We’re midway through the regular football season. For fans, this is the apogee of our year. It’s better than the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, Santa Claus and a thousand birthdays rolled into one. Regardless of whether our team is winning or losing, we show up every week, fully-charged and ready to represent. ‘Tis the season, baby. However, to the non-fans out there, we are, at best, a puzzling curiosity and, at worst, an irritating nuisance. You look at us with amusement, indifference or sometimes, downright disgust. Mostly, I think you just don’t understand us. I am an official fan of the Seattle Seahawks and an earnest follower of the NFL. While I don’t presume to speak for all the football fans out there, I do think the following points can shed a little light on who we are, who we’re not and how we tick. In the spirit of peace, love and football, let’s jump in.
We’re not all drunken Neanderthals. It’s unfortunate that to many people, this is the archetype of the American football fan. Sure, that guy is a fixture in sports bars and football stadiums across the U.S. He’s loud. He’s obnoxious. He picks dumb fights and throws up on his shoes. Guys like that give the rest of us a bad name. He’s like the dude who lets his pooch crap all over the place and doesn’t pick it up. Because of him, other dog owners get the stink eye, especially from the neighbor with the pristine green lawn and the perfectly manicured hedges. It’s become an unfair and inaccurate symbol. But I think every demographic has its own version of the stupid inebriate. You find them at rock shows, soccer matches, the occasional PTA meeting and so on. They’re not exclusive to football and they certainly don’t epitomize the average fan.
Football is a smart game. Despite the concussions, ugly hits and overall brutality associated with the sport, there’s a lot going on in terms of strategy, rules and execution. An intelligent drive is a beautiful thing. The masterful weave between a running and passing game is wondrous. The rules (and attendant calls) are an endless source of spirited debate and discussion. A pick-six is like a sports orgasm. I could go on and on here. The point is that we fans are geeks for all of it. Throughout the course of any given game, we’re happily navigating numerous variables. We love it all– from the power sacks to the technical minutia. That said, you don’t have to go deep into the finer points of the game to be a fan. The basics work.
We tend to travel in packs. This isn’t necessarily true for all hardcore fans but many of us have our own football tribes with whom we congregate on game days. My tribe, which I’ve lately been affectionately referring to as “Team Pepper” after our canine sidekick, meets faithfully every Sunday (or Monday night, or Thursday…whatever the case may be). It’s a weekly ritual, like church but better. We get situated with our beer, diet sodas and tortilla chips, take our lucky seats and blast off. For the next 3-4 hours we yell, high-five, groan and jump around. We’re like kids on the playground. It’s pure unsullied enthusiasm. How often to people in our culture, especially adults, share that? The people in my tribe are smart, dedicated and excruciatingly funny. Nobody makes me laugh harder than they do. Game days are the best part of my week and hang with the tribe is sacred. We are just one of what I’m sure are thousands of fan clans across the country. Football builds community and makes people happy.
You know that guy with the wacky wig and the head-to-toe body paint? We’re not he. That dude is awesome but is probably only representative of about one percent of the football fan population. Body paint guy is the Mega Fan. There is something in his psychology that defies logic or understanding. He lives in the stratospheres of fandom. He answers to a higher calling. I often wonder what kind of relationship sacrifices the Mega Fan makes to relentlessly support his team to the rabid extent he does. While many of us may aspire to that level of greatness, few can go the distance. To have a peek at some of the NFL’s top Mega Fans, go here.
We can’t help it. We’re crazy for this shit and we can’t make it stop. Some of us come by it naturally because we grew up in football households. For others, it’s learned behavior. Still, we can’t rein in our enthusiasm and we love to share. To quote Devo: “Uncontrollable urge, I wanna tell you all about it. Got an uncontrollable urge, let me scream and shout it!” (Just substitute “we” for I and “us” for “me.”) Sometimes we get carried away, especially on social media. I’ve received more than a few snide remarks about my running commentary during the games. (I’m trying to dial it back lest I become the Mega Fan of Facebook.) But geez, just like other people get off on posting You Tube videos and inspirational quotes, we love our game chatter. We kind of egg each other on actually. Our passion is visceral. We just can’t sit still for very long. (Note to fans: Twitter is fab for football. Just hashtag your team and you’ll find your people. You’ll also find your favorite players and a few pretty cool sports bloggers. And if you miss something during the game because you went to the bathroom or whatever, you can get the blow by blow on the Twitter feed when you get back.) By the way- GO SEAHAWKS!
We have fun and we are fun. We holler, we pound, we celebrate and we roar. We rattle the shack. We tell great jokes and we make rockin’ artichoke dip. We bust the best moves and in some cities, we’re even known to trigger seismic activity. We have an exquisite relationship to joy and I believe it’s mighty infectious. My fave player Richard Sherman once said to sports commentator Skip Bayless, “I’m better at life than you.” Perhaps football fans could say, “We’re better at fun.”
We’re everywhere. We are school teachers, doctors, pilots and graphic designers. We’re writers, architects, lawn bowlers, jazz musicians and attorneys. We’re little kids and old ladies. We’re computer nerds, beauty queens, metal heads and homeroom moms. We’re tall. We’re short. We’re rolling in cash. We’re hanging on by our fingernails. We’re Republicans, Democrats and everything in-between and beyond. We’re Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and agnostic. We deliver your mail, groom your dog and bag your groceries. We have college degrees and GEDs. We live in condos downtown. We share trailers in rural communities. We elude a tidy stereotype. We’re just people who happen to be football fans.
So that’s the lowdown. Football fans aren’t that different than anyone else. We put our trousers on one leg at a time. Our kids throw fits in the supermarket. We have library cards. We’re excitable but harmless. We’re not out to beat you up, or get your dog drunk or drive a monster truck with a 12th man flag across your front lawn. We’re not particularly stupid either. We’ve just got this mad love. And we’re never going to stop. You know that, right?