Sports are an institution in America today. As a male, you are required to be a sports fan. I’ve seen numerous males attempt to escape this fact of life in America, but I’ve seen very few pull it off. If you are able to escape the super sport fan requirement, I tip my hat to you, for you may escape the pain and sorrow watching sports can inflict on you. It’s too late for me. I’ve had too many teams disappoint me on the playing field to ever enjoy it in the manner we should all enjoy sporting contests. We super sports fans have reached a point where we almost hate sports as much as we love it, but we’ve found no cure for our ailment other than more sports and other disappointments that help us forget the past ones.
In 2012, The Atlanta Falcons won their first playoff game in four years of unsuccessful attempts. As a fanatic Falcons fan, I know that I’ll have to be prepared for those that will engage me in a discussion of the Atlanta Falcons, win or lose, in the next three weeks. I know that such a discussion will involve attacks that I’ll deem personal, as a result of my life-long affiliation with this team. If they lose in the next three weeks, I will be guilty by association. If they win, I will be permitted a temporary amount of basking, but I will soon have to reconfigure my psychology in preparation for the next game, and the next season. A super fan’s job is never over.
Immersing one’s self in the world of sports’ super fandom can be stressful, for a super fan is required to be unsatisfied with their team’s progress, regardless how well they do. A super fan is never happy. A casual sports fan can enjoy a good tussle between two opponents, measuring one another’s physical abilities, but a super fan doesn’t enjoy a good game that involves their team, unless their team blows the other team out. Close games are stressful, and they suggest an obvious deficiency in your team that must be rectified before the next game. Unadulterated blowouts confirm superiority.
A coach says they’re not satisfied with their team’s accomplishments, and the team’s players echo this sentiment. The two factions echo this sentiment so many times that super fans have now incorporated it into their lexicon. I can understand a player, or a coach, issuing such statements, for they are always on trial, they are always pushing themselves to be better today than they were yesterday. It’s the very essence of sports for the participants to be unsatisfied. Why does this mentality also have to exist for those that aren’t participants, but spectators? A super sports fan doesn’t question why they have this mentality, they just have it.
Most normal people regard watching sports as a frivolity, a conversation piece to engage in with friends and family. To them, sporting events provide a simple event, or an excuse, to get together with friends and family. And for these people, sports is little more than background noise that covers the lulls that may occur at get-togethers. They may keep up on some sport’s headlines, but they often do so to engage in superficial, meaningless conversations. They also use what little knowledge they have to needle the obnoxious diehards on their team’s loss.
There’s nothing wrong with this needling on the surface. Needling is what super sports fans do to one another, but in the world of super sports fans everyone has something on the line. When you mock a super sports fan’s team, you had better be ready to take as well as you give for a super sports fan will often come back ten times as hard. It’s as much a part of the super sports fan culture as watching the sport itself. For the non-sports fan, for whom sports is but a casual conversation piece, needling a super sports fan is revenge for all the years that super sports fans have ridiculed them for being non-sports fans, or if they haven’t been ridiculed, they have at least been ostracized from the all the conversations that revolve around sports, and they’ve built up some resentment for sports fans that comes out in these needling sessions. It also gives them great joy, when the conversation turns back on them, and the super fan says, “Who’s your favorite team?” that they don’t have one. The fact that they don’t have one gives them an immunity card against reprisals. It’s what they’ve dreamed of dating back to their pre-pubescent days when their peers ridiculed them for preferring Star Wars and Legos to sports.
In the world of the super fan, it is seen as a testament to their character that they remain unsatisfied with their team’s performance? Even a fan of a traditional doormat, such as the Atlanta Falcons, is informed that the best record in the regular season should mean nothing to you, and their first playoff victory in almost a decade should mean nothing to you. You want that ring. If you’re happy with progress, you’re satisfied, and being satisfied equates to being weak, and soft, and everyone around you knows this, and they won’t have much time for you if you don’t demand perfection of your team.
