What is wrong with sports fans? Not YOU of course, you’re totally reasonable. It’s those others you see around any sports bar or office water cooler. Like that guy from Omaha who loves the Dallas Cowboys, or the New York fan who can’t stand the Mets. Beyond just rooting for our home teams, we all live by a unique personal honor code dictating loyalties and rivals. Here’s a handy field guide to help define yourself and the fans around you while trying to answer the question: “What is wrong with these people?”
THE HOMER is the most common type of fan. If you’re a Homer, you cheer for your home team. Duh. Maybe that place is awesome, maybe it’s horrible. Either way, you’re probably blind to it because it’s all you knew growing up. Odds are it’s a place as normal and likable as all the other cities you claim to hate. So, there’s a naiveté that comes with being a Homer, that deep-rooted, primal bond is almost impossible to break. It may even go beyond sports. A home team can invoke the nostalgia of a childhood going to ball games with mom and dad, smelling cheap beer and bus fumes in the parking lot. A Homer has it in his blood.
THE FRONT RUNNER is afraid to take risks. This fan hasn’t suffered enough to “get it” like the other fans. They choose the easy road of cheering for a team that always wins, never earning that badge of honor for sports martyrdom. They may like their home team, but only when they win. Really though, can you blame them? We laud the “Best Actor”. We eat at the “Best Restaurant” (if it’s affordable). Why not reward the best team? And isn’t it the front runner in all of us that fills the stands when a team gets hot? The Front Runners are an important part of nature, just like rats and jellyfish.
THE TRANSPLANT is a variation of the Homer. The key difference is that a Transplant chooses a new home team, by moving to that city or just being sympathetic with it (the common sub-class: THE SURROGATE.) Because hey, some people just like San Francisco. If the Homer is like a blood relative to his team, a Transplant is a fan by marriage. Some are born with a team, these folks choose it.
THE CONTRARIAN is “That Guy”. If you like the Dodgers, he loves the Giants. Maybe you an obnoxious college roommate who loved the Nebraska Cornhuskers so much, you’ve been cheering for them to lose ever since. They usually hate a team for being too popular. Contrarians have the easiest job in sports: rooting against teams, putting the odds about 30:1 in their favor. Contrarians often mistake cynicism for having an opinion, most likely because their dad never gave them a compliment. This guy just wants to stir the pot and then take a dump in it. This guy stinks. See Also: THE HATER.
THE COINCIDENTAL FAN crossed paths with a random team and the connection stuck. Maybe your little league team was called the Orioles and you happened to win a championship the same year as the Cal Ripken Jr. version. Maybe your Uncle drove through St. Louis once and sent you a postcard of the Arch. Pretty much everyone owes their sports connection to random dumb luck anyway. So, why not? (Also related to THE SURROGATE)
THE DIE-HARD never gives up. His proudest moment was sitting through a 2-hour rain delay to watch his Kansas City Royals lose a thrilling non-divisional game to the Texas Rangers in 14 innings, and then renewing his season tickets. Yipiee-ki-yay, Mister Falcon.
THE APOLOGIST is an extreme Homer or Die Hard who takes optimism too far. They will defend their team, players and front-office decision to the bitter end, right or wrong. They’re optimistic to a fault. To their credit: If you can’t change your team, why not change your point of view?
THE UNDERDOG is the polar opposite of the Front Runner. Claims moral superiority but may be as irrational as any of them. The Underdog fan cheers for the team who’s not supposed to win. Consider this fake scenario though: You want to see the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Miami Heat, but maybe all of Miami just donated $100 to “Sick Grandmas United” while the Milwaukee Bucks are saving their $100 to wager on puppy boxing. Listen, we can’t accurately gauge the moral superiority of every match up, but the underdog assumption is a convenient place to start.
THE HATER –. Everyone “hates” the opponent, but a true hater goes above and beyond to suck the fun out of the game. Instead of focusing on their own team, they’re too busy chanting that the other team sucks. They could even hate their own team for not being perfect enough. They embrace the dark side of fandom we all struggle with. It’s fun in small doses but dangerous in large ones. Maybe their team never won a championship, or dad never gave them a compliment. Or maybe they’re just dicks. See Also: The Contrarian.
THE CASUAL FAN – These are the innocuous fans your team draws when they’re doing well. They are probably only at the game because they got free tickets at work. Also, there is beer. Don’t take the casual fans for granted, they help fill seats for the big games. Like extras in a movie, they add to the atmosphere.
THE ARMCHAIR QUARTERBACK could have caught that ball, made that shot, completed that pass, properly managed the clock, drafted the right players, made the right game plan, made the right call, “Coulda’ took state”, you get the idea. They call sports talk shows with all the answers.
THE FANTASY PLAYER is a mercenary among fans, or perhaps a Level 30 Dark Mage, as they’ve turned the season into their own Dungeons and Dragons adventure. They’ll cheer for the Seattle Seahawk’s quarterback, but also for the Saints defense to limit him to a field goal so his pretend football team can win him money. (Yes, I have two fantasy football teams. Huzzah!)
THE RATIONAL side of fans knows that “It’s just a game”. Sports can have strong influence on a local psyche or economy. Yeah, sports are a part of reality, but the rational fan doesn’t get sucked too far in. He’ll admit, among the booing crowd, that his team just got a perfectly justified yellow card or that the ball did – in fact – hit the ground. It doesn’t mean they can’t have enthusiasm. The Rational fan knows yelling at the TV won’t help, but probably still does it. They understand that all fans – even Raider fans – have a strong, valid bond with their team and there’s a lot of randomness to who you cheer for anyway.
Scott Jones played the part of a bottle of Gates BBQ Sauce during a Mascot indoor soccer game.