Pledging Allegiance: What Makes A Sports Fan?

Scotty DonaldsonContributor IJuly 8, 2010

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 06:  Netherlands fans celebrate victory and a place in the final during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Semi Final match between Uruguay and the Netherlands at Green Point Stadium on July 6, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Since New Zealand had been eliminated from the FIFA World Cup 2010, several people I know have been pledging their allegiance to other teams based on ancestry, the hottest fans, style of play, underdogs, office sweepstakes. You name it, people find a way of supporting other sides. It raises the issue of how we actually become fans of a certain sports team. The debate was initially fuelled by an Irish friend of mine supporting the All Blacks when her brother supports Ireland and they were playing earlier this year.  

It is often easiest to be fans of the top sides in the world, so people to tend to jump on the All Blacks or the Netherlands bandwagon, rather than backing the Dutch in the cricket World Cup and the All Whites in the FIFA World Cup. There are also some rare extremely fickle fans who support teams and then switch allegiance to another winning team.

Fans are usually based on who we first supported when we started watching a sport.  For some people in sports where New Zealand don't participate at a high level, these are often other countries. Then when New Zealand actually qualified, I love throwing the curve ball saying which team would you support if New Zealand played them? I consider any born and raised New Zealanders as unpatriotic if it isn't New Zealand they support when their own country is playing any other team.

I must admit that since we were eliminated from the World Cup that my interest has dropped, while those who support numerous teams (my flatmate has about 10 sides he supports) still have an interest. I wonder how these people choose which of their favorite teams they want to win.

I consider myself to be a true fan, and this is what makes being a fan so much more rewarding than simply jumping on the boat of a winning or popular team. A true fan only supports one team in any competition whole heartedly. I don't mind a passing interest in other teams. The last year of my life has seen the Southland Stags, who I have supported through plenty of rain and very little shine for the last 25ish years, have been the whipping boys of New Zealand rugby, make the semifinals of the Premier Division and win the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 50 years. This made it so much more satisfying than a team I have adopted winning yet another trophy. Heck, for a lot of the time just getting one win would give me heart problems.

It is the same with the All Whites who I have followed since I was a wee nipper and seeing them qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and representing themselves well in South Africa was far more rewarding than yet another win for Germany, where my great uncle once went for a long holiday.  

I noticed in my time in Dunedin in the successful late 1990s that heaps of people would come to Dunedin and suddenly become Otago fans. I would love to see if they are still wearing that blue and gold jersey now!

In summary, I hate boat jumpers who only supporting winning teams, and so I am hoping that those people who support the successful teams at the World Cup, only do it to increase enjoyment in the game and would put heaps more of their efforts behind being a patriotic New Zealander if they were still involved.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Which teams do you support?