Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Trite Utterances of Subpar Sports "Fans", Volume One

The word "fan" is short for "fanatic." Thus, there is no such thing as a "casual fan." Casual fanatic? That's an oxymoron, it doesn't work. Casual follower, casual supporter, casual observer? Fine, fine, and fine. Should you dub yourself an actual fan, then you need to back it up. You need to know your team's players (I'm talking uniform numbers, ages, college attended if applicable, other organizations played for if any, and what their typical statistical seasons look like), coaching staff, front office figures, history (can't stress that enough), strengths, and weaknesses. You also must know virtually as much about your team's rivals - like they say, keep your friends close and enemies closer. Immerse yourself in the daily goings-on of the seasons. The more time and energy you invest, the more you get out of it on the good days, and the more right you have to be critical on the bad days. But even fandom has a limit. I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand. Across this line, you do not - you DO NOT refer to your team as "We."

The notion of "we" struck a chord with me when I was 12 years old and read this Rick Reilly column in SI about the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Reilly waxes poetic here:
"Most of all, I'm sick of Bulls fans. I'm sick of every fat, balding dry cleaner from Rockford wearing a number 23 jersey, screaming, 'Yeah, baby. We did it!' No, sir, you did not do it. They did it. You ingested nine Stroh's and three brats and sat in your Barcalounger screaming things nobody could hear, including your wife, who left in March."

With few exceptions, "we" is something said by a follower of sports who ultimately does not get it. It is a term used by bandwagon jumpers and by all others who lack perspective in one way or another. It is something said by people who own a green alternate t-shirt or jersey of their team even when the team has no green in its color scheme, just so they can wear it on St. Patrick's Day. It's for people who buy the authentic hat but never take the stickers off of it or wear it enough to break it in. It's for people who go to a bar clad in their team's gear yet have their backs turned to the TV on which their team is currently playing. It's for chowderheads up in Boston to say things like "we gat Lestah stahtin' tonight, and we gat Pahhpullbahhnn too!"

Let's make it clear. Unless you are on the roster or work for the team in a capacity larger than taping ankles or scanning ticket stubs, there is no "we." Stop trying to put yourself on the level of the most skilled athletes in the world, because, (brace yourself for this) that's not what you are. I am the biggest Cowboys and Yankees fan you will meet, but I understand that when either one of my teams win, it's because of a catch Jason Witten made in traffic and a big fumble forced by DeMarcus Ware, or because of a 2-out knock by Derek Jeter and a Houdini act pulled in the 6th by Andy Pettitte. It's not because of anything I did (my superstitious habits notwithstanding), it's all because of things they did. And interestingly enough, how often do you ever hear people say "we" in regards to their team after a bad game or bad season? It seems that "we" becomes a "they" pretty quickly when the other team has a bigger number on the scoreboard.

There are exceptions, like I said before. I don't mind someone saying "we" if they are related to someone on the team, or if they are a retired iconic figure for a certain team (i.e. if Bill Russell wants to refer to the Celtics as "we," it's not a problem). If you root for a college team and are currently enrolled at that school, then say "we" all you want. After you graduate, you have a few year grace period to say "we" as long as there are still guys playing on the team who were there when you were in school. After that, your alma mater's teams cease being a "we" or "us."

And finally, if you are a member of the media, saying "we" is forbidden - even if you work for a local network, even if you work for a local network as devoid of professionalism as those in the Philadelphia market. Mitch Williams makes himself sound like the biggest moron homer in the world when he refers to the Phillies as "we" while working as television analyst. There's no place for that on the radio, on television, or in print media (remember what that is?). Can't have it, no matter the forum.

All I ask is that you listen to yourself when you speak. When you do so, not only will you sound more articulate, but it will also give you a new found outlook on the way people express themselves. Plus it lets you enjoy the pastime of making fun of those who fail to listen to the words that come out of their very own mouths. A dual-serving purpose if I've ever seen one.

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