They can have the Pro Bowl. They can confiscate our homemade signs and face paint.
Sports fans are tough, and we’re used to adapting to changing times. Female fans deal with the purse bans, and we all accept the security pat-downs and rule changes because our love for the team trumps all.
Some things are worth fighting for, however. There are parts of the game that fans love and cannot do without. They’re our favorite things, and big or small, we’d be hard-pressed to feel the same about the game if they up and vanished from the stadium.
From fat man celebrations to cherished rivalries, the following are 15 things sports fans can’t live without.
Team hats are a necessary part of every diehard fan's wardrobe, and nowhere do they come more in handy than at the ballpark.
From the snapback wearer to the molders who meticulously curve their bill, throwing on a team cap does three huge things for sports fans:
- State your allegiance.
- Look cool.
- Keep the sun from blinding you and/or riddling your skin with cancer.
Did I mention they occasionally provide a front-end crumple zone when baseballs fly at your face?*
*Do not bank on this.
Where else in the world can you pay money for food and enjoy having it thrown directly at your face?
The vendor throw is a simple joy of attending sports games, and one that is often overlooked. You pass good legal tender down a row of strangers, who smile and pay for your hotdog—a hotdog that may or may not be soon headed your way like a meaty, tin-foiled tomahawk.
The vendor throw is a highly underrated display of trust and camaraderie, and an awesome way to exchange goods and services.
Where would we be as fans if we couldn’t needlessly quibble over who the best player of all time is in our respective sports?
We’d probably have a human colony orbiting the rings of Saturn by now if we chose to focus our intellectual energies on constructive things, but that would leave important questions unanswered, like: “Is LeBron James better than Michael Jordan?”
Whether we like it or not, arguing about the G.O.A.T. is a foundational pillar of sports fan-ship, and even the people who can’t stand the bickering still have an opinion on the matter—you just have to pry it out of them.
Nothing warms the cockles of the heart quite like harboring mouth-foaming hatred for a group of fellow human beings, right?
In all seriousness, what would sports fans do without rivalries? Play with twine during College Gameday segments? Make signs that say “Beat the _____’s (But Not Too Bad, They’re Alright).”
It just wouldn’t work. Emotion is a part of sports just like hydrogen is part of water; you take it out and it’s not the same thing anymore.
The game is founded on the basic principals of defeating your enemy—and what’s more exciting than a big W over a sworn foe?
Rivalries, while sometimes completely baseless, are the cheese that makes sports macaroni. You have to have it, or else why even eat?
Call it extravagant, expensive or whatever else you’d like—military flyovers at sporting events are bone-shakingly awesome.
Nothing sends the chemical signal of “AMERICA” or “(Insert Country Here)” ripping through your ganglions like the sight and sound of fighter jets ripping the air over a packed stadium.
Some people complain about them as expensive wastes, but the flights are typically done as part of a larger training exercise. In other words, they’re going to be flying through the air already, so they might as well fly over this part of town.
Nevertheless, the federal government is considering cutting training budgets which would effectively end the practice of Air Force flyovers at sporting events.
Sure, important games could get along fine without flyovers, but nothing puts a stamp on an occasion like a stealth bomber flying low over the ballpark. You would never forget that moment.
The atmosphere at a pumped-up home game is intoxicating. The whole day is wrought with juicy tension.
Battling game-day traffic to the stadium, having ticket-takers rip your stubs—the entire process of attending a big game at your team’s home venue is addictive. Random chants break out, high fives are slapped and absolute strangers become best friends in a span of moments.
Some coaches want the exposure that comes with playing their opponents at neutral site events, but no scheduling tradition packs the emotional punch of a longstanding home-and-away series—and nothing gets you more jacked up than watching your team "protect this house" against a strong opponent.
Nectar of the gods. Cheering fuel. The great social lubricant.
It has many different names and comes in endless varieties (and prices), but at the end of the day beer is beer, and it is the staple fan beverage of sports.
When enjoyed in moderation, it can be your best friend—the perfect cool-down in the summer heat.
When consumed in bulk, however, beer turns into a police officer who doesn’t understand why you took your pants off and ran on the field “because Twitter told you to.”
The Chicago Cubs are as easily loved as they are hated.
Fans of the “Lovable Losers” are quick to point out how dedicated their fan base remains, despite the fact that women weren’t allowed to vote the last time their team won a World Series.
People who hate the Cubs think of their fan base as a bastion of booze hounds who enjoy drinking more than the game of baseball.
