Nearly every team worth a damn has its share of devoted fans who are there through good times and through bad. Willing to weather the storm when days are dark and bask in the glow of the warm and glorious sun when things improve.
If things improve.
Not that it matters anyway, particularly for the superfans out there. In fact, it's their enthusiasm through the worst of times, not the best of times, that often helps distinguish the superfans from the standard season ticket holders that refuse to let go—just in case.
Although, not all superfans are created equal. Some have been shockingly dedicated to celebrating mediocrity for decades, while others have developed a superfan persona to semi-celebrity status in the social media age.
Either way, you remember their names. For the most part.
Here are some superfans you probably already know by name. And if you don't, you will in a few minutes. Which may or may not be a good thing.
The Banjo Man, whose driver's license probably says Stacy Samuels, has been serenading fans at home games in the Bay Area dating back to 1985. He's been in the Oakland area forever and has been playing the banjo since the age of eight.
Early in his career, Banjo Man entertained the crowds at Warriors, 49ers, A's, and the former USFL Oakland Invaders team. His shows at Candlestick Park back in the day received enough attention to earn Banjo Man a permanent place in NFL history as part of the fans exhibit at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Obviously they value tradition on the left coast, because after the national anthem was played before the 49ers-Packers playoff game in January 2013, Banjo Man treated the crowd to a little "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" before kick off.
Banjo Man is a Bay Area treasure and quite the talented musician to boot. If you're wondering what it would be like to live a "day in the life" of Banjo Man, wonder no more. Click here.
The downtrodden St. Louis Blues may not have any Stanley Cup championships to hang their helmets on, but that doesn't mean they don't inspire enthusiasm among their faithful. One of the Blues' most enthusiastic and most faithful fan is Ron Baechle, also known as "Towel Man."
Towel Man has been celebrating each home goal by by throwing a towel into the crowd since 1990. According to a 2006 profile in The New York Times, Towel Man even has (or had) his very own hockey card with all his vital statistics on the back.
Apparently there was a time when Towel Man was "as much a celebrity as Wayne Gretzky, Al MacInnis, and Brett Hull." At least according to writer Vincent Mallozzi, although that sounds like a case of journalistic hyperbole if I've ever heard one.
That being said, Towel Man remains a pretty big deal down in St. Louis. In November 2012, in the midst of the NHL lockout, local network affiliate KMOV ran a story boasting Towel Man's inclusion of Sports Illustrated's "Noteworthy Sports Superfans" list.
Hopefully that makes up for the Blues' first-round exit in the 2013 NHL Playoffs.
Aside from the sporadic one-and-done playoff appearance, the Chiefs haven't had much to cheer about since the 1960s. But everyone knows that being a superfan doesn't have anything to do with championships.
It has to do with a love of the game.
A love of the team.
Chiefs superfan Belly Boy isn't in it for Super Bowl glory—otherwise he'd have moved to Pittsburgh, New York or Boston by now. Not that he doesn't enjoy the attention he receives from female fans from time to time!
Belly Boy has been baring his bulbous bare belly and donning his cape for 15 years, but he was nearly forced into retirement last season. In October 2012 Belly Boy announced his semi-retirement, which was a temporary monetary boycott of all things Chiefs until general manager Scott Pioli was fired.
He added, "P.S. All I want for Christmas is Pioli FIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Obviously Santa was listening.
Retired Army veteran Craig Rose, a 26-year-old Illinois native, didn't attend Kansas State or grow up cheering for the Wildcats. It wasn't until a few years ago that he officially adopted them as his heart and soul, when he was stationed nearby at Fort Riley.
Rose's support of the team eventually developed into superfandom in 2012, which is when he created "The Mask," his K-State superfan alter ego. He uses Twitter and YouTube videos to aggravate the Wildcats' opposition. Well…more like the fans of their opposition.
The video he created prior to their game with West Virginia in October surely didn't endear The Mask to Mountaineer fans. His over-the-top hillbilly stereotypes, and accompanying musical number, sure got tempers flaring and couches burning in Morgantown.
The controversy forced Kansas State President Kirk Schultz to "distance himself and his university from the sentiments therein." Schultz said he believed the "trash-talking" went overboard and should be kept "sort of … at a family level."
