Cheers echo in the stands. "Touchdown! Touchdown!" The chants are so loud that you can't hear yourself think. Everyone is caught up in the inescapable exuberance of the moment. Its power is intoxicating to you, caught in the thick of it you are unable to look away. Yet, even as you find yourself a part of the celebration, you are not part of the moment itself. There is a disconnection between your moment and their moment.
The "Sports Fan' resides in a special zone within the sports world. Outside that world are all the individuals who are not affiliated with sports or do not care about them. Many of my friends fall in this category. Their relationship with sports, teams, and athletes is simple; they do not have one. They do not, and have no desire to, share in the glory of a quintessential sports moment. They are outside the sports world and happy to be there.
Inside that world are sports teams, individual athletes, agents, officials, and management. They are within the true "sports circle' because it directly impacts their lives. Athletes create the spectacle. Officials and agents regulate it. Teams and management profit from it. Everyone has a role to play and each revels in the quintessential sports moment because that moment directly touches their lives.
What about the Sports Fan? Where do they-where do I-fit in? The fan is neither truly inside nor outside of the sports world. Fans do not create moments like athletes, they do not regulate them like agents, and they certainly do not profit from them like teams. Yet some element of their well-being, happiness, and self-worth is tied to their particular team. Enjoying the particular sports moments they came about imbues fans with a sense of pride, power, and accomplishment. Are fans inside the sports world? No, the impact of sports on their lives is far too indirect. Are they outside of it? Certainly not. So, what is the Sports Fan's place in the sports world?
The Sports Fan is at the center of the sports world. The fans do not make up a game's participants like athletes, but without them the game would be a pickup game in an empty lot rather than a sporting event. What is an arena without fans to pack the stands? The fans do not regulate the game directly like league officials and agents, but the way they participate dictates the rules and style of the sport over time. Would the fast-paced, exciting 1980s brand of basketball have redefined the NBA if fans had no come to watch it in unanticipated droves? The fans certainly do not profit from the game, like management, indeed it is often the opposite. But the fan's feelings of happiness, power, unity, self-worth, and accomplishment many derive from their team's success often have strong positive impacts on their own lives.
Sports Fans make the sports world. They are at the center of it. Their relationship to the game is indirect at first glance. They do not share in every quintessential moment the same way as athletes on the field. They cannot interact with those inside the sports world on an individual level most of the time. But, sports fans overcome this disconnect because collectively their interest, love, and support creates sport. Without fans, sport is just athleticism, free to watch in every pickup game in the park. Sport is something bigger than simple athletics. What makes sport what it is and creates the sports world, is simple: The Sports Fan.
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