Monday, March 16, 2009

Definition of a True Sports Fan

Posted on behalf of Andrew Spero:

Many people are quick to pronounce themselves as “diehard sports fans” who live and die with their favorite teams. But I feel there should be some validity behind such a bold statement and the designation of being a true sports fan should come with some defined qualifications.
First of all a casual fan is nothing more than just that and is definitely not to be confused with a true sports fan. They watch their favorite team’s games when it conveniently fits their schedule or when a social gathering revolves around it. They cannot name their team’s starting second basemen or manager for that matter and do not start following the team on a consistent basis until the playoffs start (like many Yankee fans I know).

A true or diehard fan of a team, in my opinion, is someone who is emotionally attached to their particular team and watches every game during the season unless they have a legitimate reason not to do so (i.e. class, work, etc.) in which TiVo and DVR come in handy. They must be very familiar with the players on their team as well as knowing their strengths and weaknesses on the field. Bill Simmons who writes a very popular sports blog for ESPN has his own list of qualifications and characteristics that make up a “true sports fan” in his opinion.

I have to say that I full heartedly agree with many of the guidelines that he talks about of a true fan. One of my favorites and one that I sternly believe in is once you choose a team you are stuck with that team for the rest of your life, through the good times and the bad. Even though I am a Yankees fan myself I have no respect and do not take Yankee fans seriously who admit that they used to be Mets fan but switched somewhere along the line (I’m thinking this switch took place somewhere during the late 90’s). These people are nothing more than frontrunners and do not deserve to be classified as Yankee fans. This may come off as harsh but like I said not everyone can be classified as a true sports fan. How do you feel about some of these rules and guidelines and do you agree with them?

Another quality of a true fan is the unmistakable pit in your stomach that fans endure after their team experiences a bad loss or worse yet being eliminated from the playoffs. Raney and Bryant in the Sports Handbook talk about the casual fan or “low-identified fan” does not have to worry about feeling these emotions. “Because the identity of these fans is not in jeopardy when the team competes, they tend not to experience negative emotional consequences of poor team performance. As a result, they have little need to cope with a loss” (343). For example a casual New York Giants fan can watch the Giants suffer an incredibly tough and heartbreaking loss to their archrival Cowboys and then after the game go out to the mall and hang out with their friends and be more or less unaffected. A true fan such as myself could never do that after a loss of that nature and this is why Raney and Bryant list a couple of coping strategies that many “high-identified fans” use in these cases.

Some of these strategies I agree with and do myself while others I do not find affective at all. One coping strategy from the Handbook that I readily agree with is as follows, “One way for highly identified fans to cope with a team’s loss, particularly a season ending defeat, is to shift their focus from the losing team to another team” (345). For example when the Yankees are eliminated from the playoffs I immediately start focusing more on the Jets season and look forward to the upcoming New York Rangers and Knicks seasons. The pain of the failed season is still there but at least I have three other teams to have “hope in” and distract my attention. For the big sports fans, do you use any of these strategies and if so which are your favorite?


  1. This is a topic that I absolutely love to touch upon.

    I can't stand those who call themselves "true" sportsfans. There are those who jump on the bandwagon of many teams. First to come to mind, last years Boston Celtics. I can name about 10 people who call themselves fans but arent even in that vicinity. It really grinds my gears.

    I live, breathe, and eat sports. I am very passionate about my teams, I always have been and always will be, no matter how bad they may be doing. I take every loss personally, as if I actually played the game myself. This is especially true in the NBA, where my love for the Chicago Bulls goes beyond anything else in this world. The 90's were years of great prosperity, and even as a 5 year old child, I was on cloud nine. Then came the years after Jordan, and those were tough times. My stomach hurt after every loss, every heart-breaking defeat. Those years are still upon me, but the future looks bright with the young stud Derrick Rose at the helm.

    As Raney and Bryant say, "As a result, many highly identified fans report depression, anger, and disappointment after watching their team lose" (342). I'm guilty as charged. I've learned to deal though better than I did as a young child. Not so much with the strategy of shifting my focus to another team, because all of my teams are at a crossroads right now, the Dolphins, Bulls and Blue Jays, but rather looking to the future. I know things can only go up and that's my strategy when trying to cope with a loss. It has to get better at some point, just have hope and stay loyal.

    Fans who claim that they are fans have no idea what people like me experience on a given night. It's one of the worst feelings in the world after your team loses. So if someone were to look up the definition of a True Sports Fan in Webster's dictionary, they would see a picture of me. Simple as that

  2. Chris Myers

    I agree there are differences between a casual sports fan and a die-hard sports fan. The average fan usually cheers for a certain team because of the fact that they are from or around the same city/state. As well most average fans enjoy the social aspect of the game, this is even more common when the team is winning. The die-hard fan takes it to the next level and gets involved with the team because he or she takes pride in being a fan.

    It does take a lot of commitment to be a die-hard fan and for those who are I believe its very fulfilling. I was a die-hard Detroit Red Wings fan when I was younger and becoming involved with the team and players made it that much more enjoyable. Because sports are so popular I feel you not only do you have a connection with a team you also are connected with many friends and this makes the game much more enjoyable as well. The die-hard fan wants to talk educated about his team and this is what can also separate the average fan.

