A Brief Meditation on Fandom

On Friday, sports came up during a discussion in the teachers’ lounge at my school. I forget how the conversation arrived to this point, but I recall sharing something I’ve said before about the difference in my habits while watching my favorite teams.

While watching the Yankees, I remarked, I’m relatively calm and chill–despite the curse words that frequent my Twitter account–until the playoffs. But on the other side of the coin, when I watch UConn basketball–men’s or women’s–I have absolutely zero chill. I rock back and forth like Leo Mazzone. I pace around whatever room I’m in, even for regular season games, let alone conference tournaments or the NCAA Tournament itself. For example, the last time the men’s team was in the National Championship game–2014–a game they led wire-to-wire, I spent most of it on the floor between the couch and the TV because I was so nervous.

I suppose caring that much is a luxury, isn’t it? To care so much, to invest so much time and energy into something we ultimately have no control over. Hell, I’ve been writing words online about the Yankees in some ‘official’ capacity since August of 2008 and unofficially on message boards, forums, etc. for years before that, too. I’m under no illusion that doing so has had any effect on the New York Yankees, but I care and it’s fun, and that’s why I keep doing it, even now in a lockout when there is, quite literally, nothing to write about.

On the other hand, knowing that fandom ‘doesn’t matter’ in the universal sense allows us to escape from our escapism when necessary. Over the last few years, I’ve cut back on watching the Giants and the NFL in general for many reasons, but mostly because the Giants have been terrible and it was no fun to get worked up and agitated over their poor performance anymore. Sports, however different they are from movies, TV shows, whatever, are ultimately entertainment products and when something stops entertaining us, we should stop engaging. It took me far too long to realize that with The Walking Dead, but that’s another story. Glad I hopped off that train, even if it was far too late.

With that in mind, I wonder if we should be less rigid about fandom, whether it’s our own or others’. Want to root for two teams? Do it. Want to just keep track of players and not care about team loyalties? Go for it; it’s what most of my students do with football and basketball anyway. Want to root for some team you have no geographical or biographical connection to? Right on. Whatever you want to do, do it. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

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2 Comments

  1. Gavin Watkins

    I recently joined the reserves and my basic training will last the majority of the Yankees season, including the playoffs, this will be the first year since I was 9 when I havent watched at least 150 yankees games. Being less rigid about my fandom is the only way I will be able to survive from July until October

  2. Vin F.

    Great article, Matt… very happy you mentioned UCONN basketball in your article…. GO HUSKIES…..

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