What does it take to be a “true” fan of a team? Do you have to watch games even when the team sucks? Do you have to be born in the city they play in?
The answers to those questions are less than you think, no, and no respectively.
There’s really no point for this post other than I think it’s archaic and ridiculous to think that we have to prove our fandom to other people. I’ve been a Hawks fan since I was 6 years old. While it shouldn’t matter, I almost always mention it to people when they find out I’m a Chicago fan just so they know I was there before they were good. I was there when they were lucky to get 5,000 fans. I was there when home games weren’t on TV.
As they quickly left the basement for bigger and better things in the 2008-09 season, I wanted everyone to know how big of a fan I was. I wore jerseys to school, posted about the Hawks on Facebook, and sought to prove that hockey was the best sport ever (side note – it’s not and your meme comparing the NHL and the NBA is tired and played if not outright racist).
As I’ve transitioned my fandom from optimistic childhood fan to severely disengaged (Martin Havlat deserves all credit for getting me interested again) to over-zealous fixation to whatever the hell this is now, I’ve come realize there is no way to say who is or isn’t a fan. You could say that watching the games is maybe the only requirement. But how many is enough? 1? 20? All of them? Who am I to tell you that you had to watch the Cubs when they were shit to truly enjoy the World Series?
If someone would rather spend their nights being productive rather than sitting on the couch for 3 hours every other night, that doesn’t make them less of a fan. And if someone doesn’t understand offsides or icing or accidentally says “quarters” instead of “periods”, that also doesn’t make them less of a fan, and pointing out their errors doesn’t make you more of a fan.
The true mark of a fan is how you feel when you are watching your team. It’s the anticipation you feel all day leading up to a playoff game. It’s the ability to get lost in a game, if only for a few moments. If you feel anything close to that, you are a fan regardless of your knowledge of the rules, how many games you have watched, or where you were born. Obviously, devoting more time to supporting a team could increase or decrease these feelings, but there is no threshold to pass to be a “real” fan.
Being a fan comes in all different shapes and sizes. Maybe you want to watch every game and buy as much merchandise as you can – it is a part of your DNA. Maybe you only watch when you have the time. Maybe you are a fair weather fan because you don’t want to waste the few precious moments of free time in your life watching a team continually disappoint you. And maybe you just like it because your partner is a fan.
Sports are weird. Deconstructing what sports are and how they affect us makes almost no sense. But sports can also be fun. We shouldn’t be taking that fun away from anyone no matter how much (or little) time and energy they waste on ultimately pointless and downright childish pastimes.