At some point in a person’s life they start to notice certain special changes. They’ll wear jerseys they’ve never worn before. They’ll abandon loved ones for hours of online conversation with strangers. They’ll succumb to varied incidents of uncontrolled aggression such as throwing items at the television screen, all in the name of cheering on athletes they may not have met. These and more are symptoms of the development of fanhood, that magical time in a person’s life when they begin to revel in the joy and achievements of others or commiserate with other fans following every defeat. No one knows when fanhood begins. Some say it is a dormant gene passed down from one generation to another. Others say it is a learned condition developed by living in a winning environment, even when temporary, as is the case of fans of all sports in the Tampa Bay area. One thing that is certain, fanhood is a part of the individual and varies tremendously from one to another.
Fanhood does not come without a price. The emotional rollercoaster a fan rides with his or her chosen team is enough to make the sane community dizzy and spew onto the young couple and small children seated in front of them. Those who embrace their fanhood, however, take on the ever chaotic responsibility with pride. Fans can be seen wearing their respective team jerseys like a military uniform with honor and courage even during the team’s longest losing streaks or early shameful exits from the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 2013, or inexplicably wearing a royal blue hockey sweater during a one-hundred degree June day in Florida. Some fans adorn nearly every item they own with their team colors and logos because companies will print a logo on pretty much anything. Some fans can be found at their favorite beverage establishment defending their chosen team from ridicule even at the expense of high-priced drinks, broken windows, hospital bills, and bail. Fanhood creates a community among strangers where fantastic conversations and arguments are had simply through the phrase "Did you see the ______ game?" Fans instantly flock together like brothers to discuss their teams where the same people would never meet or associate with each other in the real world. The nation of fans following teams is greater in population that some European countries, and typically more interesting.
The bills, heat strokes, and hurt feelings endured through one’s fanhood are worn like battle scars by fans and only serve to make victories that much sweeter. When the glorious day comes, the fan and those like him will know all of their sacrifices, hardships, and divorces were worth it because ,in some way, everything they did helped propel their team to victory. The nation of fans will show their colors with pride and join together in song and revelry. Parades will be held to honor the heroes, even though the true heroes are the fans themselves. Some fans will proudly display their fanhood in public for all to see and scream to the heavens "I told you so!" While others will simply smile and exchange high-fives with other fans on subways, at restaurants, churches, or prison cells. The unity and shared experience between fans will echo through eternity in stories told from one generation to the next like the moon landing, or when the phrase "this one will last a lifetime" was first uttered
And for the rest, there is always next year.
Let’s Go Rangers!