Week to week, season to season and sport to sport, we all root on our favorite team to win. We have our favorite player on the team and also the one that we can’t understand for whatever reason that they are even with the organization. Regardless of who you like and who you don’t like, the common goal amongst sports fans is for their favorite team to win and their rival to lose. For many however, it isn’t about a simple game that is won or lost, we get involved into it as it becomes part of our everyday lives. With sports talk radio, fantasy sports and many dedicated channels, it surrounds us and we can’t get enough of it. We refer to our favorite team as ‘us’ as if we just made a game winning tackle and yell at the television second guessing the Coach because we obviously know more than they do. So what is the boundary on being a fan? Is there a point where you are too much of one and a point where you just ride on the bandwagon while the local team is doing good? Pitt Football Assistant Coach Greg Gattuso recently raised some eyebrows during an interview when he made comments about Pitt fans. Gattuso said that while some fans are upset about the current state of the program and the disappointing season they had this year, that he knows all the true fans support the program and the direction that they are going. If what he said is true, does that mean then when a program consistently underachieves that we just say ‘oh well’ and accept it?
A perfect example would be the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past 18 years where they haven’t had a winning season. Fans grumble each year that the team will be horrible and the same 11,000 people go to the games every night, unless of course there is a bobble head giveaway or fireworks going on. I wonder when the organization breaks through and finally does turn things around, how many people will be at the stadium and support the team? Does that make them true fans or followers of an organization that finally righted ship? I think Gattuso was wrong in what he said personally. You can be a fan and be frustrated. Boycotting games, wanting a Coach who hasn’t earned a BCS Bowl in the worst eligible conference are reasons for being frustrated. Fan is short for fanatic, and as fanatic’s, we put our heart and soul into the teams that we follow.
Does being a fan mean that you have to like every team from your hometown or are you able to like teams outside of the area? If you like all the Pittsburgh teams except the Steelers, does that make you a phony because you aren’t what some consider to be loyal to the City? What about during a spell where a team is trying to improve but just striking out such as the Penguins in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s. They couldn’t run enough promotions to give away tickets for free, but now that they are a winner every year, it’s impossible to get tickets. Same way with the Pitt Basketball team. Does staying away from the games during the down period but professing your love for them while they are good make you a true fan? Is donating money to pay for the Steelers James Harrison’s fines the measure of a fan or is it outrageous because of the amount of money that he makes?
A good friend of mine, we’ll call him Doug, can’t stand Kris Letang from the Pens who is having an All Star caliber season. When he does something wrong, I get a text or a call bashing him. I sometimes feel that he would rather see him falter than do good for the team. What does that say about those who prefer a guy they hate to do bad and hurt the team instead of the team winning? Does that make them a true fan or not?
We all have our different opinions on the teams and all show our passion differently. However you express those is dependent on how you are as a person. There is no right or wrong in my book. Would I like to see everyone support the teams good or bad? Sure, but who am I to say if that is right or wrong. Whichever way you decide to pull for your team, continue supporting and cheering because remember, if it wasn’t for us the fans, the athletes wouldn’t have anyone to play for. So what do you think sports fans, what is the true measure of a fan?
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com