There are plenty of stadiums and franchises with their legendary features (the Green Monster at Fenway Park, Howard's Rock at Memorial Stadium, etc.), but the one I'm focusing on today is the ivy wall at Wrigley Field.
Regardless of your opinion of the Cubs, most fans who appreciate the sport still agree that Wrigley Field’s ivy wall is a beautiful and iconic landmark. Watching a Cubs home game without the wall being covered in a tangle of green would be like watching a version of Seinfeld where Costanza had hair.
It just wouldn’t be right.
EVERYBODY! Brats! Brats! Brats!...
Tailgating is a sports tradition unlike any other. Every fan-base has their way of fueling up and preparing for a ball game, and they’re all sacred.
Sure, there are generational gaps in tailgating habits, but it hardly matters.
Old veterans set up big family tents filled with tupperware and every “wurst” imaginable. Young fans sit on tailgates and lustily choke down hotdogs and fifty cent beer. College alumni try to live in both worlds, but generally end up over-served and wondering where their friends went.
It doesn’t matter how you tailgate, as long you do it for the team and you use the Porta Potties like a law abiding citizen. Only amateurs get caught watering wheel wells.
There is no shortage of former players who have moved on to the world of sports analysis, but Shaq rises above the rest as the most entertaining and endearing.
There’s nothing to not love about Shaq—he’s a giant man who has dedicated his life to being jolly and making the sport of basketball more entertaining.
Whether he’s doing pregame “analysis” on Inside the NBA or throwing Charles Barkley around the studio, he brings fun to the game and keeps things interesting wherever he goes.
Also worthy of mentioning is the fact he gifted a generation of 90s kids with the terribly awesome cinematic masterpieces Kazaam and Steel.
Imagine a world where every coach doing a postgame interview had the demeanor and mannerisms of Bill Belichick.
No! Don’t jump off the roof! It’s not real—but it is real depressing to think about.
While some prefer sports coaches to be the perfect picture of civility, the reality is that most fans love a fiery leader. We want someone who can channel our angst when the team struggles, and show the human side of the game.
I’m not saying we want the leaders of our young men and women throwing basketballs and screaming homophobic slurs, but PLAYOFFS? We don’t mind them ranting about playoffs during a press conference. That’s just good television, and above all, it humanizes them.
It’s reassuring to know that the people in charge of our team care as much as we do, and that the Bears were who we thought they were.
In essence, the term “professional athletes” infers that pros should be the finest physical specimens from the human population.
They’re the pinnacle of our species' athleticism, and presumably the type of guy Hannah Simone wants to shave so he can show off his six pack.
Au contraire, my friends. We all know too well that being an athlete isn’t about having the most aesthetically appealing body—it’s about being the size that gets the job done.
For that, we respect the big boys—the giant mountains of man that toil thanklessly in the low post and the gridiron trenches. They may not always get the recognition they deserve, but they make our lives brighter with every fat man celebration they give the world.
Slapping a solid five is the emotional equivalent of nailing a contested shot in a pickup game of basketball.
You feel cool, poised and satisfied afterward. You went for it, and it paid off. Some people say the high five is a dying art form, but it’s the only celebratory hand contact that comes with any catharsis.
The crisp sound a good high five makes, the tingling needles in your palm afterward—you just can’t get that kind of tactile response from a fist pound. Sports fans need the high five. It’s the only thing that feels right.
Brian Scalabrine. Robert Sacre. The list goes on.
Every team has their human victory cigar, and seeing them on the field of play causes hearts to burst into song.
It’s not just the fact that their team has clinched the win that makes us happy, it’s the goofy joy of seeing the victory cigar out there trying their hardest during garbage time.
If a perennial benchwarmer manages to find the bucket, complete a pass or a score a goal, it is automatically the best moment of the game. Nothing is better than seeing the look on their face after having done their job—especially when they try to act like it's just another day in the office.
Upsets are the reason sports (and sports fans) exist.
There’s nothing that draws the eye and captures the imagination like the possibility of the seemingly impossible. Without upsets, why even show up for the game?
Analysts and statisticians work around the clock to hash out who should win a competition between two teams, but if the “better” side always won, why not stay home and play Parcheesi?
Thankfully, the underdog lovers in all of us know that anything can happen in athletics, and just because one team has the better squad on paper, doesn’t mean the outcome of the match has already been decided.
Upsets allow room for the unexpected, the intangible and the unbelievable—all the things we love most about sports.
Join me on Twitter and tell me what YOU couldn’t live without as a sports fan.