The Casual Fan: A Burr in My Saddle

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The Casual Fan: A Burr in My Saddle
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

How long does it take you to spot a casual fan? You know who I’m talking about: the guy with the Gretzky sweater who knows who won last night’s game, but not the winning goaltender.

The Jeter jersey who sits behind home plate jawing the entire game, waving manically while on a cell phone, with no idea who’s on the mound.

The suit sipping Chablis and nibbling on cheese, watching the action in the climate-controlled comfort of a corporate box, eyeing the TV more than the field.

That guy.

It’s not that I dislike these types. It’s more like they’re an itch in the middle of my back, annoying but not life threatening.

Posers. Faux fans placed here to irritate those who appreciate the more subtle aspects of sports.

They’re the ones who talk at an Albert Pujols batting clinic or take pictures on Tiger’s backswing. In proper context, it would be me farting at an Oprah taping on dinner party etiquette.

Casual fans don’t live under the microscope, panning for meaningless nuggets of information. They don’t lose sleep over a blown save or wasted two-on-one break. They don’t call in sick to partake in a fantasy draft.

They’re perfectly happy skimming the surface, reading only the headlines served up by the local paper, rooting for a home-team victory, nevermind the details.

Casual fans many times have favorite teams by default. They harvest information from the easiest sources.

Take “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys. This title came by default. Everybody knows it wasn’t because of the stars on the helmets or the stars on the field. There are plenty of those to go around.

No, it was the hot pants on the cheerleaders. Come on, ya know it’s true.

The Cowboys received coverage because they had hot-as-a-Dallas-summer cheerleaders. With all the cameras rolling, the drama soon unfolded. Coverage increased exponentially...and so did the fanbase.

A friend always says a Cowboys fan is likely someone who lives in Dallas or someone who doesn’t know much about football. That might be taking things to an extreme, but I think it tackles the issue pretty well.

A casual fan can pick up quickly on all things Dallas. Jerseys are easy to acquire. News is a cinch to obtain. We’re not talking the Tennessee Titans here, where you’d have to rely on Titans.com for merchandise or the local cable jockeys for information.

The same principle applies to other overexposed teams as well. I know I’ve spotted a casual fan as soon as I see the stylized NY on the crown of the baseball cap. Or a “Bryant” stitched across the back of a goldfinch jersey.

I’m not immune to this theory. I offer myself as a perfect example in the field of soccer.

I‘m no fan of soccer...er, football. I just don’t care for it. But if I was to become a fan, chances are good I’d be a fan of Manchester United.

Why? Because it’s really the only team I can name. Thanks to Mr. Beckham and his stylish footies, they seem to get all the press, a lion’s share of the attention.

If I’m going to buy a jersey, as a casual fan, I want some familiarity. Go Manchester!

It’s as easy as that.

Same with NASCAR. Johnson. Gordon. Junior. It’s a three-car race.

God bless ‘em, casual fans just want to belong. They want desperately to be a part of the morning-after water cooler clique, and sports is many times an automatic ticket to the inner circle.

They’ll wait for a break in the action and toss out a SportsCenter sound bite, beaming at their own aptitude. But ask them about the Orioles or Blue Jays, and it’s bye, bye birdie.

No, I don’t hate casual fans...unless they’re warming the seat of a real fan. That guy in the second row...with the cell phone, waving like an idiot...get him OUT of there!

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