COMMENTARY: Fandom in sports is a very complex concept
February 13, 2017
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It has been about a month since the former San Diego Chargers announced their move to Los Angeles. Since the team left, and even before the move was made official, many supporters of the team showed their disappointment.
According to New York Daily News, fans were dumping team jerseys in front of the Chargers’ stadium. Some fans went as far as burning the team flag at Chargers Park, the team’s practice facility. I find this display of support for your team confusing. Are you showing your team that you’re a fan when you’re burning team symbols?
In all my years of being a fan of teams, my fandom ranges from baseball and football to professional video games, I’ve never understood some of the hurtful things fans do to their teams and players. Even the concept of fandom itself is kind of a mystical thing.
Why does someone support one jersey over another, or one player over a team they’ve loved for years? Let’s explore some interesting examples.
As a supporter of any sports organization, I observed that unwritten rule to cheer on the team despite management making decisions I do not agree with. For example, when the New York Knicks made a terrible trade for Carmelo Anthony, Knicks fans were still Knicks fans. They were still fans even when the Knicks made that trade, and most would still be fans if ‘Melo leaves the team. Burning a team’s flag and not supporting the team because of their decision-making isn’t something that a “real fan” would do.
Sports fans can be fickle in their support for a specific player. This idea is very common in the pro-gaming world. Teams often gain a lot of fans when a player joins them. But, players can go from being loved to despised in the blink of an eye. One example is when League of Legends pro Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng left his longtime team Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) to join its rival, Team Solomid (TSM).
Some CLG fans were not pleased at Peng’s actions in the slightest, and he received an unprecedented amount of criticism on the Internet. Others followed Peng to TSM, and only support the team because he was on it.
Other examples would be LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, Johnny Damon leaving the Boston Red Sox for the New York Yankees, and Brett Favre eventually joining the Minnesota Vikings.
Fandom is an odd thing in the world of sports. People can be fans of a team for seemingly no reason, and then either vehemently defend their team or constantly berate them. It doesn’t seem like there’s a common theme for either kind of person.
One thing that remains constant, though, is that sports fans will always be passionate. They will always want their jersey to come across the finish line first, score the most points, or win a world championship. Fans make sports more exciting, and you don’t need an analysis to tell you that.
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