FAN-atical FANS

How does a person come to the decision to follow and root for one team over another? What aspects of a team draw the attention of a person's psyche? Is it dependent on the makeup of the team, or the makeup of the fan's mind?

There are three reasons fans root for 'their' team: the team is local, the team was followed by a strong influential adult during the fan's childhood, or the fan is a 'homer'. With each I hold different respect for their team of choice. Local is the most natural reason. An influential adult, who was looked up to by a child, followed a team and the child wanted to emulate that idea as a way of bonding. And the 'homer'... jumping on a team who just won a Championship or liking a team just because they win all the time... just to make themselves feel better... to make themselves feel part of a winner... to compensate for their negative self-image.

Local sports fans are the most natural fans. Before ESPN and the national TV contracts, fans had to read the local paper or go to the games to get their sports intake. It was a way to bond with your neighbors. Entering the local bar, you can jump into almost every conversation since most are dressed in the same team colors, discussing the newest acquisition. Plus you are constantly deluged with the local team propaganda. It is hard to not be a fan of the local team.

Another equally good reason a person likes a certain team is because they knew someone who they admired who rooted for that same team. Most times, this involves a close family member: usually a father or older sibling. Being a fan of the same team was a way to find a common bond, a common passion. Something to bring up into conversation. Something to share. Most people are a fan of something only because they had a parent or a sibling who liked the same thing. It's only natural to want to have that connection.

Then there are the 'homers'. Usually the team is nowhere near the local team. You know them. Didn't care about the team, didn't know anything about the team. Then they win the World Series or Stanley Cup and BAM... they have the jersey and root the loudest so everyone around them knows that they are a fan of that team. Just because your team had a number of years of being successful doesn't mean the real reason you liked them to begin with was because you are a 'homer' and started being a fan of them after a successful season. Usually the 'homer' became a fan of that team during high school or grade school... when the team probably won a Championship.

You can be a fan of one team by one reason and a fan of another team by another reason. In fact, you can be a fan of multiple teams in the same sport based on different reasons. I was a Miami Dolphins fan because my brother was a Miami Dolphins fan. But I was also a Pittsburgh Steelers fan because, growing up, they were a local team. I was never really a fan of other teams, but I liked ones more than others. I had a varying range of preferences, but Miami and Pittsburgh were the two NFL teams I tried to follow.

Over the years, my attention to one or the other shifted. The Mark Malone era of Pittsburgh wasn't the best. The post-Marino era was horrible, with poor decision after poor decision being made by the Dolphin front office. But I didn't know you had to choose one team and one team only in each sport to be a 'fan'. And once you chose that team, you had to be a 'fan' of that team for life. That last sentence sounds like something a 'homer' would say, after the Championship win.

'Homer's are everywhere. They pop up after a team either wins the Championship, or they make a catapult-like jump into the Championship contender stratosphere, either by almost making the finals or losing the finals. Examples can be seen even today.

Before the 2001 NFL season, did you ever notice anyone wearing a New England Patriots jersey? Or even clapping if New England did well? Unless you lived in the Massachusetts area, that answer was no. Now, go to a bar on a NFL Sunday and the Patriots are playing. You will find them. In 15 years, when Brady is gone, if the Patriots are still with winning seasons almost every year, making it far into the playoffs regularly, and winning a few Championships, those same Patriots 'homers' will still be screaming the loudest, claiming "I've been following them forever." But they are in reality just a 'homer' whose team had a lot of success for a lot of years, but you still are a 'homer'.

Before them, the St. Louis Rams. When Kurt Warner was bagging groceries, you didn't see Rams fans. But after the Super Bowl win, Rams fans were everywhere. I'm sure I will see a lot of Cardinals fans this coming NFL season. Again with the Kurt Warner jerseys popping up everywhere.

Chicago Bulls. Jordan. No Bulls fans before Jordan. During Jordan, Bulls fans everywhere. I give the Bulls fans a little break, though. Jordan was the greatest ever. He did things that made your jaw drop. He was a media darling. He was like what Tiger Woods is today: he transcended the sport.

LeBron James has not hit that level, yet. But did you know anyone who was a Cleveland Cavalier fan besides Clevelanders? They were the Washington Generals to the Bulls' Globetrotters.

It's too bad so many 'homer's are so delusional they do not know they are a 'homer'. But if you started liking a team when you were young, after they won the Championship game/series, then you are a 'homer'. So just shut your mouth and root like a regular sports fan. Your not a winner because the team won. You just look more like a loser.

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