The Adolescence of a Sports Fan

Gene ZarnickCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2010

13 Jan 1991:  Quarterback Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers raises his hands in celebration after throwing a touch down pass in the 49ers 28-10 victory over the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Being a sports fan is tough these days.  We have to know everything, spur of the moment, no questions asked.  We need to know the trade rumor before the Mort Report comes out and the final score of every game immediately once the clock hits zero.  We need to know injuries, coaching changes, front office changes, weather, depth charts, stats, and any other bit of information that could possibly come up when speaking to other sports fans.  I don't know if it's the competitive nature of sports that makes us need to know everything, watch every clip, and think about sports around the clock, but it's almost a way of life now.  Technology has changed the sports world.  Most things for the better, a few things for the worse.  Even with all the changes that have evolved with technology, the biggest change in a sport fan's life is just growing up.

Do you remember watching sports as a child?  I think when I was about 5 or 6 years old is really when I began having an attraction to sports.  I used to have this old 19" television that sat on the floor in my bedroom that I used basically to play Atari or Nintendo.  I didn't get many stations with it.  It had the basic 13 channel rotary dial with an antenna in the back that I'd have to move around to get a good signal.  I didn't watch much television on it anyway.  At 6 years old my bedtime was 9pm on weekdays so most of my time after I finished school, dinner, and homework consisted of video games, video games, and more video games.  RBI baseball where the ball would curve behind the foul pole for a home run.  Joe Montana football where you could pull off the fake field goal pass for a touchdown almost every time.  These were the things I productively wasted my time doing before bed.  There was one television I always watched though.  Every Monday night I would turn on Monday Night Football to watch the game.  I watched every game, beginning to end, no matter who was playing.  I wasn't supposed to be up that late, but every Monday I would stay up to 11:30 or so.  My parents would hear the TV on and come check to make sure I was asleep.  I used to quickly lay my head down and pretend I was in a deep coma the whole time.  They would turn off the TV and go to bed and then I would get back up, turn the TV back on, decrease the volume and finish watching the game.  I loved it!  I loved watching the game, I loved staying up past my bedtime, and I loved being one of the only kids, even in Kindergarten, who could show up on Tuesday morning and knew all the facts about the game.  Even at a young age I was maturing into the sports fan I am these days.

Watching sports back then was great.  I was a fan of Jim Kelly, Emmitt Smith, Thurman Thomas, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Bubby Brister, and basically anyone else that I could remember the name of on any given team.  The team didn't really matter.  Of course I gravitated toward watching the Steelers since my father watched them every week, but I rooted for anyone I knew.  I had Starter jackets, the awesome pullover ones, of teams like Penn State, Duke, Seattle Super Sonics, Chicago Bulls, Pirates, and probably others I can't remember.  I didn't have to pick one team; I picked my favorites based on the players I loved to watch.  This is what being a sports fan as a child was about; just liking a team for any reason, whether it is the team colors, a player on the team, or if the team was successful at the time.  I didn't have to worry about knowing every starter's name on the Steelers offensive line to be considered a legitimate Steelers fan.  I was just a fan, a fan of sports.

As we grow up things change; the competitive nature comes out of us.  We hit middle school and our love for individual players has waned.  We may have a favorite player, but now we stick to rooting for that team.  It's the beginning of being chastised when the team you support is bad and it's the beginning of grouping yourself with fellow fans and learning that your common bond of fandom is more important than anything else you could learn about the person.  It's around this age when we start solidifying what teams we will support for years to come and what rival teams we will hate for years to come as well.

I'm not saying I wish we could once again root for teams based on individual players and not care as much if our favorite team wins or not, because we do care.  I just wish it was exciting to root for other teams without having money riding on the game or having to have one of our fantasy players participating in it.  I guess it's just a part of growing up though.  There's no exact point where we grow up as sports fans.  It's at a different time for each individual.  Some point along the way I guess sports just becomes more than a game.