By Dayna O’Gorman
I spend a lot of time during the football season on social media. It’s a great place to meet other fans and talk about the game. It’s also a great place to see the wide variety and varying types of fans. Lately there has been a lot of chatter about real fans vs. fake fans, true fans vs. bandwagon fans. I decided to delve into this issue some and look at how NFL fans define these terms and why it is such a big deal to so many.
After watching many “You’re not a real fan” conversations on Twitter one day, I decided to ask my followers how they defined a Real Fan. I got many answers but for the most part the answer was the same. A Real Fan is someone who sticks with their team, win or lose. A Real Fan is a person who doesn’t switch allegiance, ever. A Real Fan is a fan through thick, thin, and rebuilding. However when I asked the same question regarding Fake Fans, the answers were all over the map. “Fake Fans question the coach.” “Fake Fans NEVER question the coach.” “Fake Fans don’t live in the same town as the team.” “Fake Fans only love teams when they are winning.” Lots of opinions about what Fake Fans are. Basically what it seems to come down to is this; there are no Real Fans or Fake Fans. Fandom is never that simple. It’s so complexly different for each person that it is impossible to lump everyone into two categories. A much broader scope is needed.
I love my Seattle Seahawks. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember. I’m the type of fan who gets so nervous when watching an important game, I sometimes have to leave the room. At the week 8 Monday Night Football game against the St Louis Rams, we had front row seats behind the Seahawks bench. I spent the last few plays of the game, the goal line stand that won the game for Seattle, with my back to the field and my hands over my eyes. I love the game so much, but it stresses me out. When I admitted that on social media, I was criticized and told I was too invested in the game. Others said they did the exact same thing. I have a dear friend who gets so angry when his favorite team loses, he now only allows himself to watch games at home. I know another fan who, when her team had lost a few games in a row, said, “Aww we suck again!” and then laughed. We all handle football and our love of it in many ways. All of them are the right way to be a fan.
The other fan issue that comes up a lot on social media is the Bandwagon fan. As teams get more popular, the fan base automatically seems to grow. When a team does well, the casual fan starts to pay more attention. Some of the more die-hard fans have issue with this, as they believe that those fans don’t deserve to enjoy the success of a team if you haven’t suffered through the bad seasons. I respectfully disagree. I live in Kansas City and last season it was next to impossible to find a Chiefs jersey being worn outside of Arrowhead Stadium. The 2-14 Chiefs had a very quiet, sad fan base. This season is a bit different. The local news did a story on how the companies who make Chiefs t-shirts and jerseys were running out of the correct red dye due to things selling so quickly. Winning does bring more fans, however I suggest that maybe it just makes all fans proud enough to literally wear their fandom on their shoulders. It makes it fun to be a fan again. It brings camaraderie back to Sundays.
The whole argument of what type of fan people are is an odd one. I wonder why we feel the need to classify fans in any way. In my opinion, NFL fans are the best fans in the world. There are so many different types of people, all loving the same sport. Different types of people bring all types of fans. Each brings their own brand of energy to the game. Instead of arguing about it on social media, maybe we should embrace the die-hard, casual, emotional, anxious, cheerleader, angry fans. We all know there is a little bit of each on in all of us.