Making Sense of Fandom

(From the desk of an absolute Boston Sports Homer)

To preface this article, let me make this loud and clear: I need a hobby. Anything works at this point. Knitting? Who knows? Yoga? Hey, I feel relatively flexible. Why not even try picking up a book? I never asked for this, nor do I wish it upon others. It remains the number one cause of anxiety amongst twenty-something-year-old males living with their parents. Before you know it, the doctor walks into the waiting room, cues his inner “Fray,” and assures you to sit down---it’s just a talk. You open the door, stare at your entire extended family in the room, your mother sobbing in a far rocking chair. A trap! A glimpse of the “Intervention” sign and you reach for that last quick hit. It all caves in when your Bleacher Report App loses data. You break down, unable to read Mel Kiper’s latest Mock Draft.

A whole new low: Fandom---an irreparable disease with no cure in sight.

When does Fandom start? Each addict remembers the first hit. Some of us try “The NFL Today on CBS” and never return to reality. For others, some kid slips you EA Sports’ MVP Baseball 2005 after school in the library. It leaves you tingling for three hours, stuck on the couch staring at the ceiling. The symptoms gradually escalate with wild mood shifts. One moment of ecstasy turns into yelling at your mother for laughing in the middle of overtime. Sobering up, you realize school starts that next day… and so do those three essays you blew off. Sure, you try hiding it, just like all addicts. It starts with a lie—an innocent plea for more lunch money from mom and dad. The next day they catch you streaming NFL Redzone off your iPhone, crying for that same first-time ecstasy.

Before you know it, you end up like this:

The horror! Stop the madness. Force-feed us non-stop “Above the Influence commercials.” Cue Sarah McLachlan yelling, “Sports: Not even once!”

Here at Boston College, those suffering from Fandom relapsed ten days ago. Super Bowl Sunday, a pseudo-American holiday, proved lethal. In wake of overdose, the game had everything. Richard Sherman taunting? Check. Katy Perry dancing with a shark clearly out of water? Check. A fourth quarter comeback for the ages, an inexplicably stupid call that left people speculating that Belichick turned game difficulty to All-Madden, and Tom Brady cementing a greatest-of-all-time legacy? Check, check, and yes, check.

Does the addiction end? No. Never. Sports generate an infinite number of original scripts, a form of modern-day theatre. As long as a ball bounces or puck drops here on the Heights, sports dwarf Shakespearean dramas into Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham. True full throttle fandom requires adversity. People die before they reach nirvana. Years of suffering determine true loyalty, explaining why the Chicago Cubs maintain a crazed fan base despite a century-long championship drought.

Imagine if a sports team wins year after year. Bandwagon fans pile up and the wins feel less and less special. The price of winning tarnishes, its true value lost in the midst of complacency. In order to truly appreciate success, one must experience disappointment and failure.

Boston College fans know this all too well. A bowl game appearance in 2013 felt like winning the National Championship after experiencing Spaz’s horrific 2-10 football season from hell. What about upsetting USC? The win would have lost all significance if Addazio’s squad entered the contest undefeated.

True Fandom originates from enduring struggle all the way 'til the bitter end. It means going down with the ship, only to wake up the next day full-heartedly dedicated to next season. Fandom defines itself in a quote by the most appropriate fictional sports character, Rocky Balboa:

“It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Call me crazy, but waking up the morning after Super Bowl XLIX, I felt cured. Tom Terrific finally got the job done, the monkey forever off his back. The Patriots captured that elusive fourth ring—but it almost felt bittersweet. I called my older brother that same day, going through every last detail of what we sadly described as “the best night of our lives.” By the end of the phone call, we realized what made it feel so damn sweet: the heartbreak of 18-1 coupled with a Wes Welker drop for two Giant upsets (literally). Without those, I guarantee I never would have written this column. Not as a result of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, but a matter of no longer having that same love for sports.

So, as I go to bed, I thank you Lord for all the David Tyree catches and all the wide-right field goals from BC kickers. I thank you for Aaron Boone, Kobe Bryant, and why not, even the Coach Spaz’s of the world. For all we know, without them, winning would never taste so sweet.

I never wish this disease on anyone. Fandom already stole enough of my mental capacity to possibly learn a second language, let alone sleep at night or emotionally invest myself in meaningful things like family or friends. Conte and Alumni forever serve as the ultimate junkie house of the most potent source of Fandom on campus.

So, heed my fair warning. Next time you buy that ticket, just remember: it takes only one hit.

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