5 Rules for Being a Fan

By Rob Stott (@rob_stott_88)

It seems like at least once a week now a story hits the interwebs that shows some pathetic individual, or unruly cluster of pathetic individuals making a disgrace of themselves at a sporting event. I’m not just talking about Philly fans; believe it or not, these things happen all throughout the country, and even extend overseas. Whether its fans serenading Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob with boos, or soccer riots in Egypt, or the racist chants hurled at Kansas St. point guard Angel Rodriguez, the image of the sports fan is being tarnished.

Aside from the overly brutal folk in the stands, fans that define themselves as “casual” irritate me just about as much. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone about your favorite team, or sports in general and they have no idea what’s going on, or they just sit there pretending they do. I’m not asking that you devote your life to sports. Just know enough to hold a conversation, especially if you call yourself a fan.

To help solve these problems I’ve decided it’s time to go back to school and retake Fandom 101. Before ever stepping foot in a professional sport stadium or arena, or deciding you want to support a team, remind yourself of these five rules of being a fan:

1. You only get one team

Think these guys really have more than one team?

Per sport, that is. There’s no such thing as having a first, second, third…seventh favorite NFL team. You get one. I don’t care that these seven teams are all in different divisions or play in different conferences. As a fan you devote all of your football passion to one team. When that team wins, your overjoyed and on top of the world. When they lose, life might as well be over. There’s no rebound-team. No team to fall back on when times are rough.

A favorite team in a specific sport should, in all reality, be defined by your hometown. This rule doesn’t necessarily apply to football fans that grew up in the 70’s, because there were only two real teams then, the Cowgirls, and Stillers. Present day though, and with all other sports, your hometown team should have your support. If you’ve moved a bunch, it’s the first team you remember, or the first baseball cap your mom or dad put on you. Rep them well. Rep them hard. Don’t give in to outside temptations—just because your favorite player gets traded to a rival team, don’t you go following them, they’re the enemy now, a turncoat, peons just like the rest of that there roster.

2. Pay attention

This isn’t really that hard. All you have to do is be aware of your favorite team(s) and how they are doing, or what it is they are doing. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you are a fan of some team, in some city, and that city has television. Better yet, if you’re reading this I know for a fact that you have an internet connection. Each of these things can be used to pay attention to your team. Be aware of how they’re doing.

Don’t be that guy that goes up to their friends and says, “Great game yesterday, am I right?” when your team lost on a walk-off homerun. Just don’t be them.

If you watch the news, go online, or read the paper you can easily find out what’s happening in the sports world. Check how your team did last night, see their record, where they’re ranked, what games they’ve got coming up. It’s all right there.

Be on top of other news as well. Have a general idea of who’s on the team, who’s hurt, what the big news stories are. What do you mean you didn’t know McNabb isn’t in Philly anymore? C’mon man. You don’t have to read in depth articles or have your TV glued to ESPN to figure this stuff out… The NBA had a lockout? They sure did, and I’m about to lock you out of my house. Geesh.

No need to watch or go to every game, just make an effort

3. Watch games

If you have a favorite team in every sport, there is no reason that the following statement should ever come out of your mouth: “There’s nothing on TV…” I’m calling bull crap right there. Sports are happening year round, and while your favorite team may not be on every single night, something will be. In every major market there’s bound to be a hometown sports network, whether it’s Comcast SportsNet, Root Sports, Fox Sports, you name it. They can be your source for local sports news.

This rule in no way states that you need to be in front of the TV for every game your numero-uno team plays. Let’s face it, that’s 342 games throughout the year if you have a favorite baseball (162), hockey (82), basketball (82), and football (16) team, not including any postseason runs. Unless I were hired to do such a thing—this may or may not be a call to any recruiters reading this, I’m open to it—there’s no chance of that happening. The only sport that you should be watching every game of is football. With 365 days to get stuff done (366 this year), there’s no reason why you can’t set aside 16 of those days to watch some pigskin action.

Throw on a game every now and then, and watch the team you claim to be a fan of. You might actually enjoy it.

4. Go to games

I understand that this one is a little more difficult. I’m not gonna lie, ticket prices are getting outrageous, and then on top of that you’ve got $10 beer, $7 hotdogs, $325 bag of crumpled chips. It’s insane. There’s no better way, though, to show you care about your team than by going and rooting for them in the flesh—or booing, if that’s what they deserve.

Wouldn't you want to be there?

Make an attempt to get out and socialize with other fans. And while you’re there, show some pride. Jump up and down like a kid on Christmas morning when a goal is scored. Slowly raise those arms as you watch the skyward-flying ball, waiting for it to get over the fence, and then go nuts. Breakout your own touchdown dance in the stands. Live it up!

5. Know the art of heckling

You don’t have to be at a game with opposing fans to heckle said fans, or their team’s players. You could be at work with a rival fan in the cube next to you, or at the gym on the treadmill next to someone using a hand cloth with enemy colors. It doesn’t matter where you are, how well you know the person, or what the circumstances are, a good heckle is a great way to show your fandom.

Just one or two—sometimes three—jabs is enough to have some fun without going overboard. You don’t want to come across as a complete douche, but you still want to show who the better fan is.

Be smart about your heckling. If your team recently got whooped by the rival fan’s, know your place and expect to be on the receiving end of the heckling.

Take a few shots at Crybaby Crosby, and then remind the hecklee that it’s all in good fun. But wasn’t that a great goal by Scott Hartnell with .9 seconds left in OT?

Joking aside, heckle with respect. There’s no need for the incidents mentioned at the top of this article to ever happen. When you look at the grand scheme of things, sports are really just about having fun. Fun to watch, fun to follow, and fun to attend. Let’s keep it that way.

So there you have it. My five simple rules of fandom. In the 200-level course we’ll dive further into expressing emotion at games, the proper way to dispose of a former-players jersey who ditched-then-dissed your team, and getting an athlete to acknowledge your tweet. For now though, leave any questions or comments below.

Class dismissed.


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Categories: BLOG


I'm an editor for Associations Now, a magazine pubished by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. I live in Springfield, VA with my amazing wife, and am enjoying the ride that life is taking me on.


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2 Comments on “5 Rules for Being a Fan”

  1. Sean Breslin
    March 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    THANK YOU. You hit the nail on the head, especially with No. 1. Well done!


  1. It’s Not The Size of the Trophy Case That Matters | Orange Husky Productions - August 28, 2012

    […] many moons ago I gave five simple rules for being a sports fan, a good starting point for any refresher course on proper fandom. But what I’d like to do today […]

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