20 Things That Stink About Being a Sports Fan
Being a sports fan is a bittersweet experience for all the same reason that a sport itself is bittersweet: If there is a winner, then there has to be a loser.
Yeah, the process is a little more nuanced for the NHL and NASCAR, but at the end of the season, one team is a champion and the rest...are not.
Thankfully, this tension generally makes being a fan a mostly awesome experience, on average—with some exceptions—because it’s in our nature to always have a thread of hope or at least embrace the futility with gusto. Chicago Cubs fans have turned losing into a lovable identity, so there has to be some incentive to keep going to the ballpark even though the outcome is all but guaranteed.
However, there are plenty of things that make your pride—your tireless dedication—more of a curse than an act of chivalry.
The fact is that you are not going to be cheering on any ticker tape parade in 2013, not because your team doesn’t have a shot, but because of the cold, heartless force of probability (or in the case of a lockout, maybe no season at all).
Falling short, or way short, of a championship is only one crappy element of being a fan. The sports universe is nothing if not sadistic; if you’re resilient, it will find new and creative ways to break you. Just ask a New York Jets fan.
These are the 20 things that stink about being a sports fan.
20. The Offseason Depression
I can't tell you how many times I, along with many people I follow on Twitter, tweeted "I miss football" during the 2012 offseason.
The offseason for fans of any sport is difficult because it forces many of us to face the stark realities of our boring lives that are much easier to ignore when there's a game on three to five times a week.
Watching sports isn't just an escape, either; it also brings people together and gets them out of the house to gather with like-minded individuals.
It's a ritual. A social activity. A reason to dress alike. An excuse for drinking before noon. And just a great way to pass time with friends or chillaxing with the family on a Sunday afternoon.
Then, all that is just suddenly ripped away for months at a time.
Seriously, how do you think purple spandex Superman guy is going to feel in February? Where else but a Minnesota Vikings game could he wear that outfit without getting his ass kicked?
Nowhere. It's brutal.
19. The Time Commitment
The time commitment is the other side of the coin for the offseason depression.
Instead of having too much time on your hands, your schedule can be stretched thin during certain parts of the year.
Seriously, I know someone who takes off from work and has his groceries delivered during NCAA March Madness.
18. Nice Guys Tend to Finish Last
With all the attention, effusive praise and biting envy heaved at the “evil geniuses” who are heralded as both architect and enabler of championships, it seems strange to consider that the vast majority of fans hate that person at any given moment.
It’s as though mythic figures like New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant extend their game beyond the field or court and into your head.
Most people don’t know what it’s like to be a proud alumnus of a powerhouse football program coached by Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. Our teams lose to Nick Saban.
The reality is that not everyone has ice water running through their veins, but most modern championship-caliber players and teams do.
This is why, when that lovely, grandfather-like figure, Tony Dungy, does the unthinkable and turns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a very good NFL team, Jon Gruden swoops in moments after he is fired and promptly wins a Super Bowl in his first season.
As a fan, it’s tough to swallow the fact that a weasel like USC head coach Lane Kiffin keeps getting amazing job opportunities, despite the outrage of the world outside Los Angeles—unless, of course, you are a fan of the Trojans.
17. The Cost
It is freaking expensive to be a sports fan these days. Tickets to most professional sporting events are expensive all on their own. Then you add gas, parking, food, booze and souvenirs on top of that, and you've got yourself quite a bill.
Although, one day of splurging every once in awhile wouldn't be so bad if everything else weren't so damn expensive. There are a lot of everyday fan costs that have nothing to do with a day at the ballpark, for instance:
NFL Sunday Ticket:
If you live somewhere other than where your team is located, you have to pay if you want to catch all of the games. You can either pay in the form of food and booze at a sports bar, or you can pay in the form of DirecTV's Sunday Ticket.
The latter of which will cost you several hundred dollars for the season.
Every true sports fan has a nice little collection of team apparel and other merchandise they use to display their team pride. A replica NFL jersey will set you back about $85, while the official jerseys cost upwards of $300.
And just when you think you're set, the team comes out with yet another throwback or variation on the original.
Many of us like to gather in groups to watch games, which means shouldering the costs of entertaining every now and again. Whether you host the events or just attend, the costs add up over the course of a season.
Print media is dying and everyone knows it. Which is why many websites have started putting their best content behind a pay wall, knowing full well that eventually you'll have no other option but to suck it up and pay.
And that's just the stuff off the top of my head. Being a fan of any team in any sport comes with a plethora of year-round costs.
