Sports Fanhood--The Inescapable Vortex

"If the team is so bad, then why do you keep following them?"

"Because....I have no choice."

--Typical conversation between a regular human being and a Cleveland Browns fan.

 

Sports fanhood is quite possibly the most fascinating disease in the human psyche.  From your budding childhood years, you are told to pick one sports team, and follow that team to your grave.  You are not allowed to deviate from that path, and woe be unto to you if you do.  It's unlike any other fandom out there.  Political leanings are fluid; you may change your views over the years and life experience, and no one will think less of you for it.  In the nerdier circles of comic books, video games and anime, there's no shame in jumping ship if your once-beloved work goes downhill.  I've experienced this myself once the Final Fantasy series went to hell.  Enjoy the older games, ignore the crap being churned out now.

The sports fandom is a different beast.  To say that your loyalties are faltering will raise eyebrows.  To even suggest that you may abandon the team entirely will rile up pitchforks and torches.  Why is this?  Why are we more lenient with devotion to other areas of entertainment, yet our sports loyalties are written in stone?

It's something that has always puzzled me, and after a lazy night of archive trawling through Field Gulls, a certain John Morgan podcast may have given me the answer, however unsatisfactory it is.  Our football fandom is indeed like a family.  It's dysfunctional, chaotic, stressful, and filled with people you'd otherwise want nothing to do with, but in the end, it's still a family.  And like any family, they shun those who would dare to stray from it.

Unlike a family, however, our connection with the Seahawks is entirely passive.  We don't make the decisions that build the team; hell, we don't even influence the people that make those decisions.  We debate and argue and spittle at each other over what the team should do, without the power do actually do any of those things.  Ask me again how this is different from comic book enthusiasts arguing over how Christopher Nolan should handle the new Batman movie?

We support our team because....no reason, really.  Most of us grew up in the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks were closest, so we watched them.  A "happy accident", as Bob Ross would say.  Now grown men, we continue to watch and support this team out of habit.  But oh, what a cancerous habit it is.  Trading cards, autographs, sound bites, mock drafts, tape analysis and pointless chest-thumping about how you're a "real fan."  Real fan, you say?  So you were lucky enough to be born 20 years before me and rich enough to buy season tickets?  What do you want, a fucking medal?  Here's one.  It's made out of all the money you wasted.

And yet, we continue to do it.   We continue to watch this team, blog about it, and spend way too much time thinking about it, long after when it becomes cute.  People say that team loyalty is "in our blood."  I disagree.  It's in our brain.  A massive, malignant tumor in our brain that will never go away.  It's the biggest disease in our body.  We will never be rid of it.  We will curse it every day of our lives.  And we will die if it is removed.

And we will enjoy every goddamn second of it.

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