Whatever that means.
Despite the sentiment of "the man," for every enemy Rose's online antics have earned him in West Virginia, they've earned him double the admirers among the K-State faithful. Which, I'm sure, he's just fine with.
Superfan Lorin "Big Lo" Sandretzky is a fan of all sports Seattle. Which may not sound like anything special today, but there were a few years in the mid-2000s when being a Seattle sports fan was about as much fun as having a colonoscopy at gunpoint.
Seriously. A colonoscopy probably would've have been more fun, which is why the "at gunpoint" caveat had to be added. In 2005 The Seattle Times chronicled the ups and downs, mostly downs, of Big Lo. The profile begins with him and the writer at Boeing Field on a snowy winter night.
Big Lo was there to shovel snow off the cars for members of the SuperSonics an hour before the team plane landed. And he was doing it for free—if not for fun. Life hasn't always been kind to him, and sports fanaticism is an escape.
By 2008, the sports situation in Seattle had become even more bleak. The Sonics were essentially on their way out of town, the Mariners were Pittsburgh Pirates level of abysmal, and the Seahawks looked nothing like the team that made the Super Bowl in 2006.
That year Big Lo was the focus of an Outside The Lines report entitled, "Think the last 12 months were rough? It could be worse. You could be a sports fan in Seattle." The sad state of the Emerald City (worse, even, than Cleveland) was seen through his eyes.
And it was sad. But today things are looking up for Seattle sports, which means they're looking up for their No. 1 superfan too. Today Big Lo hosts his own sports online radio show, and promises to always put a positive spin on things. I'd expect nothing less!
Celtics superfan Aztec Gino actually had a history of being an enthusiastic member of a crowd long before he officially adopted Boston's boys in green back in 2008. According to his official bio, he's from Trinidad and Tobago and traveled all over the word participating in Carnivals.
AG is also a big soccer fan too—he attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Although Aztec Gino didn't become a regular at Celtics games until '08, he's been a fan of the team since he was in college back in 1986.
And apparently that unique nickname of his isn't self-appointed, like that of so many superfans. It seems it was given to him by another fan who spotted him at the Garden and just thought he looked like an Aztec Gino.
His antics were picked as one of the Boston Globe's top video picks of 2011 and more recently he was described as "A staple at the Garden" by the Boston Herald.
A staple indeed. AG is now a season ticket holder who you can track down in Section 16, Row F. Tell him Amber sent you.
Ohio State superfan Buck-I-Guy was born and raised in Columbus. A lifelong Buckeyes fan, he attended his first game in 1977 and has been doing his thing ever since.
In his real life, he's known as computer supply salesman John Chubb, a husband and father of three. But he's better known to the world as Buck-I-Guy, who sports a cape and rocks a 10-gallon cowboy hat at OSU home games.
In March 2012 he survived a brush with death when he crashed his car after colliding with what must have been a Michigan-possessed wild turkey. The bird slammed into his windshield, crashed through the glass, and hit Chubb square in the face.
Thankfully, he has since fully recovered and was spotted at OSU's Spring Game in Cincinnati in April 2013. Hopefully, Buck-I-Guy really enjoyed the trip though, because his trademark convertible was pictured on the business end of a tow truck while in town.
Something tells me he has no regrets. If he doesn't regret the cape…he probably doesn't regret anything. For more on the Guy behind the Buck-I, check out this 2010 profile from Ohio State's campus paper The Lantern.
Cubs superfan Ronnie "Woo-Woo" Wickers got his nickname from the enthusiastic cheers he used to end with a "Woo!" at Wrigley Field. His ability to shout for hours at a time earned him the nickname "Leather Lungs" by legendary broadcaster Harry Caray.
Wickers has been one of the Cubbies' most faithful fans, having attended nearly every home game since the 1960s. Which, according to an ESPN profile, included "an eight-year span in the 1980s when he was homeless." Woo-Woo managed to beg or borrow his way into Wrigley Field for over half a century.
Apparently this superfan is both beloved and bemoaned by the Cubs faithful, it just depends on who you ask. Some appreciate the passion he brings, while others envy his "freebies" and can't tolerate his incessant yelling during games.