16. The Shame of Scandals
Losing is one thing. But when you find yourself having to defend bad, often criminal, behavior by one or more players or staff on your favorite team, you learn that being an apologist has its limits.
Even if you truly believe that its your team against the world and that now—more than ever—society should embrace the American principle of innocent until proven guilty, the headlines and sordid details take their toll.
No team or athlete is immune to scandal. The only question is when, why and to what magnitude?
As a fan, the scandal is one time you are truly an innocent accomplice; however, every rival out there has already concluded you're guilty by association.
The New Orleans Saints and Bountygate represent one of those rare, precious minerals of a scandal, where key participants like Jonathan Vilma pursue every legal remedy and largely emerge victorious.
But more often than not, scandals are a season-threatening distraction, at best...an NCAA death sentence, at worst.
Previously untouchable football programs like Penn State and Ohio State were rocked by scandals—the Jerry Sandusky scandal obviously going far beyond rules infractions and recruiting violations.
Consider Tiger Woods: Over nearly two decades of intense media scrutiny, he maintained the facade of the all-American phenom with a beautiful family. In a matter of hours, one early November morning in 2009, it all came crashing down.
As a fan, you have no measure of control, except to hope for the best. And it sucks.
15. Dealing with Non-Sports Fans
This one usually hits pretty close to home because who cares about non-sports fans who are on the periphery of your social circle or purely professional work colleagues?
It's the non-sports fans in your inner circle who have the capability of ruining almost anything and seem to work on ways to perfect that art as the years roll on. Based on my vast experience, the usual suspects include:
Always asking questions like, "When is this going to be over? There's something on the Hallmark Channel I've been dying to see."
Maybe she loved sports when you first met, but her interest faded slowly over time. Now, if you can even get her to sit down and watch a game, she constantly says things like, "Oh calm down, it's just a game!" or "What just happened?"
No malice here—little kids just have really short attention spans. They may play sports or like sports overall, but getting them to sit through a game, let alone having a serious discussion about the sad state of the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, is out of the question.
Angsty Teenagers: We all went to high school and know that teenagers are little jags who go out of their way to hate everything. My family isn't known for teenage jocks, so I've dealt with my share of this type in recent years.
The Friend You've Grown Apart From: Remember when you were young and the two of you loved all the same things? Like trading hockey cards that weren't worth the paper they were printed on and sitting on the roof goofing on people walking by? Then a decade later she's obsessed with knitting and baking cupcakes, and you're like WTF.
14. Watching Athletes Throw It All Away
Most of us would kill for the opportunity to play the sport that we love for a living and get paid millions for the privilege.
That's why it's so frustrating and disappointing to watch so many athletes take their talent and opportunity for granted.
Many athletes struggle with personal demons and take on the unsustainable financial burden of providing too much for too many. The stress from which could weigh anyone down after a while. And then there are others who are just lazy, unappreciative jags.
(See: Albert Haynesworth.)
13. Nothing Is Ever Fair. Like, Ever.
As sports fans—heck, as human beings—we all have a very acute sense of what we believe is fair and unfair.
But when it comes to sports the degree of fairness is generally equal to how something impacts your team, both positively and negatively.
Unfair: That pass interference call!
Fair: The exact same call against the other team.
See what I mean?
There is unfairness running rampant in the sports world, but everyone has a different opinion of what is fair and unfair. And it doesn't even matter if it's rational or even if it makes sense.
Here are 10 things I think are unfair in sports:
1. The NHL lockout.
2. The New York Yankees.
3. Skip Bayless being rich and successful.
4. The Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers in 2011.
6. Special treatment of special quarterbacks.
7. Anything that ends in a tie. (I know, that doesn't make sense.)
8. ESPN's ban on hockey.
9. The New England Patriots injury report.
10. LeBron James.
12. Being at the Mercy of Ownership
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is almost universally considered one of the best owners in all of professional sports. Jones acquired the Cowboys in 1989 for a mere $140 million, and today the team is worth a whopping $1.85 billion, making it the third most valuable sports franchise in the entire world.
His first decade in Dallas was an amazing success, but Jones and his beloved Cowboys have been unable to find consistent success in the salary-cap era.
Many believe it's because he refuses to cede GM responsibilities. Whatever his faults though, there's no question Jones wants to win and is willing to do whatever it takes. I'm pretty sure he'd sell his soul for another Super Bowl. But what if he wouldn't?
