested in fantasy sports. Which is really like has turned my fandom into a gateway drug.
So what makes a fan, a true fan, and how does one choose who to cheer for?
My fanhood is a little complicated. In that, Utah, only has the Jazz and Real Salt Lake to cheer for. I had to branch out to other locations to find certain teams to support.
As long as I can remember I’ve always been a Jazz fan. My dad grew up here and also liked the Jazz and I remember watching games with him. I loved Malone, Stockton, and Horny. Those are who I grew up watching. I remember going over to the neighbor’s house with my family to watch them play in the Finals. I remember being so upset that we didn’t win. I remember Stockton hitting the shot over the Rockets while I was at a hotel. I was so excited I ran out and did a front flip into the pool and landed in a belly flop. I was born in Utah and the Jazz have always been my main NBA fix.
Most of you who follow me on Twitter (@JasonFortheLove) probably know I am a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan when it comes to the NFL. It was a complicated journey that started with being LDS/Mormon and loving Steve Young. I was a Niners fan because Young played there. He retired in the late 90s and I found myself wanting to cheer for another LDS member. Oddly, it ended up with me being a fan of the Eagles because of coach Andy Reid. Being 11-12, switching teams didn’t seem like a big deal. As I grew older it just stuck. I love the Eagles and will be a life-long fan now. My love for the city of Philadelphia grew too. With me loving the Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) and being a casual fan of the 76ers and Phillies as well.
Around the exact same time as Jazz Finals and the Eagles, I broke my Collarbone playing touch football during recess at school. That fall found me in bed for a few days watching the World Series. It was here that I feel in love with the New York Yankees. Players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, O’Neil, and Bernie Williams became my idols. I just loved them. I didn’t know they were hated. Didn’t care. I became a fan of the "Evil" Empire. Just how it was.
The one thing all these teams have in common is that I feel in love with them around the age of 11. For better or worse I am stuck loving these teams for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I adopted these teams, I also adopted their rivals. I hate the Lakers, Cowboys/Giants, and all Boston sports. I also adopted an addiction that I don’t think I’ll ever recover from. I must read about my teams, I must watch my teams, I must support my teams, I must love them and know as much as I can about them.
The point of all this is to determine how one becomes a fan and what is required of being a "true" fan. Not those fans in the ESA who are Clippers fans, and Laker fans, before they were Bulls fans, etc. You know who they are. The same ones who switch teams by championships or favorite players. I thought it would be fun to make a fan creed or set of commandments on the subject.
I’ll get us started with a few and I’d love to hear about your experiences and have you add your own rules to the list.
Rule 1: Once a fan, always a fan. You stick with your team through thick and thin for life. This goes mostly for teenagers/adults. Children can’t be expected to have the same passion but steering your kids in a certain direction is always acceptable. Fandom that spans generations is the best.
Rule 2: Team always above player and coach. You cheer for the logo on the front, not the name on the back. You can love your players, you can support your players even after they leave, but no one player is bigger than the team. I have a friend who was a 76ers fan for Iverson, then became a Lakers fan because of Kobe, and is now claiming to be a Clippers fan because of Blake Griffin. Drives me bonkers.
Rule 3: Don’t become a fan simply because your boyfriend/girlfriend like a team. Relationships don’t always last. Fandom does. It drives me crazy when people become "rabid" fans because their significant other is a fan of a team, only to have them stop being a fan when the relationship is over. Marriage is a whole other issue.
Ok, there is 3 to get us started. Add your own and tell us your stories! Also, GO JAZZ!!!