I’m getting a little tired of dealing with this. I’ve been analyzing the phenomenon for years now, and have blamed everything from Jim Rome to the internet to fantasy sports (discovery: they’re all partly to blame). But, my friends, it’s time to be more vocal about it: stop tolerating bad sports fans. Facebook is full of them. You know who I’m talking about. The know-it-all ESPN addict who changes his profile picture to a Saints logo hours before the divisional playoff game (and then swiftly changes it back to his grinning mug seconds after The Catch III). The sorority girl whose first sports-related status update in years is “let’s go Packers!!!!!!” (with additional exclamation points) but follows it up with zero admission of an end to her suddenly adopted sports season. The violently curse-laden sports expert who loves nothing better than telling you that your team is going to lose, but whose own allegiances seem to revolve weekly dependent on likelihood of success.
You see them all over the internet, where it’s easy to talk shit or feign expertise. You know where you won’t see them? In the real world, where fans gather to root for favorite teams, or in local stadiums where hometown pride actually means something. It seems to hinge very simply on the difference between who you think is going to win and who you want to win.
Let’s make this clear: there are two types of people for whom the think can take precedence over the want. The first is the professional (or habitual) gambler. This person needs to rely on whatever sports knowledge he or she has gleaned from watching and following sports. This, however, isn’t fandom. The gambler would be the first to admit it. That think turns into a want solely because of a placed bet, and not because of any kind of genuine interest in the teams or players involved.
The second type of person who gets away with emphasizing think over want is the sports analyst. The paid professional who is supposed to suppress fandom (oftentimes unsuccessfully) either in the interest of objectivity or for the generation of controversy. Nothing shy of politics gets debated more vehemently in the media, and, come playoff time, regardless of the sport, opinions and analyses are more varied and prevalent than a ninth grader’s Twitter feed. These analysts don’t particularly want one team or another to win, they just want to be viewed as insightful, entertaining, or, in the final outcome, correct.
Did I think the Giants were going to beat the Packers last weekend? No, I did not. I didn’t think there was any way the Rodgers-led touchdown machine was going to lose a playoff game at Lambeau. Did I want the Giants to beat the Packers? Hell yes I did. Because I wanted nothing more than an NFC Championship Game at the ‘Stick, on our home turf.
Sure, there are plenty of people who have legitimate ties to non-local teams, and I respect that. Your dad was a lifelong Packers fan, or your cousin played for the Cowboys in the 70’s. You hail from back east and have sought out BoSox radio broadcasts every season of every year I’ve known you. You grew up in the City but (for some reason) latched on to the A’s. I… grudgingly… accept that. Because you own it. And when one of those teams wins, you’ve earned it as a fan. But this braggadocio associated with predicting victories is beneath even bandwagon-jumpers. I know of one person who has earnestly adored Eli Manning since he first whined his way out of San Diego. The rest of the people cheering for the New York Giants this weekend either to be spiteful or trendy aren’t worth a damn.
Don’t ask me who I think is going to win this weekend, because it doesn’t fucking matter. I want the Niners to win, and that’s what being a sports fan is all about.