I'm sitting here on a sunny Thursday afternoon in Austin, TX. It's beautiful outside...the kind of day where you want to play hooky and play golf, or have drinks on a patio or bike around the lake. But that's not what I'm thinking about. No, all I'm thinking about is heading to my car after the store closes, so I can make a new preset on my XM radio. You see, on Sunday, I have to make a little road trip and that means I won't be able to watch the SMU versus UConn men's basketball game. Fortunately, we live in an age, that seemingly any sporting event is accessible from seemingly anywhere. I've watched a UT/Ohio State football game on AFN on a military base in Iraq, I've followed national signing day on twitter, I've streamed Astro games while in the south of France...very few sporting events are completely unavailable. And that makes me happy.
All of this got me thinking about what does it mean to be a fan. Some people can recite stats for days, some people travel hundreds or thousands of miles to attend games, some people have bought every piece of attire and memorabilia. I don't think any of those things make on a fan. No, I think being a fan comes down to loyalty and faith.
Faith is what convinces Cowboy fans that they can overcome Jerry (or Romo or the defense or whatever their individual gripe is). Loyalty is what keeps them tuning in after yet another 8 and 8 season. Faith is going to the Cotton Bowl to see SMU during the Mike Cavan/Phil Bennett years with 3000 other fans. Loyalty is continuing to renew your season tickets. Faith is believing that the Astros suffered through three horrendous seasons because there is a long term plan in mind. Loyalty is studying up on the next generation of potential major leaguers and getting excited for their potential.
It's easy to buy a shirt or put on a hat and claim that you're a fan. But do you consider those thousands of Miami Heat patrons who left game 6 of the NBA Finals fans? Those are probably the same people who have been fans all of their lives since they signed LeBron James. It's easy to be a fan when your team is playing for titles, it's not so east when you are hoping for a miracle to win.
Sports have become so popular that there are no right or wrong answers any more. Can you be a Kevin Durant fan AND a Mavericks fan? Can you cheer for a university that you didn't attend? Are you allowed to change favorite teams? I think so, but others may not. I live in Austin and it seems like the number of people who aren't from Austin increases each day. Do they have to stop supporting the teams that they grew up cheering for? Are they allowed to root for a local team? Can they do both?
What does being a fan mean to you?