From Fan to “Fanatic”

Jim's favorite teams

Webster’s defines a “fan” as an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime or celebrity”.   It also defines a “fan” as “an instrument for producing a current of air”.  Judging what I read about sports throughout the year in magazines, newspapers and on social media sites, I can assure you that both definitions are true.  Many people associate “fan” with the word “fanatic”, which is defined as “excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion”.  Again, simply be so bold as to criticize someone’s favorite team, and you’ll quickly find this definition to be accurate.Fanatic

So what is it about fans that bring them such an  emotional connect with a sports team that is only “theirs” because they happen to live close to that team?  I know that I live in Colorado, and the fans of the Denver Broncos will stop being your friend and talk down to your children if you dare to say you don’t like them.

Michael Cuddyer played 11 seasons for the Minnesota Twins before joining the Colorado Rockies in 2012.  In his last year with Minnesota, he was selected for the All Star Game.  Yet when he joined the Rockies, fans all over the state were heard to announce one very big “huh?”  In his first season with the Rockies, he hit 16 homeruns, with a batting average of .260.  Fans responded to that with a collective “yawn”.  Then in 2013, he moves up to 20 homeruns, 84 RBIs, and a .331 batting average, and suddenly his jerseys are on every back and he’s in the All Star Game.  And his 20 homeruns get him in the Home Run Derby.

So what happened over the winter that caused fans that really couldn’t care any less about a player to suddenly start worshipping him like he was the 2nd coming of Barry Bonds?   Are the fans really so shallow that they only support a player when he’s playing well?  Are they fans of the team?  Or fans of the players?

There are fans that paint their face and body for games; even if they are watching them from home.  They get their cars painted in the team’s colors.  They have invested more in their team uniform wardrobe than they have in their children’s education.  They have basements covered in pictures and collectors memorabilia.  And they are willing to sit in a thunderstorm or blizzard at a stadium to watch a game they could be watching from the warm comfort of their couch.

Did you know that there are fans that get dressed in the uniforms of their favorite football team and travel to New York to attend an announcement of the drafting of a player for their team?  That there are fans that actually modify their bodies with tattoos of either a team’s logo or a player’s name?  That there are fans that will actually get into a fight with another person who is wearing a shirt that indicates he likes a different team?  Peyton Manning

I was at a Denver Broncos game one time when they were playing the Buccaneers.  I was wearing a Tampa jacket and hat, and nobody bothered me.  However, in the 1st quarter a guy walked below us wearing an Oakland Raiders hat.  There was such a negative reaction from the fans that the police had to respond and escort him away from the area.  Seriously?  Nobody cared that I was wearing the hat of the team the Broncos were on the field playing, but someone with a Raiders hat is threatened so badly he needed police protection?

Just this past weekend a man wearing a NY Jets jersey punched a woman in the face who was wearing a New England Patriots jersey, and the Jets had WON THE GAME!  Of course, this pales in comparisons to fans that take to the streets after their favorite team wins a championship so that they can flip over cars and start them on fire.  Nothing says “we won!” like a riot and looting.

I know that I am a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins, the Atlanta Braves, the Colorado Rockies, the Colorado Avalanche, the St Louis Cardinals, the Detroit Tigers and the NY Mets.  Confused?  I was born in the Tampa area, and the Braves were the closest team to us at the time.  Plus Ted Turner put them on TV’s around the country, so following them was easy.  I’ve lived most of my adult life in Colorado, thanks to the Air Force, so I’ve adopted the Rockies and Avalanche.  My father was from Missouri, and taught me to love the Cardinals.  I keep his memory alive by watching them play.  And Howard Johnson, a school mate that went on to win two World Series rings, won one with the Tigers and one with the Mets.  Oh, and I also used to be a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, LA Kings and NY Rangers in hockey, and if you know the career of Wayne Gretzky you’ll know why.

Jim's favorite teams
Jim’s favorite teams

Wait, there’s no basketball teams listed!  Get over it.  I hate basketball.

In college sports, I love Florida State, Florida, Miami, Colorado, Air Force and any team from the SEC that is playing for the National Championship.

Oh, and I also want the Colorado Rapids to win the soccer championship.

The thing about me is, with all those teams there isn’t one that I say “we” when talking about them.  I want them to win, but I don’t care if they lose.  The Buccaneers are 0-fer the season and it just doesn’t matter.  I know I should get all excited about one of these teams at some point, but I simply don’t.  My life and self-worth are not associated with the success or failure of a group of athletes that I have never met.

I also take great joy in making fun of other sports fans.  I do this simply because I don’t understand a “fanatic”.  I absolutely love sports, but I don’t place any of my own self-worth in the success or failure of someone else.  I know whenever I say something about someone’s favorite team; their favorite retort is to say something bad about the Buccaneers.  Heck, one said something bad about the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.  Do you see them on my list above?  The Buccaneers could finish 0-16 and I’ll still wear my #90 Gaines Adams jersey.  He died far too young, but I wear it because one of my closest friends in my life gave me the jersey as a gift.

So please, by all means love “your” team.  At the same time, stop being bothered if I don’t.  Heck, stop being bothered if I say something bad about that team.  And just remember that I love my mother.  I love my brothers and sisters.  I love my children.  I love my wife.  Talk bad about them, and you can get me to engage.  I don’t love any sports team or player.  I am not emotionally invested in any of them.

And when I say something bad about a team, I am talking about the team, not one of their fans.  I don’t like John Elway.  I will always believe he is one of the most overrated quarterbacks in NFL history.  And not one word in those two sentences has anyone’s name except John Elway.  If you disagree with me, so what?  I still believe it.

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