Is it a person that paints their face the colors of their beloved team but only attends one game? Or is it a person that attends most games, but doesn’t seem to care about the outcome at the end of the season? Is it someone who can utter the words‘your team sucks’ without any knowledge of the game, but plenty of love for their home team? Or someone who likes the team but couldn’t name one simple fact about them?
What brought this question about you may ask? Upon discussing basic matters with a Red Sox fan, well, more like he was swearing and working up a storm, and I was responding politely, holding back, trying not to slap the letter off his hat, I realized two things. He and I both have a huge dislike for bandwagon fans, but more importantly, our definitions of ‘diehard’ fans are both very different.
Everyone despises the well known ‘bandwagon’ fans. You know, those people that never believed in your team, that is, until they started winning. Most sports suffer from this phenomenon but none, I dare say like baseball. And none more than, in my opinion, the most intolerable, chip on their shoulder, bitter because they never win, Red Sox fans. Now you may think I say this because I’m a Yankees fan. Wrong. I have respect for the franchise, and their sports fans alike, and hell, right now they are playing better baseball than the Yankees are. No, I say this because in 2004, after the worst heartbreak of my life, also known as the one that got away, the curse-breaking ALCS of 2004, there was a huge insurgency of fanatics that never in their life had a care in the world for whether the Sox won or lost. Suddenly, half the world ‘Believed’ and was part of Red Sox Nation. Now it is a firm belief of mine, that some of those ‘believers’ were nothing more than pissed off fans from other teams who were tired of watching the Yankees win and were rooting for the underdog. And who can blame them? The nineties Yankees dynasty was unbelievable and their most recent win was in the year 2000. The Red Sox most recent win at the time? 1918.To me, it was irrelevant at the time who really ‘believed’ and who didn’t, I just knew I was not one of them. And like in all sports dynasties, there comes a time in which all the fans in the world are against you, and the sports gods unleash their fury, causing you incessant pain in one season. For us, 2004 was the year, much like for the Pats it was Superbowl XLII.
But what about other people, who were not fanatics of any team really, or who were old Sox fans that stopped following the sport after their millionth heartbreak? These are the true bandwagon fans. Those people that know nothing about the sport, couldn’t even tell you who the starting pitcher was, or whether he was right-handed or left-handed but insist that they are true fans. Those who believe that E.R.A goes with words such as Neolithic in front of it, have not a clue what the line-up looks like, and still have the nerve to call themselves fans. Or those that stopped ‘believing’ much to Journey’s dismay, and picked up a new team, but lo and behold at the first sign of anything that even resembles a championship ring come running on back, dropping the other team like a bad habit. These fans are the most frustrating of all. I mean sure, you can’t have an intelligent conversation about baseball with someone who knows nothing about the sport, but with their little knowledge you can shut them up quickly. But ex-fans or whatever you want to call them , have validation in that they know about baseball, they watch it, but then they say they ‘always believed’ and you, much like me, have the urge to slap the colors off their hat and turn them into the colors of their previously loved team. However, bandwagon fans are easy to spot, because no matter what you say about their team, or how many facts you name, their only retort will be is “ so and so sucks”. Die-hard fans, on the other hand, are a rare breed.
In speaking to said Sox fan, he relayed to me, that I couldn’t possibly be a die-hard Yankees fan because ‘I go to every game, every post season, and at Fenway Park, I started a fund in my grandfather’s name.’ This man is 35 years old. I held my tongue and started to think about what makes up a fan. I was deeply outraged in a way, because in this day and age, this narrow minded man , seems to think that everyone is just as well off as he, and that a gap between poor and rich is no reason to miss a game live.
But I know more Yankees fans that have watched the sport since childhood, that save up every penny to be able to go to a game once a year, with their family and have good seats. I know people who would love to be in the stands but have children, and rents and sick parents to take care of. Hell, I have even seen unemployed people outside bars begging for money, so that they can buy one beer before the game and go sit in the bleachers. I know people who don’t have two pennies to rub together, have nothing in their house but cable TV, but always manage to buy a seat in the bleacher section to make it to games. My grandfather, didn’t even live in this country and never missed a game. He sat me down at age five and taught me the basics, talking about the greats of his time. I, personally, live not too far from the stadium, but like most college students, have to work to pay loans and sometimes manage to watch the game in the stands, but even if I don’t, I never, ever miss it on TV. So I ask you this. Is a fan defined by his or her financial status or ability to go to the stadium? No. This man may be a die-hard fan, but as far as I’m concerned where fans are created, there isn’t a “Wealthy people need only apply” clause.
Die-hard fans are those that watch every game, and if they can’t watch it, they listen to it on the radio, or read about it in the sports section. Those people that if you were to call them at this very point in time, provided they are not working, you can bet they are sitting in front of a computer reading stats or reading the paper on an article about their team. That sole person, that when their team loses their whole face falls. That person that when their team is inches from greatness and falls short, is close to, or reduced to tears. That person, that can name all the numbers in terms of stats off the top of their head, without blinking once. People that say things like ‘we’ll get them next time’, every time, truly believing it in their heart, even though the odds are great that they won’t. People that can have intelligent conversations about their sport, but still get mad as hell when others insult their team, because that’s part of their pride. Those that watch almost every game every year without fail, regardless of whether their team makes the playoffs or not, and can still call it a good season. Or someone who watches the season end in misery and heartbreak, but you can bet that at the beginning of the next season, there they will be, hoping this one is better. Those are the real die-hard fans, people who have nothing but love in their heart for the sport as a whole, but most importantly for their team.