Many years later, when North Carolina was granted professional basketball and football teams, my allegiances shifted to the “local” teams, but otherwise, I have always been a faithful fan and a lover of sports in general. In fact, before I settled on teaching as a profession, I did two one-year tours of duty as a sportwriter for two different newspapers, which I enjoyed immensely, even if my annual salary was roughly equal to Michael Jordan’s average lunch tab. I didn’t get paid much, but I did get paid something to play the “expert,” which was thrilling, but came at a cost.
I’m afraid that when I talk sports with my friends, relatives, or even strangers who wander inadvertently into my orbit, I still assume that role, the armchair analyst that could tell these commentators, coaches, and general managers a thing a two about the mistakes they sometimes make, the choices they should have made.
I can easily imagine how insufferable this can be, but I have also come to the conclusion that I am just a type. There are many of us out there, just waiting to set you straight on why Cam Newton is not the problem (or why he is) with the Panthers, why Tiger Woods lost his mojo when it seemed he would lap Jack Nicklaus in winning major golf tournaments, why the Dodgers lost the World Series, and so on. If you need answers, we’ve got them! If it happened, we have a viewpoint on it.
There are other types, of course. One of these is what I would call the Conspiracy True Believer. This type of fan is convinced that the outcome of the Super Bowl, the big race, even the order of the NBA draft of college players, is controlled by some dark, external force. It might be the mafia controlling the point spread in the Super Bowl, or the NBA itself controlling the draft order so that the big market teams get the best players. The point is that the whole thing is rigged from the start, and the Conspiracy True Believers knew it all along. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, they’ll nod knowingly and say, “It couldn’t have happened any other way. Don’t you know that the owner is big friends with President Trump?” This type of fan looks upon the other types with a mixture of scorn and pity, seeing everyone who is not in their tribe as a bunch of naïve Pollyanna’s who will not see the truth when it is right there in front of them, waving a flag.
Another familiar type is the Poor Mouther Sad Sacks. These fans seem to enjoy a masochistic relationship with the teams that they follow. No matter how promising the season might appear to be for their team, Poor Mouther Sad Sacks can imagine only disaster lurking around every corner. If their team gets off to a good start, it only means that they are being set up for a crushing disappointment later in the game, or in the season, or at some point in the future just when it seemed things were going really well. Even if their team goes on a big winning streak, it just means that the fall is that much more precipitous and painful when it comes, as it must.
This type of fan will always find several reasons why their team cannot or should not win. The coach is an idiot. The offensive line is porous. The point guard cannot make a free throw. The clean-up hitter cannot lay off the slider. Or the team is cursed. God doesn’t want them to win, for reasons no mortal can comprehend. Regardless of how rosy their fortunes may appear to be at any given time, the Sword of Damocles is ever ready to fall, piercing their hearts once and for all. Go ahead and pull for their team if you wish. But good luck with collecting all the tiny fragments of your broken hearts when your hopes and dreams are blown to smithereens.
All of these types are irritating enough, but perhaps the worst and most irritating type of all would be the Godawful Referee Gang. These fans believe that poor officiating is always — and I mean ALWAYS — the reason that their team lost. The score could be 51-6 at halftime, but this type of fan can be relied on to say something along these lines: “Well, it is hard to play five against seven, since the refs are clearly playing for their side.”
If you encounter these fans at a live game, I recommend moving to another quadrant in the gym or the arena, because they are going to spend the entire game yelling at the refs, questioning their eyesight, their objectivity, their citizenship, and their sanity. Every call against their team will be perceived as a personal affront, every call an utter disgrace, and even the ones they get right just a matter of dumb luck.
I could go on and on and on about these types. On and on and on and on. I guess I’m just that type of guy.