Fandom: A tale of lost identity

Do a google search for a list of sport fan types, and you will get a plethora of articles, witty and verbose.  I wanted a short, concise list, to help me decide what kind of fan I should be because to be brutally honest my fandom experience sucks.  So instead of getting sucked into another “23 types of sports fans” article, I came up with my own list of fan types:

Loyalist, Bandwagon, Fair-weather, Bitter and Social.  

Loyalist

 

I used to be a pure loyalist.  You cheered for your team no matter how good or bad they did.  Being a BYU Cougars fan, you see the dark-side of being a loyal.  Sure, I experienced some highs early on in life.  Remember the “Miracle Bowl?”  If you aren’t Mormon or a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or a BYU fan, you probably don’t.  {Watch it here} And then there was the national championship in 1984.  We had the Ty Detmer years and the complete meltdown performance the bowl game after he won the “Hysman”.  (A petition to get Ty Detmer to be on the commercials.  Maybe have him knock as a mormon missionary). 

As hormonal teen-ager, I smack-talked a lot.  Especially when it came to BYU Football.  “The Lord’s Team” I would taunt at my LDS friends,  “Just gotta have faith.”  And when BYU lost, I would just quote scripture about Job and the power of perseverance.  After losses to Notre Dame, my Catholic friends reminded me just who was the most powerful church in the world. 

I’m no longer a pure loyalist.    I abandoned BYU.  

The 1993 Holiday Bowl.  Cougars have a chance to upset the Ohio State Buckeyes.  They have first and goal with less than a minute.  Two incomplete passes in a row.   Third down, a wide open receiver drops a pass in the end zone.   Fourth down, same guy is open in the end zone and the quarterback throws it as his feet.  

“Mother…” I paused, long and hard.  I wanted to say it.  I needed to say it.  

I got in my van and spun off to the gas station.  The F-word and all of its family and friends flew out of my mouth in a flurry.   It felt good.  

Got to the station, got a bean and cheese burrito and a Mountain Dew, and got back in the van.  Repeated the string of profanities on the way home.   Weeks later when went back to school, rumors of my meltdown circulated.   How did people know?  As luck would have it, my date for the winter formal and her friend were in my van leaving clues for a scavenger hunt.  Luckily, she still went with me to the dance.

 

Bandwagon

Bandwagon fans.  The Lakers win and the next week they show up wearing purple and gold socks and logo'd neck-ties. That’s a bad example, assuming that these bandwagon fans keep the merchandise they buy from year to year.  The Lakers, Yankees, those teams are so big it’s hard to generalize their fans as bandwagon fans.    But the fans who last year strutted around with Raptors gear accessorized with fancy pens and cuff-links, I’m not a fan of those guys.  But maybe I should be.     

For years I  “feeled” out my March Madness bracket.  If one of my favorite teams was in the tournament, I would have them going way, way too far.  Final Four too far.  I'm an ASU fan --James Harden couldn't make  the tournament with the Devils and he was by far their greatest player in history. 

Each year I participate in a bracket group consisting of all Wildcats fans and me.  It’s a family friendly league.  A few years ago, I finished just ahead of my 7 year old first cousin  once-removed and regrettably just behind his older sister.  The next year I opted to pick the highest seed in every game.    

I’m not sure who won the tournament or the pool that year, but It was the most fun I had ever had watching college basketball.   And I was rooting for a teams that I hated, namely Duke.   

What I really I was rooting for was a winning organization.  I was rooting for a program that put the time, money, resources, and I’m sure a fair amount of cheating to get and stay on top.  The result was and is an awesome product that wedges its way through the tournament year after year.  

I’m a Duke fan.  I have them go far in the tournament even when I have to "feel" them in a little too far.  I still do it with Pac-12 teams, and even BYU when they make it.  Having Duke in the mix almost guarantees me a team that goes deep into the tourney.  Note: I have never owned any Duke merchandise.  

I’m not a complete bandwagon fan. I have my favorites.  Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Athletics.  And as aforementioned, the Blue (basketball only) and Sun Devils.   If I were a hockey fan it would be the Tampa Bay Lighting -- I saw their last three games of the 1994 season in the Thunder Dome for free thanks to a promotion and a hell of a field goal kicker.  (STORY)

Fair-weather

 

I'm a fair-weather fan.  Every season, I give my teams the , but it's hard watching your teams lose year after year after year.  I wish I was still a BYU football fan.  As a BYU fan, you know that it would take a miracle for the "Lord's Team" to win a national championship in the current playoff system.  Not only would they have to play immaculately, but they would have to hope and pray that their opponents fail.  

I bet on the wrong horses year after year.  The long-shot.  The feel-good story.  Problem is, I’ve never experienced my team win a championship.  What about the BYU championship.  I was seven and I’m pretty sure I didn’t watch many games that year.  I may have watched some of the Holiday Bowl game.  It wasn’t a national championship game.  It was BYU vs a 6-6 Michigan team.  BYU needs to join a conference, they’re no Notre Dame.  

The problem with being an ASU fan is that we play in a power conference, and if we go undefeated, we likely make the playoffs.  We have a chance each year.  

The Cardinals same thing.  We currently play in one of the most difficult conferences in the NFL, yet we still seem to have a chance each year to make the playoffs.  Most the time we don’t.  I’m not even going to mention the one time we went to the Super Bowl.  

The A’s.  Moneyball works during the regular season but runs out of steam in the playoffs.  It’s fun to follow the A’s because they produce great players that end up on opposing teams.  It’s also very frustrating.  Wish they had the money like the big boys.  Speaking of big boys — Derek Jeter and his play at home to get the Jason’s Giambi’s brother out.  

