Have you ever been confused when someone tells you they are a sports fan but you can’t actually remember them knowing anything or ever watching a game? Is he really a fan?
Do you yourself find it hard to remember what the name of your local team’s mascot is? Does that make you a bad fan?
Are you ever pissed off at that one guy who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the PGA Tour? Why doesn’t he get a life?
Well, there is some good news I have for you: all of these people are sports fans of one sort or another. In fact, it’s entirely possible to be many different types of fan all at once. To try and break it down for you all, here is my first edition of the Taxonomical Guide to Sports Fandom:
Hometown Fan or Homer
The hometown fan is possibly among the most common of fan classifications, as its distinct characteristics seem to manifest themselves among many fans of every sports team in every town or city. The most distinguishable characteristic of a hometown fan or “homer” is their almost complete lack of knowledge of the wider sporting world in contrast to their enthusiastic knowledge of the most intimate details of their home team. These fans can be found at home games, often occupying the cheapest seats possible, and at any bar following a team victory. In order to win acceptance among other homers, owning official team merchandise is required. Bonus points are awarded to hometown fans that wear jerseys of obscure players that only other homers can appreciate.
Mostly Harmless Version: Will try and convince others that one player on their bench is actually a superstar in the making, if that stupid coach would only give him a chance.
Dangerous Version: Hosts first-intermission program on CBC.
Similar to the hometown fan, the fair-weather fan can be found in most cities, though is more likely to be found in cities that are home to above average sporting teams. If your local team hasn’t made the playoffs in a long time, fair-weather fans may be a rare spotting, perhaps turning up after a three-game winning streak, only to disappear into the midst at the first sign of another loss. Sometimes mistaken for bandwagon jumpers, fair-weather fans claim some sort of higher respectability due to their long-held on-again off-again relationship with the local team, although this respectability is invisible to outsiders. Teams that struggle to fill stadiums often try crazy promotions just to get fair-weather fans in seats.
Mostly Harmless Version: Will turn up at game only if there is a free t-shirt at the door.
Dangerous Version: N/A
Roman Gladiator Fan
Like the hybrid lovechild of homers and fair-weather fans, Roman gladiator fans are among the most vicious and nasty of fans, as far as online comment boards and call-in radio shows are concerned. They will cheer the local team on when times are going well, acting shocked that not every player is considered the best in the world in their position, but won’t think twice about calling for a star player’s crucifixion after a bad game.
Mostly Harmless Version: Can be found following teams that set such high standards that not winning a championship is a letdown (e.g. New York Yankees, Detroit Red Wings, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Lakers).
Dangerous Version: Write strongly worded letters to players that get (hopefully) misinterpreted for actual death threats.
These fans can be found solely dedicated to cheering on a team/athlete based entirely on where they are from, regardless of how tenuous the connection to them can be. In the NHL it is found among many Canadians who perceive the league’s raison d’être is to kill the national game. For these fans, any run to a Stanley Cup by a Canadian-based franchise (regardless of the nationality of the team’s players) is a cause for celebration, before they lose, and then they switch tactics and declare that it was okay anyways because the other team had a lot of Canadians on it, too. Examples on the individual level include Canadians cheering for Steve Nash (NBA), Britons cheering for Andy Murray (tennis), and Americans with Lance Armstrong (cycling).
Mostly Harmless: Will become Miami Heat fans solely because Jamaal Magloire apparently is on the roster. Will ignore the fact that Chris Bosh left Toronto to play for the same team.
Dangerous Version: Any fans that start linking their undying fanaticism with the nationalist movements of the early 20th century.
Bandwagon jumpers may be the most reviled sports fans of all. For every fan of a team that has invested multiple years of their lives to watching every game, there just has to be another ten that turn up when a championship is in sight. It is infuriating for the local fan as they feel as if they have lost something of their uniqueness and depending on if they still live in the same city as their team, may have to reassure others that they too didn’t jump on the bandwagon. The bandwagon jumper doesn’t care as it is an amoral fan with no loyalty. As soon as this championship run is over they will move on, like gold prospectors in the 1890s. What infuriates other fans the most is that the bandwagon jumper will act as if there is nothing wrong with their actions, and may even try and claim other reasons for supporting a team, when everyone knows that a bandwagon jumper likes nothing more than the satisfaction of picking a winning team. As soon as they can smell success they turn up as the vultures of the sporting world.
Mostly Harmless Version: Will change their Facebook profile picture to the logo of the team they are currently supporting. A quick look through their profile picture album will often reveal a history of such action and a graveyard of previous supported teams.
Dangerous Version: Will (temporarily) turn into Roman gladiator fans and become a complete asshole to anyone who doesn’t cheer for “their” team.
The Anything But/Anti Fan
The anything but or anti fan takes great pleasure in cheering against a particular team or person. This is almost exclusively due to an over-exposure of that team or player in the media and the anti fan’s perception. Sometimes this happens in a similar way to the bandwagon jumper but in the opposite direction. When everyone starts piling on the support for whatever team is the new “it” team, the anti fan will cheer for whatever team is playing against that team. The anti fan also turns up when a great star finds themselves embroiled in a personal fiasco. Schadenfreude is what fuels an anti fan.
