Robot 6

The Fifth Color | The Super Bowl and ‘fake geeks’

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.

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Comments

16 Comments

“Football-Con” is hilarious. Also, this is one of my favorite columns that shows up on CBR (and totally my favorite Robot 6 column), and this is the first time your writing has drawn my attention to your gender.

Maybe I’m not such a big fan after all. Maybe I was only faking it.

As a Giants fan, the 2002 was a major baseball low point for me.

Favorite line (under Bandwagoner):

Pros – Will die someday

Harsh, but oh so true. Yeah, I’m talking to you at the sports bar, the guy who always has the latest in headwear…from whatever team is winning at the time. Die, poser, die! :)

The Hey, Dude Fan

February 1, 2013 at 6:10 pm

One of my great passions in life is hockey, more specifically the New Jersey Devils. I’ve been a fan since I was seven (circa 1988) and seriously haven’t missed a game (either via TV or radio) in about four years.

Now, because of the Devils’ recent success — last year’s Eastern Conference champs and Stanley Cup finalists — I guess you would think that this would be an issue (fair-weather fans). However, I have a different outlook on things, partly due to the unique circumstances surrounding my team.

I don’t really mind the fair-weather fan. They don’t bother me in the slightest (with the possible exception of when they embarrass the fanbase as a whole). My theory is: if given the chance, and not scared or shooed away, a percentage of them just might last and become “hardcore” fans and that helps make the Devils (a team often derided by the hockey press as “boring” and more or less the scourge of the NHL) more prominent.

Now part of this has to do with the Devils’ location. Located in Newark, and previously the Meadowlands, they are mere miles from NYC and the New York Rangers. The Rangers (and to a lesser extent, the Philadelphia Flyers further south) are the established team with the larger, sexier, more extensive fanbase. The Devs have always been seen as the red headed stepchild and the odd man out in the area. No matter how much success they have, they can never seem to shake the Rangers’ shadows.

Also, not unlike the comic book industry, the Devils need fans (although this is way more exaggerated by the press of the other teams more often than not, as we DO sellout games). They are currently suffering from some financial difficulty and need an influx of people who want to care. Scaring them away only hurts the bottom line.

It’s because of that that I do not care if someone who can’t tell Ilya Kovalchuk from Marty Brodeur is wearing a Devils jacket. At least they are trying at some level and you never know, if they aren’t shamed, they might do a little research and become a “true fan” at some point.

Part of my perspective also has to do with the fact that the Devils have really had about 25 years of success at some level or another, having missed the playoffs only three times since 1988. If they went into a sustained period of hardship, things would be drastically different.

Sorry for the long-winded post, just trying to get my perspective down. Maybe fair-weather fans aren’t *that* bad after all. Given the chance, they just might help add to something you love. I think some of them go into liking something they don’t have a previous connection to with an idea that they are going to face some backlash. Maybe if given some leeway, they might stick around. Who knows though, it could be in their personality to be a fair-weather fan.

Sports and comics!! Love it. Superbowl week is now officially known as “football con”

As a Jacksonville Jaguars fan, I really feel for The Hey, Dude Fan with his story about the Devils. People have been saying for about 5 years now that the Jaguars will soon be known as the “LA Jaguars” even though the Jags haven’t had a black out in over 2 years and have a contract with the stadium up to 2015, and that we need Tebow to “help sell tickets and jerseys” even though jersey sales outside of stadiums on game day get split to all 32 teams. But the perception hasn’t changed.

I thought Jacksonville was on the come up when they beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh in the playoffs. I was wrong about that one. :(

If the only reason someone watches the Super Bowl is the commercials then that’s a waste. you can see the commercials right before and after the game on the internet. as for the half time show heck some one always records it and will put that online as well. If you are a fair weathered fan or just want to be part of a super bowl party go ahead and have fun but please if you don’t want to watch the game then don’t do something else you’ll enjoy.

L.A. doesn’t deserve a team. Teams have left there in the last 15 – 20 years. If they really wanted a team during that time the league would bend over backward for them to give them every thing they want. Also L.A. has a front runner mentality they don’t just want any team but it would have to be a contending team(And any team like that wouldn’t be in danger of moving to L.A.). It’s funny there were discussions about bringing the the Sacramento Kings to L.A. . So they would have 3 NBA but couldn’t support 1 NFL team?

You know how you keep clicking on links from Facebook, hoping one will finally combine subtle wit with a genuinely interesting observation?

Thank you for writing something smart and interesting, on the internet.

(And Go Niners.)

Remember, though, when sports fans complain about it, it’s okay and just an accepted thing, but when nerds complain about it, that’s a reason to get up in arms and parade around the entire internet doing article after article about how its the worst thing since the holocaust and how dare they marginalize a group of people are aragalargbblargh.

Actually, LA is having a hard time trying to find a place for the stadium. They want to put one downtown near the Staples Center and the people who want to build it assume everyone will take the MTA(ha!). There are also talking about putting the stadium in the city of commerce or Irwindale…I don’t know of any of you people are from LA , but those are not the glamorous parts of LA you would associate with the Southern California. The last proposal was to play at the Rose Bowl, but traffic into Pasadena would be a nightmare. Los Angeles needs to figure out where the team is going to go first or we can just keep watching SC.

I’m a big Washington Capitals fan and a few years ago they were lighting up the league behind the offensive firepower of Alexander Ovechkin. There were lots of fans on the bandwagon (especially in a Redskins town) and it was nice to not be outnumbered by Penguins, Flyers, and Rangers fans at games. The team has underachieved lately and the Skins have RGIII, so the bandwagon has shook some people off. It was nice while it lasted but I can’t help but wonder if that’s what it going to happen to “geek culture” when something new and shiny comes through and the fans that follow trends not interests move on.

@Chris McFeely

The point I took away from it is that a) nerds are not unique in this behavior, and b) sports fans should cut that shit out too.

@Chris McFeely,

No, it’s not okay when sports fan do it. I’m a huge fan of São Paulo F.C. (Brazilian Soccer team). Not that long ago (from 2005 to 2008), we we’re on a incredible winning streak. Obvoiuslly, lots of new fans showed up everywhere. It helped cement SPFC’s position as the third biggest fanbase in brazilian soccer, widening the difference to Palmeiras and Vasco da Gama.
Of course, not all of these fans stuck, and most of them don’t spend half as much as some long time fans do, but those who are still around are helping the team one way or another.

Eh, I’ve never really given a fuck about the idea of “real nerds” vs “fake nerds;” what upsets me more are the comic noobs who expect everything to be tailored to them and suddenly think because they’ve read a few series, they’re an expert on the medium. Especially the new X-Men fans who always rave about how great Whedon’s Astonishing run was (guess what? It wasn’t; slightly above mediocre, maybe, but I can name at least 10 X-book runs that were better just off the top of my head). The DC equivalent are the Meltzer IC/JLA fans. But then I remember I was a noob too, and I cut ‘em some slack; they obviously enjoy comics, so they’ll probably continue reading, which means they’ll see the better stuff at some point and stop being so annoying.

The idea of “fake nerd” though? I guess Big Bang Theory (a show that still bug me with the cliched stereotypes it uses) has kinda made being a nerd a bit more chic, but I still think there’s a heavy stigmata when it comes to being a nerd, especially a comics nerd, so the idea that someone would choose to call themself a nerd is a bit like someone “choosing” to be gay (although there’s much more stigmata attached to that despite society’s huge strides in tolerance in the past couple of decades). The only people I can think of who might choose to be “fake nerds” are hipsters, but we should hate them for being hipsters, not “pretending” to like “our” stuff.

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