I don’t know if we as fans fully understand or appreciate the power we have. Some companies will do anything possible for our acceptance, while others will stubbornly ignore our request to their detriment. That being said we have a unique responsibility to not only hold whom we cheer for accountable but to be fair while doing so. The last part is what worries me in light of how social media has given the average fan more power than they know what to do with.
Fans really aren’t suppose to be fair and unbiased by nature. We will cheer for our favorite teams and athletes till the final buzzer while rooting for the downfall of the opposing players. Sure it doesn’t sound that bad. But once you add in the constant heckling, badmouthing, and sheer disrespect for the opponents fans can have then things get edgy. Let’s not forget others fans who force you to claim allegiance to only the team they’re rooting for and none other. I had a problem as a kid with this before I realized it. Growing up in Chicago in the 90s meant Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls was everything to me. So that naturally meant I was groomed to hate the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons in which I did, despite me being around 2-5 years old during their prime. I heard my dad complain enough about Isiah Thomas that I thought he was worse than any villain from wrestling who scared me (Papa Shango and the return of Bob Backlund comes to mind). So while I jumped on board the hate train for the Pistons, there was one team I couldn’t purchase a ticket.
The New York Knicks were arguably the toughest challenges the Bulls overcame in their first 3-peat. The fights they had are sketched into my brain as they emulated many things the Pistons did to the Bulls. So it would make sense for me to hate them just as much as the Pistons right…RIGHT? Well those Knicks teams from the 90s are still 1 of my favorite teams in basketball history. Patrick Ewing and John Starks are 2 of my favorite players. I just enjoyed watching them play until Jordan was their opponent. I remember telling my dad I like the Knicks except for when they play the Bulls and he just looked at me like “How is that possible?” I didn’t know how to answer that question myself. Apparently I liked John Starks so much my family was picking on him during a game and being the young fan as I was I began to cry. Wow, that story till gets brought up this day.
That story always reminds me that being a fan can be exhausting and uncomfortable at times. It’s not easy to be the only person cheering or liking someone no one else seems to care for. But that also makes being a fan special, despite what others think you still root for the person or team you like and that’s all that matters. So in theory fans are supposed to go against logic at times too. Well that brings up another problem.
In the first paragraph I mentioned that social media gives the average fan more power than it knows what to do with. Why is that the case? Because now they have a platform to rant and rave about their fanatical views to a broader audience they’ve ever had before. This makes it easier for people to find others who’ll validate their points and create much stronger fan clubs or worse hate clubs. Hate clubs are hilariously horrible for the simple fact people feel their criticism is not only validated but needed. They’re no longer just a fan of their favorite player but now the needed critic to their favorite player’s rival.
Criticism is needed in this world, but who’s allowed to give it is always the burning question. Should fans give criticism, sure. How much and when? That’s the funny part because no one will ever reach an agreement on these questions. It’s intriguing to see on different sites, comment sections, message boards, etc how people will come together on issues they feel aren’t getting addressed. They’ll write several posts about how someone they love isn’t getting enough credit and many times complain about someone else being overrated. This happens a lot in the wrestling community.
CM Punk and John Cena are 2 of the biggest names in professional wrestling (or sports entertainment if you will). Their rivalry which started in 2011 was great because it seem to represent the dichotomy between what a fan and a critic is but also show how the 2 have become 1 in present times. Punk was the guy the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) loved to no end and felt he wasn’t getting the deserved attention and credit that Cena gets. That was the outline of not only their rivalry but how people in general started to view Cena. Cena has become the Hulk Hogan for the kids of this century and the IWC finds that too lame to bare. So everything single thing Cena does never seems to be enough for someone over the age of 12 (this is a great exception though). Punk is the guy that fans and critics gravitate to because not only he is very good but he antagonizes Cena in the most entertaining way possible. They’ve had great matches and many were quick to say CM Punk brought out the best of John Cena, but I didn’t hear the vice versa of that much despite the fact it’s true. Fans of Punk were naturally critics of Cena, but fans of wrestling are just fans of both.
So now that fans can be seen as critics is that the limit to their power, not even close. The whole Donald Sterling scandal for better and worse has shown every professional sports team in this country how fans can quickly be outraged and will seek immediate action to be taken. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suspended Sterling for life to not only appease the players of the NBA and sponsors, but to show the fans that he will not allow 1 man to make every fan of the NBA become solely critics. And while the outcome seem to satisfy most people I had a big problem with some fans being critical of the players for not sitting out games as a protest to Sterling and the league, particularly before Silver made his decision. It was almost as if the players were receiving the backlash for what a racist owner had to say. Some fans saying that the players of this day and age are no Muhammad Ali’s. Of course not because these players weren’t drafted to go to a war they didn’t believe in to kill what they considered innocent people. So now fans have become not only critics but pseudo activists via social media.
So in light of all of this, where’s the ceiling for what fans can become? Can a fan solely be just a fan anymore? Do fans have the obligation to be critics when needed or be the voice calling for justice when discrimination raises its face? The answer to all of these questions are yes. Timing is key here. There’s a time where we have to be critical of our teams so ownership know we’re not satisfied. There’s a time when we have the power to show teams that we won’t stand for any type of injustice going on with the team we cheer for. Then there’s a time just to be a fan and a fan only. I just hope we can get back to just being fans only more often.