Ronnie Woo-Woo doesn't let the haters get him down, though, even the ones that enjoy flipping him the bird. He says he's been dealing with that kind of thing his entire life and has learned to take the high road. Opting to smile and nod, rather than dish it back.
The Cubs have been the one constant in his life, he added. "People might get a divorce, find a new wife or die, but you still got the Cubs." Spoken like a true superfan.
Count me among those who had no idea that Dolphins superfan Big Papa Pump even existed until he started talking trash about the retirement of Jets superfan Fireman Ed in November 2012. His rant on ESPN 790 The Ticket in Miami took Fireman Ed to task for being a "wuss" and a "disgrace."
BPP went on to extol the virtue of superfandom, explaining that it means supporting the team through good times and bad. Not for nothing, but if Jets fans didn't already believe that, they wouldn't have any fans left at all.
Same with the Dolphins, actually.
But back to Big Papa Pump! I was actually quite pleased to learn of his existence, considering the 'Fins need all the support they can get these days.
And he's not just some publicity-seeking Johnny-come-lately who was born from the ashes of Fireman Ed. He's got his very own website and his existence dates back to at least 2005.
The Florida State "Cowgirls" became an instant sensation in 2005 when ABC's Brent Musburger commented about the potential impact a few hotties in cowboy hats could have on FSU applications during a live broadcast.
Among the coeds attracting the easily distracted Musburger was Jenn Sterger, of Brett Favre sex scandal fame. Whether the busty superfans were an official "thing" prior to that is unclear, but they certainly have been one ever since.
Every member of each new class of Cowgirls to join "Cowgirl Nation," hopes to be the next viral sensation. Fleeting fame and an opportunity to pose nude for some publication—it doesn't get much better than that in Florida.
In October 2012 My Fox Tampa Bay published a story entitled, "At FSU, cowgirls rule the world." The girls interviewed for the story gushed about being "the new stars" and Susie Shin added, "Everybody wants to be the really cute Indian cowgirl-like hippie."
Yes. Everybody. Because combining those three things together into a single belly-baring look is the American dream now. It's easier than getting a job and living better than your parents did.
The Redskins superfans known as "The Hogettes" are famous for dressing in ladies' attire and pig noses to entertain the crowd at home games. They got their start in 1983, as 12 men dressed more appropriately for the Kentucky Derby than an NFL football game.
The pig noses made things sufficiently macho, though, which evened out the dressing in drag thing. For 30 glorious years, the Hogettes were the league No. 1 group of superfans—so super, in fact, that they've been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's "Hall of Fans."
Unfortunately that old cliché about all good things coming to an end may be a cliché, but it's generally true. And for the Hogettes, 30 years of fun and games came to an end in January 2013. After what they described as "a hell of a run," they decided to officially retire their pig noses and garden party attire once and for all.
Adding that "30 years of guys in pig snouts and dresses is probably enough for any society." Can't say that, as a member of society, I necessarily agree with that assessment. But Godspeed, Hogettes—you will be missed.
The Cardinal Cowboy, also known as Carter Rethwisch, has been donning the full cowboy getup ever since the Cards' 2004 World Series run. Whether he's watching St. Louis home games at the stadium, or with his buddies at a local Hooters, the Cardinal Cowboy is always rocking his famous look.
That look also includes replica World Series rings—for authenticity. Rethwisch's actually once dreamed of playing pro baseball himself, but those dreams were dashed when he was involved in a nearly fatal car accident at age 19. The 1991 crash killed one of his best friends and left him in a coma.
Against all odds, he recovered and today he runs his own marketing business. Cardinal Cowboy's first love is obviously baseball, but the 40-year-old superfan has other sports interests as well. Like…playing kicker for the semi-pro St. Louis Bulldogs football team.
In 2011 he was voted MLB's Favorite Fan. An honor which I expect to be boldly emblazoned on his gravestone one day long down the line.
Badgers superfan "Kilted Ken" Warner was a member of the University of Wisconsin's graduating class of 1968. According to a feature in ESPN, Warner wears the kilt to honor his late father, who fought in the British Isles during WWII.
Kilted Ken has attended more than 400 Wisconsin games to date and his trademark red kilt and white tuxedo jacket aren't hard to pick out in a crowd. The jacket, however, is a relatively new addition to his festive getup.
