Sports fans are a rare breed of humans.
They live, breathe, and bleed for their favorite teams. It doesn't matter how many fourth quarter losses, shootout defeats, or last second shots they have to endure, the true sports fan will continue to come back for more.
Then, there are the "fans."
"Fans" are fans in name only. They are content to go to a game, yak on their cell phone, drink beer, and leave in the seventh inning. They are at the ballpark to be seen, not to be heard (as in part of a crowd making noise).
These rules are not for "fans". These rules are guidelines that are put in place not to demean the sports fan, or make them feel as though they are constrained by a set of laws, but instead serve as a blueprint, or a road map detailing where the emotions that sports stirs within come from.
With that in mind, here are the 20 Fan Laws that my buddy Greg and I came up with in an all-night debate and legislating session.
Think of them more as "guide-lines" than official rules, to borrow a phrase from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
1. Real fans NEVER leave a game early
I almost feel as though the people who leave games early should be made to pay some sort of "exit fee" by the team. My parents left me in Chicago on a chilly afternoon when the Cubs were down by five runs, and the Cubbies came back to win in the late innings.
They sure felt foolish, and I think that any person who leaves early should be considered a "fan."
2. Real fans don't wear suits to games
If you are coming straight from work, this is theoretically acceptable (although frowned upon), but there is no reason in the world you should be dressed to the nines to attend a baseball or basketball game.
Sports is meant to be an escape from reality, not a place where you bring the confines of reality with you, and that's what a suit represents to sports fans.
3. Real fans give balls/pucks to kids
I can't tell you the number of times that I have seen people catch foul balls at games. They show it off to all of their drunken buddies, while some little kid who the doofuses just pushed over sits there crying, lacking the souvenir that they so coveted.
I have caught exactly ONE foul ball in my life, and I gave it to my kid cousin. He still has it ten years later.
4. Real fans don't make signs that contain any of the following language:
-"It's my birthday! Put me on TV!" Children ages one to 16 and senior citizens are exempt from this rule.
We get it. You have a need for attention, and you leave it to television audiences to fill it.
To be honest, I don't give a damn that it's your 31st birthday and you have decided to spend it waving a pink sign and acting like a moron, hoping for your four seconds of glory. Get off my TV set.
-Clever assignment of letters to adhere to the call letters of the TV station the game is being played on. Example is "Every Season Purdue OwNs!"
-"Sportscenter is Next". Gee, I'm watching ESPN, and it's coming up to the normal time that Sportscenter is on, but I can't figure out when Sportscenter will be on.
Thank you random fan with a cardboard sign for dictating the next hour and a half of my sports viewing life!
5. Real fans tip vendors
These folks haul around containers full of hot dogs, beer, and various other goodies, and they make little money to put up with the elements and abusive fans. Please tip them graciously.
6. Real fans use discretion in All-Star Voting
I'm not going to condemn somebody for having a proclivity to vote for people who happen to play for their favorite team. What I have a problem with is a person voting for someone from their team who is either A. having a terrible season, or B. is hurt.
Seriously? That many votes for Kosuke Fukudome? What a joke.
7. Real fans pick a favorite team by the age of 16, and they stick with it for life. Exceptions are:
a. Fans of the Pirates, Clippers, and the Sonics/Thunder are allowed to switch
b. Relocated fans can change allegiance to their local team without penalty.
8. Real fans should be able to play bags and hold a beer at the same time
Real fans should be able to multi-task, and this is one of the most important skills that they must have. The other is the ability to drink, grill, and talk at the same time.
9. Real fans should be able to criticize their team, accept criticism about their team, and refute inaccurate criticism about their team.
I know plenty of fans who are willing to rip their coach to shreds, but if anyone else touches their sacred cow of a franchise, they flip out. Fans need to learn to be more tolerant of one another.
10. Real fans should encourage others to follow their favorite teams, ESPECIALLY significant others and offspring
There is no thrill quite like watching someone you care about falling in love with your favorite team. Speaking from personal experience, I am a huge hockey and baseball fan, and seeing my fiancée fall in love with my favorite teams has certainly been a treat.
I can't imagine the thrill of your child showing an interest in your favorite teams. I hope to feel that someday.
11. Real fans should honor retired numbers
At a recent outing at the United Center, I noticed that quite a few people were sporting Blackhawks jerseys with retired numbers, but foreign looking names. The reason for this is simple: personalizing jerseys has gone too far.
I believe that real fans should not use retired numbers on personalized jerseys, and if they do, they need to include the name of the legend in question. No exceptions shall be given to this rule.
12. Real fans need to visit these five historic sports venues before they die:
a. Fenway Park
b. Lambeau Field
c. Wrigley Field
d. Madison Square Garden
e. Daytona International Speedway
13. Real fans arrive before the gates open, and get their business done early
These fans have learned the cardinal rule of game-going: If you are going to shop at the gift shops at the park, do it BEFORE the game. During the game and after the game, you are fighting a losing battle against lines and missing vital chunks of the action.
Do your shopping before hand, and enjoy your merchandise AND the game.
14. Real fans tailgate, rain, shine, tidal wave, whatever
The best tailgate I have ever attended was before an Illinois home football game. There were several periods of drenching rain, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Getting soaked to the bone and watching the orange drip off my face, I realized that there is nothing better than kicking back with friends and watching sports.
15. Real fans share food at tailgates with passers-by
Most people regard these "trash gulls" as reprehensible low-lifes who merely thrive on the scraps of more prepared tail-gaters.
In my personal experience, however, I have found that people who merely walk around scrounging for food are more than likely scrounging for conversation. Engage one of them, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
16. Real fans have their team's pocket schedule, or have all games in their cell phone calendar
You would never believe how often this comes in handy. If this practice is something you have not implemented, then I would highly recommend it.
17. Real fans sing along with the national anthem
Rarely do you get as big a group singing along to the same song as you do when you are at an NFL game and the first bars of the anthem and people scream in unison, "O' say can you see?" It's truly a great experience, and I would recommend it to anyone.
18. Real fans don't need to argue with fans of their own team over who the better fan is.
This practice should be saved for fighting with fans of other teams. After all, a house divided against itself cannot stand, right?
19. Real fans believe in the sanctity of rules like "seat-back" while watching games at home
I was watching college football one day with some buddies, and I called "seat-back" on the leather recliner in the living room. When I came back, the seat remained unoccupied.
This feeling is unmatched, and it is something that you should consider implementing at your next viewing party.
20. No matter what happens in a game, friendships transcend sports
Sure, Alabama may have just thrashed your beloved Auburn, but after the game ends, there is the traditional period of gloating, but that's it. Your friends are more important than the results on the field.
I've had to swallow my medicine when the Cubs swept my buddy David's beloved White Sox, but then the Sox returned the favor a week later. Like I said, friendships are more important than sports, and I am happy to report we are still friends to this day.
So there you have it, my 20 Fan Laws. If you have any that you would like to add to the list, please feel free to leave comments. Hope you enjoyed this, and may we all strive to be better fans.