Why do I submit myself to so much pain and anguish every year?  Other my student loan debt to ASU, I owe nothing to my favorite teams.  Nothing.   Yet I continue to dedicate precious time, emotional energy and scarce patience every season — well, at least part of the season.    

Why do I need to watch my teams lose when I know they have no chance.  The Cardinals are 6-6 right now.  If they lose again, their chances are so thin of making the playoffs that I may or may not watch another game.   I’m fine with being a fair-weather fan, but at least I will enjoy the remaining Sundays during Phoenix's "cold" season, disc golfing with buddies and watching Holiday movies snuggled up to my family.  

Bitter

When your teams are perennial losers, you have to find pleasure from watching sports in less traditional ways. My guilty pleasure is watching the winners lose.   

What's wrong with rooting for winners.  Why does winning the game have to be the only win that matters.  After a gut-wrenching lost for the pros, they get in their nice cars and drive to their mini-mansions and enjoy the fruits of their efforts.  They find comfort in their personal performances, stats, and  accolades. 

Maybe I should embrace winners.  I admit, as seventh grader, I wanted to be like Mike.  I wanted to be like every other kid in my class.  Cool.  Accepted.  And in seventh grade that was to own a pair of AIR Jordans.  I was sure that’s what I was getting for Christmas that year. 

I didn't get them. They were $75.00.  I'm the middle child of seven -- we got our shoes at Payless, Wal-Mart or a sale in the Sears magazine. (SI and Dad pulling out revealing pages)  I wanted to be a Jordan fan but all the real Jordan fans had jerseys and shoes. 

So I wasn’t a Jordan fan.  In what I imagine was an effort to mask my embarrassment that I could’t afford Jordans,  I became a Jordan hater. But to be a hater, I need to have a lover.   There were a lot of Magic and Bird fans as well.  I didn’t want to be like anyone else.  The one player everyone hated was Bill Lambeer..  I leaned into Lambeer and the rest of the Pistons.  

We didn’t have TV for much of my childhood, so I watched all my sports in the homes of other people.  My deaf Grandpa loved basketball and welcomed my company during the games.  To my great surprise, they won the championship that year.  I don’t remember watching the finals but I’m sure I did?

By the time I was in high school, the Bad Boy’s legacy was over, Jordan was there to stay, and I became disinterested in the NBA.  Haven't really been a fan since.   So if you’re counting, that make two championships for teams I rooted for.  

I hate to admit this, but I enjoy watching die hard fans suffer when their teams lose a championship.  Losses must be even more crushing for fans of perennial winners.  To expect to win and lose must be a hard pill to swallow, I enjoy watching them choke it down.  

What a lame sport-watching existence.  Think of all the great moments that  I turned off or rued because of my dislike for a top performer.  I never enjoyed watching the Mamba.  I missed out on Tiger 1.0.  Tom Brady and the Patriots.  

Shouldn't I be celebrating the hard work and effort these athletes dedicate to the game.  After beating a friend in darts on night, he said to me, "you're only better because you play all the time."  No shit.  That's the point. You play a lot so you get better.  Sure, some people have natural talents and abilities that give them an edge, but those skills are quickly surpassed by people with lesser ability that don't give up.  A

 

Winners win at all cost.  They put in the work.  Unfortunately, even the greats like Tom Brady get accused and caught cheating.  Win at all cost.  I'm sick of losing.  Ultimately, I will never join a fantasy team again-- I know I will waste my time getting upset over individual performances.  

 

Social

Remember the original Data from Star Trek?  Boring, monotone voice.  He has about as much personality as the data fan.  The data guy appears in many forms: fantasy sports enthusiasts, poser trying to impress with how much they know, the gamblers.  Are these guys even sports fans?

 

I used to play fantasy sports but quit.  Wasting half of my free time flipping through channels hoping to catch a brilliant play from one of my fantasy players.     And then thoughts of condolences like "hey, its okay, the Yankees beat the A's,  but at least A-Rod hit a walk-off grand slam which should give me enough points to edge Josh this week" started to creep into my head.  Rooting against my own team. Shameful, right?  

 

I’m guilty of googling to impress.  I have certain friends that love to talk sports and when I hang out with them, I better know at least a few names on the roster or I will be called out.  I don’t follow sports the same way anymore.  Back in the day, I would watch Sports Center every night and typically at least one sporting event a day. I knew the players.  I knew their strengths.  

 

I don’t have time to follow sports anymore.  ESPN personalizes drive me nuts.  They are more concerned about being witty, hip and relevant than actually reporting sports news.  Sports talk radio has become too cerebral and esoteric.  There or so many more states and numbers that they track and geek out on.  

 

I check ESPN’s website for scores, major stories and highlights. I still watch all the major sporting events.  I don’t waste my time playing in fantasy sports or betting pools because I never win and if I do its pure luck.  What’s the fun in winning if it’s only luck.    

 

Casual 

I still want to be a sports fan.  I’m making a few modifications.    I’ve been watching Sports Center on mute while spinning Phish records on the turn table.  Same way I watch games.  I don’t miss the commentators banter, regurgitated terms and rehearsed emotional reactions.  I get to focus on impressive athletes using their talents and gifts to entertain me.  And it is entertaining.  

 

I think I need to add one more type of fan to the list.  The casual fan.  The fan who at the end of a long day or week sits down and takes a break from work, politics, and all the other bull shit that drags us down.  

 

I’m not going to waste any more moments yelling profanities at the television.  I’m going to embrace the winners and enjoy watching them celebrate their hard work.  

 

Go Lakers!  

James Harden, Jeff Hall, Jeff Pendergraph

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