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WW: Sports Fandom


In trying to decide which topic to discuss this week I had narrowed down to two options. There's the one I ended up settling on, which I'll get into in a minute or a look at some possible ways to fix the Timberwolves roster. It's rarely a bad thing to have too many options and when adding in that the Twins seem primed to give plenty of blogger fodder, I'll be able to make this last at least a month - yay me!

On to the matter at hand. I settled on talking about sports fandom because I had already reached out for comment on the subject to several of the large bases in the area & didn't want to squander those inputs or even let the topic get any more stale than it may have already. But it's more than just that, I wanted to really look at what it means to be a sports fan. Obviously abstract ideas such as it are SUPER easy to nail down but I wanted to try anyway.

Sometime along your life journey you may have heard that fan is short for fanatic. I'm not looking to dispute that, because it's true but there are so many who are fans that are not fanatics. Case in point - there are thousands of graduates of NDSU that would call themselves fans of the Bison but who really only care about the Football team. Some may have a passing interest when the men's or women's Basketball team's are good but it's a giant step down, as was proved by the embarrassingly low attendance at this year's Summit League championship. From there it's another precipitous drop to all the other sports. Softball may be the lone exception and that's with a level of success that could be argued rivals the Football team's. One reason for the decrease in attention & attendance is that none of the other sports can be used as another excuse to get drunk. Considering Fargo's drunkenness problem, it's absolutely a factor but I'll digress.

Even the Bison radio station silently acknowledges the disparity in attention by almost never giving time to the other dominate Spring team - Track & Field. I get that the Olympic sports would not make great, good or even passable radio but it's still beyond me why they haven't seen fit to do a half hour show, once a week with coaches and competitors from the T & F. There are 10 athletes from the university at the national meet this week but it may as well not be happening based on the attention that's not going the way of those young men & women!

And the Bison aren't even my primary program of choice. I grew up in Fargo so it's always been the local U but I went to college in the cities which is ultimately why I became a Bison fan. That may not make sense but hear me out. Living in the Twin Cities, Gopher merch & radio talk & write ups are everywhere, even though they have been & continue to be a collective joke. At that time NDSU was in the midst of the Woodside era which gave way to the Football dynasty.

It was an easy choice to become a Bison fan in that environment but make no mistake, I'm a Viking fan through & through. I may have gone with the Bizon mascot but it's the Purple that color my fandom. I want Skol to the Bowl so much so that during the Football seasons I refuse to get my hair cut. Why? Because last time I did they went from 5-0 to 8-8. I want the longest suffering organization, my favorite organization, to lift that trophy more than I want to rid myself of a few inches of hair. The logical portion of my mind knows that there is no connection between the two but fandom doesn't have to be fully logical. In fact, I'm quite sure that the deepest fandom is illogical.

Spending thousands of dollars on tailgate setups so that it's bearable to hang out in parking lots, getting so decked out in gear that it's impossible to recognize a person from their day job appearance versus at the game, traveling anywhere in the country for just a few hours at a game. All activities that are SUPER common in today's fan world but aren't exactly logical. It's fun, it's adventure, it's fandom.

More to the point, the most common word that was used by members of the groups that I reached out to is loyalty. It's a valid one word encapsulation of what it means to be a fan. When the Timberwolves are terrible or your school votes to remove a power program from the conference, it is the reason to continue rooting. Because maybe, just MAYBE they'll find a way to overcome history and live up to expectations.

Here's a problem though, it's seems like there is a disconnect. I'm not sure where it comes from exactly, I would have to be all knowing for that, but a disconnect between loyalty & the programs that don't get any attention nonetheless. Football is still the most popular sport in this country and Fargo is no different, so the Football team's standing is pert near immovable - and that's more than okay! I'm not looking to single out NDSU fans because the same is true of Moorhead's schools with their non-Football/non-Basketball sports with regard to attendance and attention. But the squeakiest wheel gets the grease and NDSU fans are by far the loudest. I'm not saying you should take your attention away from the sport that is your favorite but I encourage you to take in one that you never have before, maybe a Wrestling match or a Baseball game, the next time they're on the docket. Those athletes work every bit as hard as the Football team so as a fan of the school that they play for, use your loyalty as motivation to support their efforts - who knows, maybe you'll find that you like their activity more than you would imagine!

Sports can be one of the things that bring people of complete difference together in a unity that is special. Even though the time since has been rough, I can talk with any Vikings fan about the Miracle & have an immediate kinship. So while it can also drive a wedge between people, there's enough of that already. Use your fandom for the good. I guess that's my whole point in this rambling baby dissertation. Is that a crazy suggestion? I don't think so, even though it's sadly unrealistic.

But that's all I've got to say about it - so until the next time, enjoy your hump day!