Warner actually wore the tuxedo jacket at his wedding in 1991. A wedding which, incidentally, happened to take place on the 50-yard line of Camp Randall. And who was the ring bearer, you ask? Well, it was Bucky Badger, of course!
Although just because Kilted Ken is a certified superfan, he's not lacking in objectivity. In 2011 he told a reporter from the Ohio State campus paper The Lantern that he was impressed with the generally well-behaved Buckeye fans, adding "Clearly, our fans are the worst in the Big Ten."
Kilted Ken blames their bad behavior on boozing and said those crazy kids are embarrassing to the university.
The Jets superfan formerly known as Fireman Ed is now simply known as Edwin Anzalone, regular Jets fan. Anzalone has been a season-ticket holder for the team since 1976; his trademark fireman's hat earned him that famous moniker.
Fireman Ed earned semi-celebrity status over the years, but in November 2012 he announced that he was hanging up his helmet for good, as well as his superfan status. Although, Anzalone insisted he would still attend games as a regular fan.
Apparently, Gang Green's wretchedness and decades of disappointment became too much to bear. Which is more than understandable.
RIP Fireman Ed.
College hoops fans out there are probably quite familiar with Utah State's legendary superfan "Wild Bill" Sproat. He's been the ultimate free-throw distraction for no less than three years. Seriously, nobody in the game does it better.
In 2010 sports almost lost this precious bare-chested gem when he was hospitalized in critical condition with (in layman's terms") an enlarged heart, but the big man upstairs knew Wild Bill's work was not yet done here on earth.
Without Wild Bill, who would dress up as a teapot at Utah State home games? Who would go shirtless and don a coconut bra or scrawl phrases on his sizable belly with body paint? Who would dress up as a teapot or Winnie the Pooh for crissakes!
Most people don't have that kind positive body image! There is quite literally nothing that Wild Bill wouldn't take off or put on to distract the opposition—nothing. And his contribution goes beyond game time, he's also an accomplished organizer of massive, unfriendly welcome wagons.
Wild Bill's shenanigans have been profiled on Yahoo! Sports and Sports Illustrated in recent years. And YouTube is loaded with videos of his hypnotic belly gyrations and other varied acts of his overtly fleshy hilarity.
The Canucks' superfans known as "The Green Men" have been aggravating the Vancouver opposition in in their neon green spandex bodysuits since late 2009. The idea to don the anatomically oversharing bodysuits wasn't exactly original though.
According to Sully and Force, The Green Men, they got the idea from an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in which a character wore one. Their initial plan was to wear the spandex spectacles to a Seahawks game, but a delivery delay spoiled that.
Thankfully, their Plan B was quite solid. Sully worked for a roofing company whose boss had regular access to the seats next to the opposing penalty box. So one of the NHL's most enduring pair of pests were an accident originally intended for the NFL.
Annoying as they may be, the Vancouver Green Men have gained quite a bit of fame for their hijinks. And even if the Sharks announcers aren't their biggest fans, someone out there likes them! Sully and Force were among the three inductees into ESPN and StubHub's inaugural Hall of Fans in 2012.
There's a lot of unpleasantness in the world these days, but you can bet that at least one person out there is having is having a pretty solid 2013. That person would be Captain Dee-Fense, the Ravens superfan who has never missed a home game.
Baltimore's unlikely run to the Super Bowl and the media frenzy that ensued before, during, and after? That's superfan heaven—it's like oxygen to them.
In his real life, Captain Dee-Fense is a longtime Ravens fan named Larry Henson and a 24-year-veteran of the military. He's also what you may call a philanthropic superfan, considering he attends over 50 charitable events each year as Captain Dee-Fense.
In fact, in September 2012 The Baltimore Sun described him as a "goodwill ambassador for the team." Also in 2012 he officially became a Hall of Fame superfan, when ESPN and StubHub included Captain Dee-Fense among the three inaugural inductees into their Hall of Fans.
What's that old saying? Oh right! All's fair in love, war, and Duke-UNC basketball. Those two powerhouses have been battling each other for over 50 years and it's safe to say that no two fanbases in college sports have any more vitriol for each other than those of the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.
