What Do We Really Cheer For In Sports?

Tom McLeanCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2009

GRAND BLANC, MI - AUGUST 02:  Tiger Woods watches his second shot on the first hole during the final round of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club on August 2, 2009 in Grand Blanc, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

There are thousands of these people.  Some are dressed for the occasion, and some are dressed in absurd outfits that make us wonder.  These people are lovingly called fans.  Fans are the only consistent factor that exists amongst all sports.  They scream and cheer, sometimes with a slight prayer in between, for the teams or people that they love or respect.  

But it seems that everyone has a different reason to cheer for their favorite athlete or team.  Whether justified by the Court of Tom, everyone has their reason and the tend to stick to it.  Why do we cheer for our faves?  Let's take a look.

Perhaps the most interesting example of fans and different reasons is those proud screamers for Tiger Woods.  No question the best player in the world, but Tiger is cheered differently in specific areas, and by different people.  

Take my aunt, for a simple example.  She is a truly loving person; the kind of person that everyone around her believes that she wouldn't hurt a piece of dust on the floor. She probably would never call herself a sports fan on any poll, but she watches games every now and then (Thanksgiving football, some tennis here and there).  But if she cheers for someone like Tiger Woods, it's only because of his story.  

She would be the consummate emotional fan, cheering for anyone that has a "rags-to-riches" or "overcoming adversity" story.  This is not anything atypical; I am sure we as sports fans know of others that share the same tendency as my aunt.

Another fan-type would be exemplified by my uncle.  He was a great tennis champion in high school and continues his athletic excellence in golf today. His appreciation for Tiger comes from a desire to see great athleticism and execution.  My uncle, in short, likes to cheer for those that are brilliant.  Whoever is hot on that day is his favorite player.  He cheers for Tiger because of Tiger's ability to be brilliant on a consistent basis and the remaining "players" just get in the way like those Cialis commercials.

The final fan type to describe here is the one that I find myself settling into very nicely. I tend to cheer for a player or team that works the hardest on the given day.  I am a fan for Tiger because of his work-ethic.  I am convinced that he has a stronger focus, a longer and more devoted practice session, and a desire to win that makes him a stronger player.  

Obviously, this kind of fan won't be cheering for the winner on many occasions.  This fan in guaranteed to go home from a bar wondering why he/she loves this game so much, how the world is so incredibly unfair.  But on days of victory and achievement, this fan feels that for just a moment in the sports-world time continuum, life can go on appropriately again.

Now, don't get me wrong: everyone has the own reasons to be a sports fan and a fan of a particular sports entity.  In days like today, fans are tested more than ever.  The stories of steroids, gambling, and finances crumbling certain people and teams have made fans re-think their stances towards many sports issues.  But when I see crowds at the Buick Open, the L.A. Galaxy-F.C. Barcelona soccer game, and at X-Games 15, I am wondering why they wear the jerseys, hope for autographs, and fold their hands for their favorites.

I only hope that fans continue to act the way they do: whether that means they wear barrels around their bodies in 30-degree snow or dye their hair that funny shade of purple.  Fans can be upset about bad language in sports or credibility of athletes, but we as fans will overall remain the same.  We will scream at plays, cheer for continued success, and yearn for that defining play that puts our team on top of the world.  That's all that this scribe asks for today.