Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
I don’t know much about sports. I’d like to think I’m slightly above a novice; I played sports very poorly in my younger years. As a former cheerperson for my local high school, I could tell you when players were on offense or defense. There are plenty of male sports fans in my life that I keep up on the basics (it’s Super Bowl season!) to be current with their interests. A lot of the basics were learned at my father’s knee because the people you love tend to make you care more about things you never thought you’d care about.
A few years ago, the (then) Anaheim Angels won the 2002 World Series, and my husband was ecstatic. It was like the rush and relief of the box-office success of the Avengers movie, but only for baseball. He has been a fan of the Angels since he was a kid, and had seen them through their highs and a whole lot of lows. Because the team had been a bonding point for him and his dad, they celebrated together by getting the DVD of the World Series to replay over a holiday dinner. I can barely sit through one or two pitches, but these guys pored over the games, the exclusive interviews, the documentaries and alternate camera shots. All it was missing were some deleted scenes and animatics and it could easily be mistaken for my Star Trek Blu-Ray.
On the way home from watching the World Series in hi-def with his dad, my husband lamented he’d soon be seeing a lot of “fair-weather fans,” people in Angels shirts and caps who bought them the moment the team won, then would retire them to the garage as soon as the next season rolled around. For someone who was a big fan of the Angels, it would be frustrating to see people dressed to the nines in their World Series Champs shirts who had no interest in the team unless they gained national notoriety. That lament was short-lived, as we had a friend with a San Francisco Giants devotee in their house, so the sweet taste of victory outweighed any fair-weather fan.
You can probably see where I’m going with this …
Sports fans and pop-culture fandom are remarkably similar: Both are broad sweeps of a particular varied genre that tend to get lumped together when talking about their sociological makeup. Hockey fans are different from basketball fans are different from fútbol fans are different from video-game fans are different from comic-book fans are different from film fans. Yet, on a basic level, they tend to blend, and interest, involvement and loyalty follow similar patterns. How do I know this? Psychologists have done studies on sports fans! Although a little flawed in execution, there’s a Wikipedia page all about “fan loyalty” and the underpinning psychology of the phenomenon. Fair-weather fans play their small ecological part in determining fan loyalty, as they make up a part of that particular team or sports fan base, but are ephemeral toward their total score. Guys that show up on Super Bowl Sunday but haven’t watched a game in the season can be considered fair-weather fans (or just really good friends who want to spend time with their pals). Gear can be bought and worn and then turned into oil rags for the garage. Expensive seats can be bought for the big game, and then the tickets can be tossed in the trash if the outcome was favorable. Sports fans are not forever.
Don’t tell this to sports fans. Seriously, I wouldn’t recommend it; while I couldn’t find any particular player’s frustration with the fair-weather fan effect, there are pages and pages of Internet ire devoted to “real fans” complaining about “fake fans.” Hockey fans trying to discern true fans from the fair weathers, Facebook pages created in hate, a female football fan who created a litmus test for catching them in the act. (And I quote, “Especially you ladies, if you are a true football fan and you see another woman acting a damn fool and disgracing other female fans with her lack of true fan-ship, declare shenanigans on her ass and expose her for what she is.”) For ages, the sports fans have either been quietly seething against their fellow new fans, raging against the onslaught on forums and bar stools among one another or simply ignoring them in favor of the greater good. While we might struggle with the idea of ‘gatekeepers’ or ‘fake geek girls’ or whatever fair weather fans our favorite pop-culture genre develops, it’s simply human nature.
Perhaps as Football-Con rolls through New Orleans with its colorful costumes, exclusive access, swag bags and over priced venue food, maybe we non-sports fans can keep watching through the awesome Super Bowl commercials and watch the game for a bit and look past the field. If you look around the stadium and see each and every one of those fans, try and guess which one of them is the fake.