    A true sports fan would be a fan whose committed to their team through everything and this is a good example of someone who is attached to that team is a very important way. I agree if that you switch teams you are really not a die-hard fan because you don’t have that loyalty that true fans have.

    True fans will always talk about the good days and the ones still to come because they are emotionally attached to the team and want to share the success. A good example comes from the text, “ highly identified fans report particularly favorable evaluation of current team performance, predict better future for their team in general, and expect greater success for individual team members.” (Raney and Bryant 343”) The true fan answers these typical questions in a way that gives them hope for the team and players. I am a Detroit Tigers fan and if you asked me about Willis I would say there is a future for him when he starts to throw strikes because I am hopeful he returns to his old ways. The average fan does not even know or really care who is in the fifth spot of the rotation and therefore wouldn’t be interested in Willis’s success.

    Either way, average or die-hard if you enjoy to the game then that’s all that matters.

  3. There is definitely a huge difference between the bandwagon, fair weather, casual sports fan, versus the die-hard, living-and-breathing-with-each-play, true sports fan. While I understand that not everyone can embrace fandom with all they have, it is frustrating to watch the casual sports fan ruin great sports moments with their newfound enthusiasm. They pretend to have so much invested, but they don’t understand having to show up to school day in and day out, and have to answer for when your team does badly. The casual fan can just blend into the crowd, maybe reciting some stats and quotes from Sportscenter on occasion. Yawn. These are the people who can’t tell you the name of most, if not all, of the stadiums in the league, or identify if a player is running a little slower than usual.

    As far as the strategies I tend to find true, the third example that Wann gives in Chapter 20 of the Handbook is definitely one, researching “fans’ biased evaluations of fellow fans of their team and rival fans of opposing teams” (Raney and Bryant 344). After a gut-wrenching loss, there is some consolation in knowing that the fans of my team were clearly more respectful and just all around better than the fans of the other team.

    It’s the only time where we seem to remember what we learned in T-League, that “it’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” If we (the fans) lost (since the our team did), at least we “played” better than the other fans. Sometimes this is the only way to respond to a tough loss as a true fan, because if you say the other fans were inappropriate, you have attacked them personally the way you personally felt the lost in the bottom of the 9th. Is it mature? Probably not. But it seems like the only coping mechanism that is the routine fall back, which is probably because it offers a small bit of consolation.

  4. After browsing through some blogs this week I can see that defining a true sports fan is not that easy. And seeing the criteria a true sports fan must meet, definitely puts me in the "not a true sports fan" category. I do appreciate those who are passionate about sports, and particular teams, along with being extremely knowledgeable about stats, ranks, history, etc.

    I do not believe however that you have to be a "true sports fan" when you just want to enjoy watching a game every now and then. I guess I am what some may call a "casual sports fan". No, I don't know every players stat, and no I don't watch every single game religiously, I just like watching a professional game being played.

    In Chapter 20 of the Handbook it says "The relationships among team identification, competition outcome, and spectator affect are perhaps best understood within the framework of the disposition theory of sport spectatorship." I agree with this quote because a "true sports fan" possess qualities completely different than a "casual sports fan." These individuals are extremely knowledgeable about sports, and players, and follow their favorite teams like groupies (and I mean that in the nicest way possible).

    Unfortunately, sports fandom isn't in my blood. But, I am impressed with the amount of knowledge our particular class has about sports. It is truly amazing how much enthusiasm some of the people in our class have when it comes to defending their favorite team, and throwing out names of players I have never even heard of.

    -Katie Devlin

  5. I guess I would be considered a casual sports fan. I watch occasional games and for the most part, can name most of the players on that team and keep track of the basic stats. Sure, I root for my local team. But if they lose, I'm somewhat disappointed, but I get over it that same day. It doesn't affect my life in any shape or form. I'll just enjoy the rest of the playoffs admiring talent from other teams.

    Honestly, I feel too many people live vicariously through sports. So many guys are diehard basketball/football fans, yet they can't play to save their life. So my question is, why are they so into that sport so much even if they don't play it? I know many diehard Lakers fan who can't dribble a basketball. Why then, did they choose basketball to watch of all sports? Why not the Dodgers as well? Or what about the LA Kings for hockey? In the end, it's because it's exciting? Well then, can't the casual fan find a game exciting? Enjoying a game even without knowing the players or stats? See at some point, everyone would be considered a bandwagon fan by definition, excluding the actual athletes that partake in those sports.

    Not everyone get emotionally attached to teams. It's just not wired in their brains. So many fans go about saying, "We won! We won!" when a team wins. They experience such intense feelings of joy? And when they lose, they say "Ohhh, no! We lost!" We? WE?! Diehard fans act like they're apart of the team. That's the problem. To the diehard fan: YOU'RE NOT PART OF THE TEAM. YOU'RE NOT A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE. That's why when casual fans don't experience the traumatic feelings of a loss, diehard fans get mad and call them bandwagoners. Most casual fans don't experience negative feelings after losses, but they still share the same positive feelings after wins. Although, there is nothing wrong with that because they don't live vicariously through players, they are simply enjoying ENTERTAINMENT. Yes, sports is ENTERTAINMENT, not religion or a lifestyle to the casual fan. In the end, that's why diehard fans hold a grudge against casual/bandwagon/fairweather fans...

    But the question is - Is the diehard fan using sports as a way to compensate for something lacking in their own lives?

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