ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” was basically ESPN before ESPN was a thing. Starting in 1971, the intro to the show featured clips of various sports with announcer Jim McKay saying the below:
“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport…the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition…This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”
The sports clips varied over time, except for the epic ski jump wipeout of Vinko Bogataj . Here’s a video of the intro from 1978:
The phrase “the thrill of victory. . . and the agony of defeat” has been on my mind lately as my favorite team, the St. Louis Blues, lost eight games in a row, most of them in ugly fashion. The Blues’ losing streak has affected the quality of my sleep and my mood and has caused me to reflect on the types of fans and the benefits and burdens of each type.
The Die-Hard Fan
Being a die-hard fan is an emotional commitment and typically involves watching all (or nearly all) of your team’s games, knowing all the players (including the bench players or minor-leaguers), reading daily articles about your team, following the players and coaches on social media, hosting game-watching parties, wearing your team’s attire all the time, and having your fandom be a part of your identity. It’s like you’re married to the team.
Being a die-hard fan is a roller-coaster experience. When your team is winning, everything seems brighter and happier. Losing seasons cast a pall over everything.
But then there are those rare years when your team wins it all. This is what makes all the heartache and disappointment worth it. When the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019, I nearly lost my mind — I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience and that maybe I had died or that all of reality was really inside a computer simulation. Even three years later I can’t totally wrap my head around it.
The Casual Fan
Being a casual fan means being less invested. If being a die-hard fan is like marriage, being a casual fan is like dating. You like the team, watch some games, know some players (mainly the superstars), may own a sweatshirt, and attend some games occasionally.
Casual fans have fewer ups and downs. I’m a casual Mizzou Football fan. I watch some games and loosely keep up with their news. When they do well, I’m pleased, but when they suck (not an uncommon occurrence) it doesn’t ruin my life.
The Fair Weather Fan
A fair-weather fan only pays attention to their team when they are performing well. From an emotional point of view, being fair weather makes sense. Why not enjoy the thrill of victory and minimize the agony of defeat? Fine. However, I think it’s essential for fair-weather fans to own their fair-weatherness. Don’t act like you’ve been a die-hard fan all along.
These fans are different than fair-weather fans. Wikihow says a bandwagon fan are those “who have shown no past loyalty to a team, and who only support them when they are doing well.” For instance, an NFL fan living in Texas might have decided to be a Patriots fan over the past 20 years because they won so much. Or an NBA fan from NYC may have decided to be a fan of the Golden State Warriors. Like being a fair-weather fan, this makes sense emotionally. It certainly is more fun to be a fan of a winning team than of a losing one. As a die-hard Blues fan I like the idea of people jumping on the Blues bandwagon when they are good. The more the merrier. But like with fair-weather fans I feel like they should own that they are bandwagon fans.
These fans are members of fantasy leagues (like fantasy football), which leads them to root for individual players more than teams. In fact, they may root against a team of which they are a fan if they have a fantasy player or two on the opposing team! I’ve participated in fantasy leagues in the past, and they’re fun and really lead to you knowing a lot more about the players and teams in the sport.
Other Types of Fans
There are myriad other ways to categorize fans: indifferent fans, stubborn homers, pessimistic fans, admirers, social sports fan, only goes to the big game fans, etc.
Overall, I’d say being a sports fan is a great experience and if you watch sports, good for you, regardless of the type of fan you are. It’s a big tent. All should be welcome.