Back in 2003, the famed rivalry was taken to a new level thanks to Duke's ballsiest fan, Patrick King. Whether that level was higher or lower probably depends on which team you hate less—assuming you're not a student or an alum of either!
That was the year that the infamous Speedo Guy used his barely covered nether regions to distract UNC's Jackie Manuel into missing two consecutive free throws on a nationally televised game. Manuel went 0-for-5 from the line in the game. And Duke won the game by three points.
Manuel admitted that Speedo Guy was responsible for completely throwing off his game. He said he had trouble focusing at the line because of the not-so-erotic, but admittedly hilarious, gyrations of the next-to-nude man in the stands.
An excerpt from Will Blythe's book about the famed rivalry described in stunning detail his own experience with Speedo Man—who he described as physically "too doughy" with "regrettably pendulous breasts." Spoiler alert: Gyrating and shimmying were both involved.
Long live Speedo Guy. Who, by the way, became a PRIEST! The legend only grows.
The late, great Broncos superfan known as "Barrel Man" sadly died in December 2009 at the age of 69. In Tim Mckernan's real life he was a former airline mechanic and a lifelong Broncos fan. On Sundays he was an institution in Denver for decades.
He began wearing his trademark orange barrel as a result of a $10 bet with his brother in 1977. Believing in the attention-getting qualities of the barrel, Barrel Man bet his brother that wearing one to a game was a surefire way to get on television. He won the bet.
From that moment on, Barrel Man became a regular at Broncos home games, famous for wearing that barrel held on by suspenders, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. When it was chilly, he might throw on a pair of gloves, but that as about it.
According to his son Todd, McKernan just loved "the attention" and "inspiring fans" with his "take-charge attitude." He added, "My kids grew up knowing grandpa in the barrel." Which is, honestly, just too adorable for words.
Barrel Man retired his barrel in 2007, two years before passing away peacefully in his sleep of lung failure. In October 2012, he was honored at a museum exhibit in Denver, which is something that no doubt had him smiling from that great big barrel in the sky.
Darrell Bailey, better known to Clippers fans as "Clipper Darrell," has been been supporting the Clips since they were a bunch of ragtag losers back in 1984. Early on he was known to fans simply as the "Dancing Man," who was known for shaking what his momma give him during games.
After a few promotional appearances, he took on the Clipper Darrell persona and never looked back. Although, it wasn't until he finally scored season tickets in 2000 that Clipper Darrell ultimately became a Staples Center…uh…staple.
In February 2012, the organization issued a statement condemning their No. 1 fan, accusing him of caring more about profiting off his association with the team than the team itself.
It didn't take long for the media backlash against the vile Sterling empire—Clipper stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin even expressed support for him via Twitter.
And just like that, Clipper Darrell was back…but he was always in our hearts.
Outside of South Carolina, there may not be too many college football fans that know Clemson Tom by name yet, but he's already quite well known within the confines of the Palmetto State. And he's quite the polarizing figure down there. Quite the polarizing figure, indeed.
For those of you unfamiliar with the politics and rivalries of college football, it really doesn't get much nastier than the in-state rivalry between the University of South Carolina and Clemson University. Think Ohio State vs. Michigan rage, but expressed with varying degrees of a Southern accent.
I suspect you can figure out on which side of the battle line Clemson Tom stands—the Clemson side. It's not an ironic name or anything because irony is largely lost on most Southerners. Tom isn't subtle enough for that anyway, he prefers a much more frank approach to his superfandom.
On Twitter he delights in menacing Gamecocks fans, who he unaffectionately calls "coots." Most of them actually seek him out, which gives him even more of an opportunity to play to his audience. Tigers fans love him. Gamecocks fans love to hate him.
Clemson Tom wins either way.
It doesn't matter if Clemson has a bad season. It doesn't matter if the Gamecocks have been beating up on the Tigers for four consecutive seasons. If Clemson Tom calls them "the short bus" of the SEC, Gamecocks fans just can't resist to unload their unfettered hatred on him.
And he loves it! But honestly, if you check out any of his YouTube videos, it's obvious he's just a goofball at heart who gets his jollies by ruffling chicken feathers. We all have our vices.
You can be mine by following me on Twitter.
Or you can just find me there to complain about something, which, let's face it, is far more likely.
Either way: Follow @blamberr