Unfortunately, there are far more owners who are content to pay out the minimum for maximum profit and minimal success. They have the leverage to hold a city hostage with stadium demands, and if those aren't met, they can uproot the team and go somewhere else.
Ownership is everything in professional sports—very few bad owners win championships.
11. Joe Buck (and All the Other Announcers We Hate)
There are very few national sports commentators and analysts who aren't universally reviled.
I think a part of that is most of us are just unabashed homers at heart and have no patience for anyone who dares to say anything that isn't exactly what we want to hear.
I will definitely admit to being a bit oversensitive to media outside my hometown when it comes to my teams.
But, on the other hand, there's just no denying the wretchedness of people like Joe Buck, Jim Nantz and most of their ilk.
I don't like what they say. I don't like how they say it. I just don't like them.
And, from what I've read on the interweb, most of you are with me on this.
10. Dealing with Fans of Opposing Teams
Sports fans can be extremely passionate, and sometimes they take their team's battle on the field into the real world.
Don't get me wrong—the vast majority of fans are civilized human beings who can engage in some goodnatured ribbing without crossing the line, but there are always a few bad apples that spoil the bunch.
With all the violent incidents and altercations that have taken place in and outside stadiums in recent years, it has gotten to the point where many fans are thinking twice about attending an away game—let alone wearing their team's jersey on the road.
Although, if you should see someone brave enough to wear…say…a Dallas Cowboys jersey to a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, it might be you who is in trouble. In September 2011 a "diehard" Cowboys fan was arrested in the Meadowlands after injuring three people with a stun gun he managed to sneak into the game on the 10-year anniversary of 9-11.
9. Dealing with Your Own
One of the greatest things about being a sports fan is the camaraderie you share with your fellow sports fan.
I know from personal experience that you can be walking down any street in the world with a Steelers shirt, and you are likely to be approached by strangers who greet you like family because you are both part of Steeler Nation.
It's kind of like a giant family, and just like in real families, there are plenty of people who wouldn't otherwise be in the same room together if someone or something weren't compelling them to be there.
Sports fandom is a very big tent, and oftentimes you are sharing it with people who like to take their shirts off, scream obscenities and drink till they puke.
Or maybe you are someone who likes to take your shirt off, scream obscenities and drink till you puke and find it difficult to deal with the people who would prefer not to throw snowballs at Santa.
This one really goes without saying, but I guess I should say it: Lockouts suck.
I routinely give MLB crap for being an uncompetitive welfare state, but I also give it credit for keeping its players on the field. Work stoppages every five years used to be commonplace in baseball, but it has been 17 years since the last strike.
NFL fans lived under the looming threat of a lockout for two years before it actually happened in 2011. The lockout didn't end up costing the league any games, but it was still a long and unpleasant process. Months later, NBA fans lost several weeks of the 2011-12 season to a lockout.
And then there's the NHL—the most lockout-loving league in professional sports.
The NHL is currently in the midst of its fourth lockout in the last 20 years. The lockout during the 1994-95 season forced the league to cut the games in half, while the entire 2004-05 season was lost. And it's starting to look like the 2011-12 season may suffer the same unfortunate fate.
7. The Interpersonal Conflicts
In a perfect world, every sports fan in our lives would have the same team allegiances and the same level of devotion.
Unfortunately, that's not the world in which we live.
The friends and family who have grown up close to you often share the same allegiances, but their level of devotion tends to vary by age, gender and the ages of their children. People without kids will understand that.
Things can get complicated enough within your inner circle, but going away to college or entering the work force often exacerbate those already strained relations while, at the same time, creating a whole new minefield.
At least in college you're drunk most of the time and your professional sports allegiances can be put aside because people unite behind the university team.
On the job is where things can get really dicey, particularly if you leave your hometown for more profitable pastures—like Washington, D.C.
I can personally attest to the superficially friendly work environment of your average office, but thanks to the various sports allegiances, there's a river of repressed bitterness and smug judgement flowing just below the surface.
6. The Devastation of Defeat
Losing is the absolute worst, and it happens a lot in sports.
There are so many ups and downs in sports. During the season, most fans bounce back and forth between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But in the end only one team wins a championship—leaving everyone else on the outside looking in.
Some fans deal with losing better than others. For the most fanatical fans out there with no coping mechanisms, a loss can trigger situational depression that can be brought on by "extremely stressful or hopeless circumstances." There have even been a number of suicides reported by fans despondent after a loss.