Mostly Harmless Version: Will be that guy who doesn’t care who wins the Masters, as long as it isn’t Tiger Woods.
Dangerous Version: Will make outlandish bets against the odds with the hope of being able to rub it in everybody’s face afterwards in the chance he is right.
The scarcity fan is similar to a bandwagon jumper in that they generally only follow successful teams/athletes. However, one great difference for a scarcity fan is their loyalty as once they commit themselves it is usually for a long period, over many years. Typically, scarcity fans follow sports that aren’t generally popular in their local area. In North America, an example of a scarcity fan is someone who follows English Premier League soccer (football). Indeed, as many North Americans only have access to watching one or two matches per week, the overall number of teams they view may be limited, causing what I’d like to call the “Manchester United” effect. The Manchester United effect is what can explain why so many soccer fans that emerged in the late 90s and early 2000s happened to support Manchester United ahead of any number of other teams. Because there were only limited televised games available fans saw a lot of Manchester United games, which coincided with them also being one of the dominant club teams in that time period. This effect can also explain why so many Chelsea fans emerged around 2005 and why recently Manchester City is becoming more popular. It is no coincidence that Manchester United has become a global brand. Similarly, outside of North America, if you were to ask a random person to name a baseball team, what do you think the odds are that they would say the Yankees?
Mostly Harmless Version: Is convinced that Carlos Tevez is the greatest premiership striker of all time, but has never heard of Alan Shearer.
Dangerous Version: Will ignore their spouse and family to get up at ungodly hours to watch an exhibition match, just because it will be the only soccer game on television that week.
These fans are easy to find whenever there is a quadrennial tournament. It doesn’t matter whether it is the Olympics or a World Cup, these fans magically appear. These are the folks that make or break the financial success of a tournament, buying seats to sports they barely understand and setting television audience records. At the same time, the four-year fan is a frustrating specimen for organisers of annual events, who can’t seem to understand why a person who went crazy for Usain Bolt at the Summer Games won’t want to turn up and watch him at the World Athletics Championship, even if he might break world records.
Mostly Harmless Version: Will come back with a wicked sunburn, but will say it was totally worth it to see six swimmers they’ve never heard of before attempt to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Dangerous Version: While helping the event’s official beer sponsor turn a record profit, they will also cause an international crisis through a culturally inappropriate action.
These fans generally become similar to hometown fans, but without the natural affinity to location. It could be that once, while visiting their uncle they were taken to see his favourite team play and were destined to follow them forever, even if they were the Kansas City Royals. It could also be that while on an international student exchange they fell in love with how cool the local team’s scarf looked on their neck and now all they can tell their friends about was how awesome the Collingwood Magpies are.
Mostly Harmless Version: They cheer for the Collingwood Magpies, even though “everyone” knows that the Brisbane Lions are better.
Even More Harmless Version: Will be unable to actually explain the rules of Australian Rules Football, much diminishing their credibility as to how good the Magpies actually are.
Dangerous Version: N/A
Also known as hipsters, these “fans” like to wear vintage logos, especially of defunct teams, because, you know, cheering for a real team, would, like, be lame, and stuff.
Mostly Harmless Version: Still thinks that the California Golden Seals are awesome.
Dangerous Version: Will drink all your Pabst Blue Ribbon the one time he agrees to actually watch a game with other people.
Often confused for sports fans, these gangs of supposedly human beings enjoy everything except for the actual sport on hand. Their knowledge of what is going on is quite limited and almost entirely clouded by the amount of beer they have consumed. Actually making it into a stadium is a rare accomplishment, while remaining in the stadium to the conclusion of a game is unheard of.
Mostly Harmless Version: These are the standard tailgaters that spend most of their college years in the parking lot outside the stadium, drinking beer and barbequing hot dogs. They are unreliable to ask in case you need to know the score.
Dangerous Version: Will cause riots.
Such a fine line distinguishes the diseased from the distracted. These are the sports fans that are absolutely obsessed with statistics because they may actually stand to profit. They are completely without any team loyalty and are quite happy to see teams run up the score so long as it benefits them. They can be found wandering your office asking people to join their playoff pool or sitting at the corner of a bar crying after a midseason loss.
Mostly Harmless Version: Gets upset that they wasted twenty dollars on another season-long pool, only to finish fourth, just outside of breaking even.
Dangerous Version: It’s his face they use on those anti-gambling posters on the bus.
Booster Clubs/Teen Beat Fans
These fans are fans for one reason only and it has nothing to do with sports: they like an athlete… a lot. For whatever reason, whether it is because their favourite player stars in underwear ads or has a really cool rock band on the side or is married to a celebrity, these fans will be with them through thick and thin. They are oblivious to the fact that their NBA “star” is in the coach’s doghouse or that their tennis “star” hasn’t actually ever won a single set, let alone an entire match (and forget about tournaments!). They just like them and always will.
Mostly Harmless Version: Brings a “Marry Me” sign to every game.
Dangerous Version: Brings a “Marry Me” sign to the supermarket…at 3pm…on a Tuesday…because they know that’s exactly when “they” will be there.
Anything missing? Want to add something? Write your sports fan classifications in the comment section!