Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What does it mean to be a fan?

Every Sunday morning during football season, it's the same thing. I get out of bed and go hang my Vikings flag from our front stoop. Sometimes Kristin does it, but either way, the flag is usually flying by 10 a.m.

I have a contest with my neighbor, a Lions fan who also hangs a flag on Sunday mornings. I'm always disappointed when I see that he's got his out there before I do. I'm also disappointed when I realize he's not aware of our contest.

When it gets close to game time, I make sure I'm wearing my purple Vikings thermal shirt under my white Adrian Peterson jersey. I look through my collection of six Vikings hats, but I always choose this one. I pour myself a Diet Pepsi or Diet Mountain Dew into the same Vikings mug I've had since the 1970s.

Then I head to my recliner where I take my good luck charm (a squirrel friend) and put a tiny Vikings helmet on her head. I place her on the Vikings couch/Kleenex dispenser that sits next to me. Then -- and only then -- am I ready for the game to start.

I own three Vikings jerseys. In addition to the hats, I have two Vikings T-shirts and one purple hoodie. A shelf in my TV room is loaded with Vikings memorabilia. I have a Vikings window flag for my car, which also has a Vikings license plate holder on the rear. Our downstairs bathroom has a Vikings shower curtain, and I have three Vikings light switch plates downstairs as well.

This is all to say, I love the Vikings. I consider myself a true fan. Yet, I know there are others who would say I'm not a good fan, that I should support my team no matter what it does. So when the Vikes play like crap and embarrass themselves and their fans on national television as they did Sunday night, I should just suck it up and say, "We'll get them next time."

[On a side note, true fans use "we" when referring to the teams they cheer for. I'm not on the team, so I don't say "we." "We" did not lose to the Panthers. The Vikings did.]

I suppose then I'm not a true fan. When the game is over -- win or lose -- my life goes on. I might be mad for a while, as I was this week, but a loss has no long-term effect on my life. When they win, I'm happy. Even that wears off after a while, though. I wasn't always like that, but I am now.

I don't get the types of fans who dress like the guy pictured above. I've never seen the appeal of being a face-painter, either. I can't fathom why someone would get on a message board and rip others for criticizing the team. And I can't understand how so many people could behave like this, even in Philly.

Living in Chicago, I see this discussion up close when it relates to baseball fans. White Sox fans are practical. When their team is good, like it was in 2005, they go gangbusters and support them. When the team is awful, they refuse to spend their hard-earned money on the bums.

Then there are Cubs fans, the ones who are so often romanticized beyond reality. They brag about sticking with their team through all their years of mediocrity and worse, yet during the times I've gone to Wrigley I hardly see anyone watching the game, especially in the bleachers which are really more like a singles bar. The game is just background.

I realize both of those descriptions are stereotypes, but which set of fans can be considered true fans? Can I consider myself a true fan even though I posted "Stick a fork in 'em," as my Facebook status Sunday night?

You tell me. What makes a fan a true fan?

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