This weekend I was lucky enough to be seated next to a remarkably irritating sports fan in a major football stadium. I say lucky because I have no other way of explaining the odds of this person sitting next to me in a stadium filled with more than 100,000 less irritating people. I learned a great deal about how to be a super fan, a fan so obsessed and so passionate about a team that every play causes a minor infarction. Every second is life or death. Blood is replaced by pure adrenaline. The primal fight or flee coin toss in center field lands on fight. No one is off limits. All are the enemy. The opposing team and its fans? Ground moles to be swooped up, eaten, and pooped out on a fence post. The referees? Well, zebras, of course, to be swatted down in mid stride and bitten firmly about the neck.
But the true target of the super fan, the enemy that receives the most bitter and constant fiery tongue lashing, is the team rooted for. They are the cause of true heartache, feelings of disappointment and betrayal. Hating one’s own team is what distinguishes the super fan from the ordinary sports enthusiast. One’s switch must be set to complete love or complete hate–no dimmer setting that allows for feelings of indifference or mild amusement. From this point on, I will refer to her–yes, her–as Super Fan. Here’s how you can be like her.
STEP ONE: The Entrance
Enter a couple minutes into the game so that the maximum number of people are already packed in around your seats and begin swearing loudly while shaking a fist even while making your way from the aisle to your seat. Saying “excuse me” or something stupid like that while walking by people would ruin the effect. You must scream. In her case, the cause for her first eruption was a time out taken by Her team. “What the flake monsters are we taking a gafunkled time out for? Get it the bing together, you snaphole condiments! Lord Krsna have mercy on your pawdaddy fingerlips!” Well, her language may have been less creative.
STEP TWO: Don’t Let One Play Go By Without Complaint
If your team runs, shout your frustration with their lack of passing. If they pass, suggest a run. If the team gets a first down, say something like “It’s about flurking time you diaper sniffing beatbacks!” If your team scores a field goal, complain it isn’t a touchdown; if touchdown, allow yourself to love them for two moments and try to high-five the people around you who are beginning to wish for you to OD from whatever lead-based paint product you were snorting while pre-gaming. The same sorts of rules apply when your team is on defense. Complain loudly and crudely about any play that isn’t a season-ending sack. The Super Fan kept this up for a full quarter, nearly dying from every “bad play call” as the team she was rooting for scored three unanswered touchdowns.
STEP THREE: Ignore the Body Language and Dirty Looks of Everyone Around You
They aren’t true fans like you are. They don’t suffer like you do. In their hearts, they probably envy your enthusiasm and wish they could be comfortable enough in their own skin to make a complete idiot of themselves in front of thousands. The Super Fan had a sublime obliviousness to the entire world around her. The world is my living room sofa, she seemed to say. The game in front of her was a TV. The crowd around her were lamps, and ottomans, and doodads taken from Grandma’s house. She did not see the several conversations going on around her–all about her. She did not hear things like “I wish she would shut up,” “What would she do if we were behind?” or “This is not going to end well.” All knees and heads turned away from her, but she was unaffected. She stood like a volcano amongst cold, rocky hills, the sole burst of flaming lava in a peaceful landscape.
STEP FOUR: When Confronted, Escalate, Ruminate, Apologize, and Hit it Hard Again
Predictably, someone, a wall of a man in front of her, finally turned around and asked her to watch her language since children were present. Though I have no doubt that awareness of children in proximity may have played a part in the admonishment, the root cause was probably personal irritation and the worry that if he didn’t say anything, he would soon lose control, hit her squarely on the jaw, and go to jail. She fought back and attacked him as if he had just fumbled on the one yard line before sitting down for a moment. Then when she noticed that the wall was talking to her significant other and not to her, she yelled “Why don’t you talk to me if you have something to say”–only her expression contained more learning opportunities for the children she was warned were in the vicinity.
The wall’s wife turned around, said “I’ll talk to you,” leaned forward until she was nose to nose with the Super Fan, and politely told her to be quiet (well, you know the expression). From that point she mumbled to herself, listened to her boyfriend or friend or husband tell her repeatedly to “calm down, Laura” (like that ever works), and finally was re-born. As if baptized in the fire of the wall wife’s breath, she rose from the ashes as friendly as she had been angry just moments earlier.
She apologized to everyone, one by one, and then expressed her enthusiasm in more socially conscious ways. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it. I’m a fan. I get worked up,” she said. “But I’ll watch my language.” And she did. Then she became both cautionary tale and exemplar all rolled in one. The Super Fan has taught us how to act.