Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Ten Commandments of Being a Sports Fan

1). I am the team by which you have sworn your allegiance.  You shall have no other teams before me.

You are only allowed to love one team in each sport.  If you're a fan of two teams equally, you're a fan of no one.  That having been said, it is perfectly fine to favor some teams over others.  If the Sabres aren't on and I want to watch hockey, I tend to gravitate towards the Avalanche, Blues, Predators, Flames, Oilers, and Wild because I like those teams better than the rest of the NHL, but their successes mean little to me.  It's the Sabres or it should be.

2). Thy name on they front of thy jersey is more important than thy name on thy back.

There is no one person within the organization at any point in time that is more important than the team itself.  If your favorite player leaves, you have every right to be upset.  You have every right to buy their new jersey and wish them well as an individual.  You have no right to jump ship, pout, complain, or hand in your season tickets (cough*sabrescutie*cough) no matter how beloved that player or coach may be.

3). You shalt have a personal connection to thy team.

For me, this is pretty easy.  I was born in Buffalo so I root for the Bills and the Sabres.  In other sports, I have no real allegiances and do not gain any pleasure out of seeing anyone win a championship, so I don't consider myself a fan of anyone in those sports.  I will watch the Yankees, Mets, Twins, and Lakers more than the other teams, but I am not a fan, merely an observer.  As Bill Simmons so eloquently put it:

If you're between the ages of 20-40, you're a fan of the Yankees, Cowboys, Braves, Raiders, Steelers, Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Canadiens and/or Oilers, and you're not actually from those one of those cities ... well, you better have a reason that goes beyond "When I was picking a favorite team as a kid, they were the best team, so I picked them."

Look, I grew up watching Steve Young and Jerry Rice and absolutely idolized them.  But I had enough self respect to recognize where my loyalties, and where my personal connection resonated most, and didn't become a 49ers fan.  Rooting for the Bills and the Sabres just felt natural, even though I came in at two of the darker times in their history.  If rooting for any of the afore mentioned teams (and I would add the Leafs, Red Wings, Penguins, Capitals, Red Sox, Cubs, Patriots, and Colts) feels right to you and you don't have some kind of personal connection, you're not a fan, you're just shallow.

4). You shalt wear thy colors proudly.

None of this keeping your head down when times are tough, that's what bandwagon fans do.  The team gives you entertainment, it gives you moments with your friends and family, hell it may even give you friends and family.  The least you can do is show your continued support.  No putting the Sabres hat away when Miller isn't playing well, no taking the Bills flag off your car because they haven't been good in a decade, no keeping mum on the team or ignoring the sport in general.  That's what Cowboys fans did at the end of the previous decade when the team was awful, and what they're starting to do again.  Real fans are better.

5). You shalt remember thy gameday and keep it holy.

Look, I understand that real life hits you hard and unexpectedly sometimes and games will be missed.  But if there's a game on, and your house isn't pregnant, and your wife isn't on fire (or something like that), your ass should be in front of the TV or in the stands.  There isn't a whole lot more annoying than someone who calls themselves a fan, and doesn't have the slightest clue as to what's going on, or when the team is playing.  That's what pink hat wearing women are for.

6). You shalt know, honor, and remember thy history.

Sabres fan and don't know who Gilbert Perreault is?  Bills fan who doesn't know just how good O.J. Simpson was?  See ya later.  There is nothing more obnoxious than a shallow fan who doesn't really know or understand anything about the team and where it has come from.  These things are important because they drive the desire to make more (and better) memories for future generations.

7). You shalt not root for a loss under ANY circumstances.

I'm sorry, but advocating that the team tank for draft picks, or to get a certain staff member fired goes against the very reason the sport is being played.  There are teams such as the Red Sox, the White Sox, and the Cubs that have spent DECADES trying to change a losing culture.  That attitude, that a loss is okay and an incomplete effort is acceptable, is far too insidious to be allowed to creep back into a building or a city.  Shut the door and keep it locked.

8). You shalt only boo as a last resort.

Players respond to positive crowds far more than they respond to negative crowds.  Try to pick the team up with raucousness before you resort to booing.  No one wants to play in a building where the ome fans continually shit (or spit, good job Yankees fans) on the team.  That having been said if your team gets outshot 15-1 in a period when they look like they're not even trying, let them have it by voice or by sign.

9). You shalt know thy team.

I've always said that to prove themselves, fans should have to be able to name a certain number of players beyond the big names.  In the NFL, I've typically said at least a backup quarterback and a starting offensive lineman (Brian Brohm and Eric Wood) and in the NHL, the backup goalie and a prospect (Can Jhonas Enroth be both?  Well I guess Patrick Lalime and Brayden McNabb will do).  I think we can all expect fans to at least be a little better than the puck bunny in a Crosby/Romo/Kobe/Jeter jersey who doesn't know jack shit.

10). You shalt respect other fans to the extent that they deserve to be respected

I understand that going into an opponent's barn and being loud and obnoxious is part of the fun, and completely justified, but there are a few things you should never do.  First of all, remember, it is their house, their game, their money and their time.  In this situation, they have standing over you.  You should absolutely not do anything to ruin or attempt to ruin the home fans' experience.  No being an asshole during the anthems, no attempting to curtail traditions such as the flag pass, and no desicrating the arena in any way.  Home fans, no physical violence or otherwise making opposing fans feel threatened.  You don't want people walking away saying, "gee, those fans suck."  You have two distinct advantages, volume and numbers, use them, not your fists.  That having been said, if an opposing fan comes into your building and commits any of the above infractions, don't let them forget it.

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