Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Anatomy of a Fan

Why do we keep doing it?

Why do we continue to come back to something that continuously hurts us?  If this was a relationship with a person, everyone would tell you its bad for you.  They would tell you to get out and don't look back.  This cannot be healthy.  This pain is something so familiar.

Of course, I am talking about being a fan.  This is one of the most difficult things you can do.  Although, at the same time, it's almost easier to be loyal to our team than anything else in our lives.  Maybe its the fact that we always know that sports will be there.  Maybe its the ghost relationship we build with the players.  Maybe it is because its "our" team.  When you are a fan you feel like you are a part of something bigger.  Whether its Red Sox Nation, the Dawg Pound, or Gang Green, its more like going home than going to a game.

Take this past week, I was on twitter, espn, bleacher report,,, any site that follows hockey to try and get up to the second news on the Zach Parise signing.  I have to imagine so were all Penguins, Devils, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Flyers, and Wild fans.  You get sucked in.  You want to be the first to know so you can be the first to tell your friends the good news.  Unfortunately, more times than not, you are the bearer of bad news.

As a Devils fan, I felt somewhat betrayed when I heard of the planning between Ryan Sutter and Zach Parise to try and join the same team.  You go through the same motions as in real life tragedies.  I felt like maybe I could have cheered harder.  Possibly found a way to go to more games.  Spent more money to do my part in helping the franchise.  Maybe if I tried harder, Parise would be donning the black and red for the rest of his career, or maybe I had no chance.  I took this loss worse than being broken up with, because it felt the same.  Parise divorced the Devils and was going to marry the Wild.

It gets worse in some places.  I just imagine being a Pirates fan.  Having an owner who cannot hold on to good talent because he never wants to pay them, eventually trading them for prospects you can't get excited for because you know as soon as they become good, they'll be traded as well.  Only seems like a matter of time before Andrew McCutchen is donning another jersey.  On top of that, it is a once proud franchise that hasn't had a winning season in twenty years.  Here are Yankee fans complaining if their team doesn't win the World Series every year when the Bucs fans just want to be over 500.  I can't help but root for the Pirates.

There are the losses that you take to heart, the wins that make your entire year, the plays that send chills up and down your spine, the friends you make for a night when you go to watch the games, and the random people you hug at a bar when your team wins in overtime.  The arguments you get into over whether Tony Romo is an elite quarterback and the fights you get into with the rival team's fans.  Its all part of the experience.  Its not just sports, it becomes life.  When you think about it, however, the probability in ending the season happy is one in thirty.  Who is happy right now?  Kings fans, Heat fans, Cardinal fans, and Giants fans, because they are champions.

Does losing your favorite player, no, one of your best friends hurt?  Yes, of course, but the great part about sports is we move on and we learn to love again.  I never thought I would love a player like Paul O'Neill, then Nick Swisher was donning right field and I've never looked back.  When Bobby Holik donned Ranger blue I was heart-broken, but that only made me root for the Devils more.

Those times when you are with your friends, watching the playoffs all cheering and booing, its an experience.  When that historical moment happens while you're watching, you can tell your kids you saw it live.  Then you and your children bond over sports and they emulate your favorite players from an early age.  You wear the names of your favorites jerseys, you wait outside the stadium to get a glimpse of them, hoping that it is your lucky day and you can possibly get an autograph, you display memorabilia in your house just to impress your friends that you have it.  You live as if sports are the end all be all, because to you they are.

Is sports worth it?  Is the heartbreak really necessary?  Do we need to live our lives through a certain team?  Yes, because it makes our lives better when it's great.  Parise may have left my Devils, but every time I go on youtube and see Adam Henrique score the game winning goal against Henrik Lundqvist I get more and more excited to go through it all again.  Sports may have lows, but the highs far outweigh it, and that's why we will continue to come back until the day we die.

By Nick Villano

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