Sports Fans: A look into the rules of Fandom

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As the Superbowl is coming up this Sunday and my Chargers are not in it I am left with a conundrum of whom to support in the game. This has caused me to reflect on what it is to be a fan. From badminton to football, every sport has its fans.  They are the people, who love, root, cheer and even bleed for the team of their choice.  We are all a fan of something but to what level of devotion varies from sport to sport or hobby to hobby.  It is the only socially acceptable reason to dress outrageous and act even more so in support of a goal, in support of our team! And why not? We define ourselves by our devotion to our sports teams.  It is a primal instinct born of man’s desire for sport.  Huah!

The origins of the word “Fan” seem to spark somewhat of a debate.  Some argue it is a shortened variation of the word “Fancy” referring to those who fancy a hobby or sport. This makes sense but unless you like getting laughed at I would not go around saying “I fancy the Dolphins”.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states “Fan” is a shortened form of the word “Fanatic”. I tend to believe this origin given the examples of fan behavior I have observed in my lifetime.

Let’s evaluate the different levels and rules of fandom, shall we?

Types of Fans:

The Homer – The fan of the hometown team. This is the diehard, local, live and die, bleed the color of the team, home grown fanatic! This is a person who holds season tickets that have been in his family for generations. It is not unusual for this fan to have more than 50% of his or her wardrobe consist of team merchandise. They will own at least one throwback jersey, away and home, and a multiple variety of headwear. These fans are usually adorned with various accouterments such as cheese hats, Vikings horns or even medieval armor.  This is a generational fan. His grandfather, father, children and grandchildren are and will be Homers.  His game day parties are one sided and God help you if you show up to his house wearing the opposing team’s colors. His favorite saying is “Wait till next season”.

There are variations of the Homer:

  • College Homer – This is the residing student of the local college. He or she might be from another part of the country but has adopted their alma mater as their home team. It is easy to spot this fanatic as he will be carelessly spilling beer while shirtless with full body paint displaying a letter of his teams name written across his chest and gut. The female version of this fan is a little less conspicuous in her attire, opting more for color coordinated anti-glare cheek stripes and the flattering combination of a team t-shirt and jeans. There is another variation of this female fan more scantily clothed but this is a family blog.
  • Transplant Homer – This is a Homer who has moved from his hometown due to economic, romantic or educational reasons. He fully retains his devotion to his home team and will display it proudly risking both life and limb at sporting events when his team comes to town.  This is a courageous yet lonely individual as he is the minority in his region having to settle watching games by himself in his living room or at a bar with the local homers where high fives and chest bumps are replaced with looks of disgust and threats of bodily injury. Whatever economic gains he has enjoyed through transplanting  has been lost due to the fact that he now has to pay extra for premium channels to watch his team. Also what little fan gear he can purchase will be at a mind numbing retail markup. The children of the fan who do not become local homers and stay true to their father’s team would be called Legacy Transplants.

The Wayward – This is a devoted, diehard fan of a team that is not of their home town or home state or even, in the case of baseball and soccer, their home country when an actual home team already exists.  This person is also not a Transplant Homer nor whose genealogy supports a Legacy Transplant. This person has decided to follow a different team, from their home team, for a varied number of reasons and displays all the homer fan traditions for that team. Some did it when they were young because of a specific player they followed. Others did it because they liked the uniforms and still others did it to be different. Homers find this disloyalty to the local team annoying at best and treasonous at worst.  (This only applies to hometowns that have a team. If a local team does not exist then the fan can show allegiance to any team of choice as long as that team resides in the country of origin or residence of the fan. In other words if you are heard yelling “Viva Italia” and you are not Italian or living in Italy then you are just an idiot.)

The Bandwagoner – The most disdained of the fans. This fan has no allegiance to any team. It is a temporary love affair with the organization that is winning or most popular at that point in time. The bandwagoner is not hard to miss. This individual will most likely be sporting brand new team gear, midseason of course, of the most popular player on the team.  He will post incessantly about “His” team on social media when some quick research will show he did the same for another team the season prior.  He will try to inject himself into discussions between homer fans with his so called “knowledge” by dictating verbatim what was said the night before on SportsCenter.

The Fantasy Leaguer – This fan cares only for specific players, not teams, and if those said players will earn him or her points to advance in the fantasy league for which they are a participant.  It is not uncommon to see this person cheering for players on both teams at a game day event.  He is easy to spot. He will not be wearing any fan gear and will be checking his phone or tablet every second to see how many points his player is earning throughout the day. He is somewhat annoying.

The love Interest – This fan has changed colors because of the person they are dating or courting. It can be considered a shrewd tactic to woo the unattainable fan of the opposite sex.  Loud “Whipping” like sounds from friends, family and strangers alike will follow this fan around for the rest of his or her life and rightfully so.