I once heard that the reason that the Chicago Cubs are perennial losers is that their fan base will turn out regardless how they perform. I’ve heard it said that they’re more concerned with beer than they are baseball, and that they enjoy the confines of Wrigley Field more than they do a winner. There is a certain amount of sense in this when one considers the actual attendance figures in Wrigley Field, of course, but are they saying that a Cubs’ General Manager is apt to forego a prized free agent signing, because he knows that the fans will show up anyway? Is a manager going to inform the organization that he is not going to call up a star prospect, because he knows that the fans will show up regardless if the team is better or not? Their job is on the line every year. Get in the playoffs or get out is the motto in most of professional sports, and I dare say this is no different in Chicago regardless of their team’s ‘lovable loser’ tradition.
The radio show host that said this about the Cubs was making a general point that there isn’t the sense of urgency in the Cubs organization that there is in the Yankee organization. Yankee fans are adamant that their team win the World Series every year, and they’re quite vocal with their displeasure when the organization puts anything less than a championship team on the field. I can’t say that this is without merit, but should this same requirement be made of the fan sitting in a bar discussing sports with a fellow super fan? Why is it elemental to the respect of his peers that the super fan maintain an unsatisfied persona to maintain the respect of his super fan friends?
Super fans that have listened to sports talk radio for far too long, have had it pounded into our head that there’s no glory in meaningless victories … if you don’t have that ring. If you were a Buffalo Bills fan, in the 90’s, and you were happy with an appearance in the Super Bowl for four straight years, you were soft, because those teams lost all of those Super Bowls. The super fan would’ve preferred that the Bills failed to make it to the playoffs in the face of all that losing. That was embarrassing. The Bills proved to be historic choke artists. Nothing more. It didn’t matter to the superfan that they were able to do something unprecedented when they made it to the Super Bowl after three consecutive losses. They lost the fourth one too! Bunch of choke artists is what they were.
Did it matter to anyone that the Atlanta Braves made it to the playoffs fourteen consecutive years in a span that stretched from the 90’s to the 00’s? It didn’t to the super fan. They grew tired of all that losing. Did it matter to the super fan that they made the NLCS nine out of ten years? It did not. Did it matter that they made it to the World Series in five of those years? If you’re a loser it did. They won one World Series throughout this stretch, and the super fan remained unsatisfied throughout.
“No one remembers the team that lost in the championship.” “One team wins, and the other team chokes.” These are some of the most common tropes of the language of the super fan that you’ll have to adopt, if you ever hope to garner the type of respect necessary to sit with super fans in bars discussing sports.
If your team loses, but you’re satisfied just to be there, that says something about whom you are. In these conversations, you are your team, and your team is you. If such conversations make you uncomfortable, the best way for you to retain your identity will be to distance yourself from your team by informing your friends that you disagreed with a move or a decision that they made, but often times this is not enough to leave you unscathed. Regardless what you say, you cannot avoid having them consider you a choke artist based on the fact that your team “choked” in the championship. You can switch teams, of course, but that is what is called a fair weather fan, and a fair weather fan is the lowest form of life in the world of super fandom, save for the needling non-fan. Your best bet is to just sit there and take it. Your friends will enjoy that a lot less than your struggle to stick up for your team.
Even if your team wins it all, you will have no glory. You’re never satisfied, and winning it all for one year, just means that your concentration flips to next year. You don’t want a championship, you want a dynasty. The true fan is the superfan, always seeking definition of their character through constant calls for perfection. Even if you win a championship, you didn’t win by much. You should’ve slaughtered that bunch. There is room for improvement, and you’ll scour the draft pool and the free agent list, to find that perfect component for next year’s run. If your team doesn’t do what you think they should do, you’ll gain some distance by proclaiming that they don’t know what they’re doing. You know this because you’re a super fan, but most of you have never played the game, or had to deal with team play, salary caps, or prima donnas that generate excellent stats with no regard for the team.
The one thing that every fan, and every super fan, should be required to recite before every game is “You’re just a fan”. I don’t care if you wear your hat inside out and backwards, you sit on half a cheek for a week, and you don’t speak of your team’s progress for fear of jinxing them, you’re just a fan. I don’t care if you have seven different jerseys for the seven days of the week, that you paint your face, or brave the cold and go shirtless. You’re just a fan. You’re no more instrumental in the way they play the game than the guy at the end of the bar that doesn’t care for sports. So, does this line of thought make it any easier to be a super fan? It does not, because as a super fan, you know that your reputation is on the line every time your team takes the field, court, diamond, or rink. You know that your friends are just dying to call your team (i.e. you) a loser, and that can make it stressful to be a super fan.