Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are You a Real Cubs Fan?

Even facebook thinks fans are stupid. Anything beyond "like" is too much for Zuckerberg.
The Cubs have yet another marketing campaign, although this one is for a good cause. Not that trying in vain to win a World Series isn't a good cause, it's just that more conscientious uses of natural resources is probably a better one (though the world is likely to end once the Cubs finally win it all, so maybe there's some conflict there). The new slogan is "Real Fans Recycle."

I don't care to comment on the recycling so much as the use of the phrase, Real Fans. The topic has come up several times in recent days, especially as the Blackhawks bring their increasingly loaded bandwagon ever closer to Stanley Cup junction. A lot of extra-fanatic fans are calling into question the integrity of the newcomers. If the state of Blackhawk fandom were the state of Arizona, the die-hards would be asking a lot of fair-weathers to produce their papers. But is it really necessary to secure the borders of Blackhawk Nation or that of the real fanbase of any other team?

Come on.

I'm no expert on the Blackhawks, but I consider myself a fan. I follow their progress. I watch a fair amount of their games. I want them to do well every year. Hockey is not my favorite sport, mostly because I have an impossible time imagining I could play it. This makes the game a bit harder to relate to, but in no way does it diminish the grandeur of the sport. I'm more impressed by the talent and athleticism of hockey players than those of any other competitive endeavor, no matter how hard it is to see the puck. So, I'm a fan. I like the team. I like their fans, too. But I'm sure a lot of people would call my fanaticism a big frozen block of fail. So be it. I'll still call myself a fan, though not loudly.

I say this as a die-hard Cubs fan, because as much as I like the team, I find it entirely silly to evaluate the fanhood of my fellow enthusiasts. If you just started cheering for the Cubs in 2003, welcome. If you're a centenarian on life support waiting for the first World Series championship in your lifetime . . . I applaud you. Loudly. If you just became a fan because of the thrill ride that was the 2009 Milton Bradley saga . . . you're weird. But you're no better fan than I. Even if you jump from team to team, commandeering the bandwagon of whichever team wins it all, I can't wait for you to superficially don the Cubbie pinstripes. You're all real fans, congrats.

The key to all this is, being called a fan is not a compliment. Take as much pride as you want in being a fan, but don't expect anyone but other like-minded, affirmation-deprived souls to congratulate you. The reward of being a fan comes in the experience itself. If you cheer for a winner, the victory and its complementary bragging rights are your spoils, but no fan gets to keep them all to themselves. No one can dictate who gets to be happy about a win or sad about a loss, and there's no extra commendation to bestow upon us poor applauding fools. The sound of our own jubilation is all we get. Well, that and whatever merchandise we care to buy to commemorate our idiocy.

Plenty of fans will argue the existence of some code of honor among fanatics, that their choice of team is something nobler than rooting for the most likely winner. They're from my hometown. This team is different. They have the cutest butts. They play with heart. They play with valor. They play with themselves. What we really want to cheer for is a team that plays well, and most of us stick with the same team not because we want to be noble but because we want to be right.

Nowhere is this more relevant than in the other sports-related fan word: fantasy. Those of us who play fantasy sports will, on occasion, select a player from our favorite team or just a person we generally admire. But when we're the ones doing the competing, most of us will choose the players we think we will perform the best. We choose practicality over sentiment or we lose. Everyone loves the fantasy sports participants who choose with their hearts instead of their heads. Are they better people? No. Are they certain to lose? Absolutely, that's why we love them!

So, go Blackhawks. Go Cubs. Go real fans everywhere. But if you're going around telling people they aren't real fans, take a moment to make sure you have an actual life. To be a real fan, I believe technically you have to be a real person.


Spill it.

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