The Ex-Pro – This person is a former professional athlete. Former professional athletes are not fans of specific teams in the sport they once played including their former employer.  The lemming like devotion to the fantasy world of pro sports, the majority of us fans like to live in, has long left this type of fan as they know firsthand the business for what it is. At any game day party this fan, however, will offer color commentary by telling “behind the scenes” stories on the industry and answer questions on current and former players. Beware as this person has a tendency to retell the same stories ad nauseum.

The Impresser – Unlike the Bandwagoner this individual does not know the sport of the team he is pretending to follow. He is a pseudo fan who wants to impress a certain individual or group. Most likely this is the date or guest of a Homer fan at a game day party or the new employee trying to suck up to the boss. It’s not hard to find the Impresser as he will be the only guy asking “Who’s playing?” He is tolerated at best. This category applies only to males as it is assumed females know nothing of sports and any attempt to speak on a team is considered cute and adorable. (I am kidding please don’t flame me)

The Gambler – No this is not a Kenny Rogers song but an individual who loves the team about to make him money and hates the one who causes him or her to lose it. This can be the hardcore gambler with his bookie on speed dial or the guy who paid $5 for a single square in the office pool. Devotion to a team changes on the hour for this person.

Now that we know the different types of fans what are some of the general rules for being a fan?

Rules of Fandom: 

Rooting for or changing to another team?

The only allowable scenarios are:

* A Transplant Homer residing in his or her new residence longer than 5 years with the intent to stay indefinitely is acceptable, although disheartening, to assume Homer status for the local team. Note that once such a commitment has been made to become a local Homer the Transplant Homer cannot go back to their former team else suffer the title of Bandwagoner and all the ridicule and abuse that comes with that distinction.

* The local team moves from the home town.  This is a severing of the relationship and a total abandonment of the devoted local fan base by the home team.  The Homer fan is now open to attach devotion to any team he or she desires including the hated rival of the former local team. Many a generation of hatred has been passed down for this type of betrayal.  Want proof? Go to Brooklyn and ask them what they think of the Dodgers. Nuff said.

* A new team has been formed or a transplanted team has taken a new residence in the local hometown.  Go to Los Angeles and ask what they think of the Dodgers? Nuff said.

Note: A case might be made to change teams if a beloved long time homer player has been traded to another team not of his own will or design. Ask Steve Garvey fans.

* A child who plays on a team that is not representative of the local team. Children are exempt from team devotions as theirs will change from player to player or team to team as they play youth sports. It is allowable for the parents of the child to wear rival team colors in support of their children’s youth team. Any parent who refuses to support their children’s team in such a way, based on the grounds of Homerism, might want to look up the term “Douchebag”.

* Your team is out of the running so who do you support in the post season? So there are different schools of thought here. One is that once your team is out,  you cheer for the team in your division, league or conference.  The other school of thought is that everyone in your division, league or conference had a hand in your team losing therefore cheer for the opposing division, league or conference.   I find it very hard to believe a Red Sox fan will cheer on the Yankees or any football fan, other than Raider fans themselves, will cheer on the Raiders. So with that said, you pick your own reasons because your team is now playing golf.

Fan Etiquette:

* At Homer parties – Beer and a bag of chips are the expected faire to bring to such events although regional customs might dictate chips and salsa or Cheese Puffs. It is highly advised to bring them in your own cooler as it is considered poor form to go cooler diving for beer because you did not bother to read the part that said BYOB in the invitation. High fives, fist and chest bumps, forearm knocks, lawnmower starting and sprinkler head dancing  are perfectly acceptable forms of celebration although an uninvited chest bump to a female fan might get you a slap across the face .  If you are one of the few rival fans invited to a homer party, which is usually as a guest of a guest, then the only appropriate etiquette for you is to SHUT THE HELL UP.  This applies to Homer stadiums as well.

* At Sports Bars – This can be a volatile mix of alcohol and fan rivalry.  Typically smack talk gets thrown and knowledge of the sport will win you local fan points when countering against a rival fan’s boasting of team or player’s stats. If your team has done nothing for 10 years to boast about then it is acceptable to discuss player arrest records however this tactic can backfire as most teams have had criminals play for them at one time or another.  If you are a Tony Romo fan then it is best just to sit and have a beer in relative obscurity.

* At Work – If you show up to work decked out in the same team gear as your boss you deserve all the flaming IMs you get. Nobody likes a suckup. It would be ill advised, however, to rub it in your boss’ face on how your team destroyed his unless you enjoy working on Saturdays.

These are some of the categories and rules of Fandom. Please feel free to add your own in the comments below. As for whom I will be cheering for? That answer is NO ONE.  I will remain an objective observer and just hope it is a game worth watching. Thanks and be safe this weekend.

 

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