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Vulgar Opinions: Sports Fandom (NSFW)

02/11/12
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This is inspired by what I thought was pretty good conversation on Twitter earlier today.  It had all the great pieces, bitterness, incredulity, anger, understanding, misunderstanding, trolling, jokes, and good humor.  It’s also inspired by this post from Scizz of Dear God Why Us Sports.  As a warning, I don’t know what shape this will take, so if it turns out to be an incomprehensible mess and you waste your life reading it, that’s on you.

Fandom is an interesting animal for a lot of reasons.  At its base, I think Jerry Seinfeld had it right: you’re essentially rooting for clothes.  The players on our favorite teams not only typically lack a connection to our community, but to us as people.  Sure they’re regular guys and girls beneath it all, but they’re still regular guys and girls with millions of dollars that play a game for a living.  There is a disconnect.  And yet somehow, some way these athletes and these teams endear themselves to us with a strength that few other things can.  There is a lot we will do for sports that we won’t for anything else.  I think at the heart, what we’re really rooting for is, not clothes, but the happiness of those within our community.  I know that when I’m at the First Niagara Center, or the Ralph, what gets me going is the excitement and adulation of thousands of people.  It’s heartwarming and it’s addictive.

Some of us go to great lengths to prove our fandom, both out of insecurity and genuine enjoyment.  The crux of the discussions earlier this afternoon was fans who leave games early and other fans’ distaste for them.  You can count me in the latter crowd.  I drive four hours round trip to make Sabres games, you can be damn sure I’m squeezing every bit I can out of being there.  And the games are about more than hockey to me.  Even when the team loses I can usually find some enjoyment in being there whether it’s in getting drunk, acting like an asshole, heckling opposing fans, making an ass of myself, or all of the above.  Leaving early doesn’t make sense to me; it seems to be too large a sacrifice for too little gain.  You save, ten, twenty minutes getting out of the building before everyone else and you potentially miss something great (as was the case last night).  I don’t get it.  But time is money, and I do get that.  For some people, real life is a separate entity from sports.  For me sports and real life are intertwined.  A majority of my friends came about through our interest in the Sabres.  My first date with my partner was at a Sabres game.  I play hockey myself.

And it’s funny because our standards are not at all consistent.  We’ll mock the living crap out of anyone wearing a knockoff jersey, but you know what else is money?  Actual money.  Jerseys are expensive, and I get that too.  Hell, I even get customized nameplate and number guy.  We’re all here to have fun, and if for some dude that involves his name on a #69 jersey, then so be it.

Which segues me into the next part of the topic like a toddler falling down stairs.  The Scizz talked about allegiances and hope, and the dampening of both as one ages.  I’m twenty-five, still pretty young, and even now I have a fraction of the enthusiasm that I did when I was a kid.  I mean, I still enjoy making my coworkers feel like crap covered crap when their teams lose and mine wins, but I don’t try to make them cry about it.  Like I said, this whole thing is about having fun, and being a miserable asshat when the team loses isn’t very fun.  Nor is making constant comments about the crappiness of the team (unless they’re hilarious, which mine always are).

I won’t ever switch allegiances, but I don’t hate every other team in the league like I used to.  If and when the Sabres don’t make the playoffs, there are plenty of interesting teams to watch.  Hell, even watching the teams I don’t like dick it up is still a sort of entertainment.  (Although I will say this, if I move to Seattle and they get a hockey team, I’m definitely making room for tertiary fandom.  Seattle is goddamn awesome, they have chocolate made out of lesbians and boobs there and Frasier.  AWESOME!)  But if shirking the Sabres for another activity, hell, even another team is fun for you, then I can’t really say anything about that.  Too often, I think, we forget that we’re supposed to be doing these things because we enjoy them, and if we don’t, then perhaps we should stop.  Again, I won’t be that guy anytime soon.  Watching the Sabres look like they’ve never played hockey before is its own sort of morbid amusement for me.  I haven’t missed a game in three years and I don’t intend to for a while.  And honestly going through the highs and lows of a season makes the achievements that much better.  Tying and eventually beating Philly to make the playoffs last year was amazing.  I was in the crowd…a top five moment for sure.

You can call these things “getting older” and there is some truth to that, but more I think it’s just being better at filtering out the things that don’t bring a whole lot to my life.  I can’t say it enough, we put ourselves through these things because they’re fun.  FUN DAMNIT!  So let’s go have some.

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