Take-Home Message: Don’t be a fantagonist. Let love fuel your passions, not hatred.
I remember the first shirt my parents ever put on me with the logo. I was just a little tike at the time and had no concept of fandom, let alone team loyalty. At two years old, I rocked that tiny crop-top Oklahoma State outfit like it was my job. It paired nicely with the boots, chaps, and cowboy hat I wore a few years later, the Halloween costume turned outfit of choice on any given day. Still years later, for my 13th birthday, when my mom and sister decorated my bedroom in the colors of my future alma mater, I possessed little understanding of the qualities indicative of a true supporter. I was still in the phase where insults about the rivaling Oklahoma Sooners equaled confirmation in my eyes. Little did I know I was missing the entire point of being a fan, of wearing the colors of my team win or lose, and of simply enjoying the game for the beautiful thing it is.
Throughout the years I have explored the meaning of fandom and observed the definition in action from various capacities, through different lenses, and by vast numbers of unique personalities.
My conclusion is simple: Being a true fan requires love for your team. Riding the bandwagon does not. Rightly so, a significant difference separates the two, though it may take a trained eye to identify these differences when you are out tailgating on game day. Against the crowd, everyone wearing the team colors may appear to be a fan, but the truth is simple: real fans love their team, fake fans hate the opponent.
Think for a moment about any number of the outings in which you have participated, be it a sporting event, a political rally, a religious conference, an organization meeting, or any scenario for which you have been present where the ultimate goal rested on the advancement of some agenda, be it winning, voting, promoting, raising awareness, evangelizing, and so forth, ad infinitum. Whatever the matter may be, we naturally, when coming together for such a cause, assume that an opposition to our cause exists somewhere among society. In many cases, this opposition is readily identifiable: you can judge it by the colors worn or the flags waived, the words spoken or the rhetoric invoked. However, this process becomes greatly muddied when the people standing on the same side of the aisle as us are not at all satisfied working toward the same agendas.
The most potent example of this in action depicts the conditional fan or supporter. Here are some of his most distinguishing characteristics:
- He is the guy that shows up to the game more buzzed than the rest of the crowd around him (except maybe the college frat guys).
- He’s usually wearing the colors of the team for whom he’s rooting, though it’s probably one of the only shirts or hats of this team’s which he owns.
- He yells more obnoxiously than those around him. He does not know all the words to the fight song—nor does this inhibit his invocation of his own remix. He usually spends most of the game belittling the referees and other team.
- His stake in the game is insignificant, if existent, at all.
- He HATES the opponents, and all supporters of them.
- His cheers for the team he is representing pale in comparison to his degradations of the opponent.
- He will not wear the colors the following day, regardless, but he will insult anyone wearing the other team’s.
The descriptors above are meant to paint into your mind a picture of the “fantagonist.” He is around us, everywhere, in every movement, cause or group with which we have stood in support of an idea or purpose. To our demise, his presence or portrayal as a member among our group is more often than not more harmful to our cause than most of the good we seek to advance. He is the bad apple in the bunch. He is the nail picked up by our tire. He does all of this with no idea of the significance of his action upon those individuals who live outside the world of our fandom. He is associated with our cause only on the fringe, but he is contrary to all we hope to promote in our own delighted support. He is the fan that everyone from the other side thinks of, however, when they envision doing battle with us. Among us loyal fans, he is the biggest imposter, a hollow pretense cloaked in team memorabilia, but to everyone on the outside, he’s got the goods.
Even for these fans, though, there exists in play a simple litmus test to identify this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Nudge them softly, though. All you must do is pinpoint the other team this fan would support over your team. Put your finger on these entities which hold more weight to this fraudulent fan, and you will have arrived at an understanding of his true degree of fandom. The more contingencies he possesses, the less a fan he is of your cause, team, or proposition. Made simple, this looks something like, “I support Oklahoma State, so long as they are not playing ________________.” The question can be reframed in any number of ways depending on the issue at hand, but the effect remains the same: People will always prioritize according to their highest preferences.
Too often in my own short life, I have embodied this same behavior. I have found myself rooting against things for all the wrong motives. I have been the loudest, most virulently hostile ringleader, at many points for causes in which, though I may have held an infinitesimal stake, my interest in said stake was birthed from ulterior motives. Most notably among these causes has been my hatred down to the cellular level of illegitimate authority imposed upon me. Until very recently, however, I viewed this hatred of authority through an opaque lens.
From my own seat in the nosebleed section, I was chanting at the top of my lungs for liberty to decimate the other team, and to do so at all costs. Meanwhile, I raged onward as a self-proclaimed fan, continually fueling my buzz and obnoxiously announcing flagrancies toward the political pundits above the cheers of my neighbors for each goal liberty scored. I was wearing a Ron Paul shirt in the 47th row of the stadium waving my picket sign, upon which, boldly emblazoned in bright letters visible to the entire crowed was the word “SECEDE!” This was not love of liberty. This was hatred of the state on display.
I was enraging the fans on both sides of the field, and I was finding little fulfillment in the cause, aside from the sick, twisted arousal I gleaned from starting forest fires of debate among the natives. I was not a true fan of liberty. I was a hate-fueled fraud. Instead of victory solely for victory’s sake, I sought victory for my own team only at the expense of all the other teams.
This hatred was equivalent to rooting for everyone to beat the Yankee’s solely because I was a Bo-Sox fan. Love of any cause, though, is standing tall during the ninth inning of a blowout at Wrigley Field, proudly smiling that I had the chance to watch my team, and making plans to come back again next week to do it all over again.
This epiphany has made all the difference to me, and it has drastically changed both my worldview and valuation of camaraderie. I want to be a Cubs fan of liberty. I want to be the Poke’s fan for freedom. Sadly, my team is not going to win this year. In fact, we might not even win next year, but I heard we are building the program from the ground up, and we have a great recruiting class the next few years.
So, in light of this, I think I’ll pack my poncho and maybe even an extra fleece in case there’s a chance of snow. I’ve even got my tent loaded up so I can camp outside the stadium and snag a front row seat. Hell, I might paint my face. It’s okay that you are cheering against my team, though; I’ll still save you a seat. Anyway, I hope to see you there, I hear it is going to be the matchup of a century.