Tom Ley of The Good Men Project recently wrote a great article on classes of sports fans emerging based on their respective sophistication. I tried to categorize the types of NBA "fans" I see around me to consider his claim.
1. People who say LeBron James is the greatest.
2. People who talk about James' lack of a post game hurting Miami. He is the same size as Karl Malone but Jason Kidd could guard him in the playoffs?
3a. People who talk about James' lack of post game as a reflection of his poor attitude or lack of a father figure. Colin Cowherd and other moralists.
3b. People who talk about how we talk about James' post game in the manner we do. Or how terrible Cowherd is. You know, Bethlehem Shoals/ Tommy Craggs types; post-modern cultural critics who happen to watch sports.
4a. People who say James is worse than Kobe Bryant, like Skip Bayless who likes being controversial to get attention.
4b. People who defend James' post game with Synergy data like Sebastian Pruiti. Stats people and intelligent contrarians.
5. People who know how many points James scored as freshman at St.Vincent-St.Mary's. Data inhalers, who know he is, a la Bryant and Dwight Howard, working with Hakeem Olajuwon now.
6. People who read one or more of 1-5 and parrot it to friends.
The Internet has allowed for an awesome specialization for sports fans. If you have very intense interests, you can be a moderator on a University of Alabama football board or you can scan the occasional sports articles that appear on Yahoo if you're not.
You can only interact with people of the same level or type of interest as if you want to.
Do these different classes point to an upcoming Marxist class war of fans? The growing sophistication of fans has coincided with much more detailed analysis. I believe I've heard effective field goal percentage during broadcasts a few times. But we can also hear Reggie Miller complain about the Celtic's poor rebounding.
Sports is ceasing to be a weak, shallow common experience and starting to be a way for people to connect in a much deeper way with a more select group. In that way, it is following a greater trend in society.
The increasing diversity can also lead to more interesting discussions. People who say James is the greatest may annoy everyone, but they can provide evidence for those considering perceptions of athletes. People who can diagram the Magic's offense can talk to stats people who will say avoiding long two-point shots is brilliant. Diversity is good.
Ley is right that we should be glad that fanhood itself is not classist according to traditional classes. People of every race and socio-economic group like football and basketball. We are not in South Africa where rugby is for whites or Ireland where football (soccer) is for English occupiers.
I believe signalling plays a huge part in how people socialize. People dress the way they do to indicate something about themselves to others. Likewise, people have opinions on sports that coincide with their created image. But with the more anonymous Internet, signalling seems to matter less and people can be who they really are.