Which means the girl in this clip needs an intervention, because if she's going to fall to pieces every time the Minnesota Vikings lose to the Green Bay Packers, she's going to lead a very depressing life.
5. You'll Never Be as Amazing as This Fan
Everyone wants to be the best fan possible. Anytime you're at a live sporting event, whether you realize it or not, you are in direct competition with thousands of fellow fans to be the most amazing one in the stands.
Some of us rise to the challenge, while others wilt under the pressure.
Boston Celtics superfan Jeremy Fry rose to the challenge when he was caught seemingly off-guard on the Jumbotron during a game in 2009. Instead of giving a polite wave, Fry jumped out of his seat and gave a lip-synching performance to "Living on a Prayer" that was so epic that it put Jon Bon Jovi, himself, to shame.
It's like the high-water mark of fandom has already been met, and the rest of us will forever be living in Jeremy Fry's shadow.
True story: I was once featured on the Jumbotron at the Civic Arena during one of those "get up and dance" numbers, and I responded by grabbing my friend, tripping and spilling my Pepsi—in that order.
4. Your Enemies Can Wield Your Fandom as a Weapon Against You
If you're a sports fan with a lot of opinions and a big mouth, you've probably made a few sports enemies over the years.
And you know full well that said enemies are ready, willing and able to use your fandom as a weapon against you whenever the opportunity presents itself.
If your team has a bad run of luck, an extended reign of futility or a controversial player, expect them to throw it in your face as a first or last resort. Personally, I like to engage in rowdy debates, but I can't tell you how many of them in recent seasons have ended abruptly with "Well…at least our quarterback isn't a rapist!"
It's not a valid, debate-winning point, but I'm certainly not going to come out a winner by trying to discuss the weak legalities of the rape accusations against Ben Roethlisberger.
Game. Set. Match.
(Unless it's a Ravens fan—then I can pull out the Ray Lewis double-murder card. BOOM.)
3. Dealing with the Incompetency of Referees
Seriously, if there's anything that almost every sports fan can agree on is that the "refs suck."
It doesn't matter the sport, the city or the team—all referees, everywhere, suck. There's a very fundamental level to disliking the people ultimately in charge, but this goes deeper than the human inclination to rebel against "the man."
The 2007 NBA betting scandal that involved at least 13 referees has made it so the zebras lost credibility in the sport forever. The referees in the NHL have a strict policy of making completely arbitrary calls. Umpires in MLB oppose instant replay because they're drunk with power and enjoy ending playoff runs with bogus infield fly calls.
Terrible as they may be, NFL fans got a cold, hard reality check in 2012 when the regular referees were locked out and replaced with a rag-tag bunch of nobodies through the first month of the season. The replacement refs were a nightmare, but it took a botched call that cost the Green Bat Packers a game in late September to finally get them off the field.
And we all learned a lesson. The referees in every sport have always, and will always, suck, but it's definitely possible for them to suck worse.
2. Fallen Heroes
As one of Lance Armstrong's last defenders, this one hit me particularly hard.
Even when he announced he was giving up his fight against the doping accusations that had plagued him for years, I thought maybe he was just too exhausted to fight anymore. But shortly thereafter, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released its damming report, which left little doubt that Armstrong was guilty.
Not only was Armstrong apparently guilty of doping himself, but he is the alleged ringleader of what has been called the "biggest doping conspiracy in sports history."
It's always hard to accept when someone you looked up to in sports is proven to be a cheat and a liar.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and all the ugliness of MLB's steroid era saw countless fallen heroes.
And neither Tiger Woods' career nor his reputation have returned to form since the infamous cheating scandal and subsequent divorce that made headlines in 2009.
1. The Freaking Stress of It All
Stress kills—we've all heard this before.
Countless studies on the subject have been done over the years, and it has been well established that stress ravages the human body. Constant stress makes people more susceptible to ailments that range in severity from the common cold to cancer. It can also impact digestion, sex drive, physical growth and reproduction.
Some causes of stress, like work and family, are unavoidable. But that which comes from being a sports fan may be one of the greatest stresses we willing bring on ourselves.
In fact, the most die-hard among us could actually die from fandom. That's not just my standard-issue hyperbole, either—science says so.
A 2008 study in The New England Journal Medicine found that, during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, cardiac emergencies tripled for men and doubled for women on days the German team played. It didn't even matter how well the team played or the importance of the match itself—the results were always the same.
For everything else that sucks about being a sports fan, follow me, Amber Lee, over on the Twitter machine. i'll school you in the art of complaining. Follow @blamberr