Nathan's Notations: Are you a true fan?

I realized something yesterday: When it comes to sports, I can be a bit of a judgmental snob, and I’m OK with this.

I overheard two people on campus talking about soccer. At first, I got excited that people were discussing one of my favorite sports, but my excitement quickly faded when I gleaned from the conversation that they were Manchester United fans.

If you don’t know much about soccer, Manchester United is about equal to the New York Yankees having a baby with the Los Angeles Lakers.

I don’t have a problem with every person who likes a wildly successful team, who uses mass amounts of money to buy the best players in the world and stack their team. For example, if you were born/lived for an extended period of time in that city, congratulations. You’re lucky.

Or if you became a fan of a team or a specific player at a very young age, I can accept you being a fan of that team. Like my former co-worker at The Signpost, Eric Jensen. His favorite baseball team is the Yankees, and his favorite football team is the Green Bay Packers, but I’m OK with this because he picked those teams when he was young and stuck with them.

The reason I’m OK with his situation is because he picked those teams as his favorite teams when he was little, and he picked them because of a favorite player on the team, not because they were winning championships.

I can accept someone picking a team when they were a kid and sticking by them. Kids are impressionable, and they can get away with it.

Jensen stuck by the Yankees in the early 2000s when they struggled and many people wrote them off. He stuck by the Packers through the Brett Favre saga. In my book, that qualifies him as a true fan.

The problem I have with Americans becoming fans of Manchester United is the fact that most soccer fans in the U.S. probably didn’t grow up watching the European leagues much in their early childhood. I know I didn’t. They probably didn’t grow up watching United play. They probably didn’t know who they were till high school.

I know this can’t apply to everyone. I’m sure there are some fans who have supported United since childhood and could qualify as true fans, but, in my experience, those people are few and far between.

I take an odd sort of pride in the fact that the team I support (Tottenham Hotspur) is not one of the “big four” teams in England. They haven’t won a major trophy in years and are prone to horrible luck, collapses, living in the shadows of bigger teams, but I love them. I have been a fan of Tottenham since I was in middle school, and wouldn’t ever change that.

In my group of friends who watch soccer (and all seem to cheer for either United, or Chelsea), my team is often the butt of jokes. But I take pride in the fact that my fandom runs deep. That I picked my team based on something other than the number of titles they’ve won.

I just can’t feel right about becoming a fan of a sport and arbitrarily deciding that your new favorite team happens to be the best team in the world. To me, that makes you a bandwagon fan. You’re not a true fan. You haven’t stuck with the team through hard times. You haven’t tasted the bitterness of losing seasons. You probably couldn’t name three players on other teams. You’re not a real fan, and I will judge you.