Da Fan!

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network

Who is this person? His range is incredible, from the maniacal and near-dangerous, to the chef of the week at the tailgate gathering. More of a chameleon by characterization than the prejudiced media hordes that gather for player, owner, management and coach lynchings on Friday but on Sundays with bouquets, baskets of candies and offerings worthy of a sacrificial proceeding by the Aztecs of years past in Mexico. He can be irascible or the nicest guy on the block depending, of course, on the outcome of his team's last encounter.

He is undaunted by the elements, politics, social events impacting his life, traffic patterns, world-wide conflicts and wars, his wife's lack of interest in the game or the fact that his team, being heralded as the next coming of the Niners, Cowboys, Patriots and Steelers of legendary successes, and his heroes have, in some cases, never won a Super Bowl. He crows on command but refuses to eat any when the situation calls for it. His greatest sports pleasure, whether his team wins or loses, is intensifying his angst by becoming an irritant to another. What are we all missing here? Is that you as well? Does being annoyed have to result in becoming an annoyance?

It is Da Fan!!! It is, among other things, what he does best but that is probably the wrong adjective to apply to his actions...best. Worst is more appropriate.

Raider Nation
A member of Raider Nation

Objectivity and intelligent analysis went the way of high button shoes and horse drawn carriages. Depression sets in with critical losses. Anguish is the order of the moment, day, week or month. Despair that the heroes of the gridiron fell flat. Disappointment worse than being rejected by the love of your life on that one date when you thought you might get a kiss goodnight, perhaps an invitation to come inside, out of the cold, for a bit.

And the players themselves are congratulating the competition that just kicked their butts, making excuses for the loss, acting totally devoid and dismissive of the frustration and pain foisted upon their loyal following. They, seemingly do not care, and we are losing sleep replaying every errant pass, fumble, interception, defensive lapse and wonderment over the fact that a presumably better team, on paper and the field, was just beaten by one with greater desire and focus. Why the heck do we do a deep six when the guys leaving the field are checking the endorsement schedules and filming dates, flights to the Caribbean and preparations for the Pro Bowl, where they do not deserve to participate?

They, these stalwarts of the end zone, come clad in outfits that would scare years off small children. Some of them would send Viking and Mongol hordes running back to their tents at first sight. How can anyone strip down in sub- zero weather, paint his body the colors of the team, wear a head-dress that only the director of a Chainsaw Massacre movie could design and not feel the wind, the biting cold? Doesn't the team owe something to these devoted lunatics?

Do they really come to every game carrying the big "D" in one hand and a small replica of the white picket fence of a 1950's movie in the other? Or, do they just bring a new one to every game? Cheese hats, horns, footballs cut out to fit the cranium, consuming more beer than the local Bud, Coors or Millers distributor can bring to the stadium throughout the game. Lines at the men's room that make those for women look like short waits. And, all they get for this is a loss and some quarterback that says, "We didn't make the big plays when it counted." No, dummy, you did not make the big plays or the small ones. And, we were watching.

Pittsburgh Steelers Fans
Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are some of the most loyal in the country.

Once he, or anyone else, comes to that less than Nobel Prize-winning conclusion, they go home and make sure the monthly check for $2,000,000 arrived on time minus taxes. Tough life. Meanwhile, we lose sleep and they get a massage, glass of wine and move on. Something is drastically wrong with that picture. If they do not care, why do the fans?

And, the local media stokes the flames for and against like an arsonist that has just been given a box of matches and his own forest. When their team loses, it is time to fire everyone in sight, not quite the same tenet being directed at them when their features make absolutely no sense. Then, with a win, pretty much undeserved, the worm turns. The team beaten, their hated foes up the turnpike, or across the state, are reviled, disdained, scorned, belittled and trivialized. There is no losing graciously and all semblance of sportsmanship disappears with a win. Stimulated and driven, the fans feed on this like sharks that have not eaten in months, a pride of lions on the prowl stalking a herd of zebras or other prey.

The fan loses whatever sporting pedigree he possessed and wants to be the neighborhood bully. He succeeds while alienating anyone in his path. All the prior suffering he has undergone has a target...other fans. They are no longer brothers under the skin. They are enemies. It is at this point that the fan has really begun to take the sport too seriously.

He has endured, withstood one letdown after the other and the effigy of the quarterback and that of the coach have to be taken out of the barn, ashes dusted off, repainted and held aloft. Sweat and t-shirts fly off the shelves. All is forgiven. The day of absolution has come. Adulation sweeps the land and the wicked witch is dead, melted. Until, of course, the next loss. But, for the moment, it is better than the last failure. The sun is out, the paint is on, headgear is in vogue, tailgating begins at 8:00 a.m. and pride fills the land.

The on-again, off-again, romance continues. The rites of fall, the ritual of highs and lows from one week to the next are embraced like a long-lost lover. All of this happens in an instant. Tums are a mainstay, Excedrin a necessity and the decision of wife over sport, or vice versa is a heart tearing decision to make. Why not just watch the game, go on with life as you know it, want it, as it should be, win or lose? Why not act like the players themselves and forget the disaster undertaken within seconds of its ending? Why not? Because you are "Da Fan!!!" Because this is how it has been, is, and will be. Because we are all still kids for whom that team harbors our heroes, our gladiators, warriors, champions and deities we have created.

The burning question is how do we go about our business after all we have put into the effort, and treat the demise of the team, their failure, as just another day in the life of the fan? How do we do that even while we witness the team moving on with life as our breast beating just moves into its second stage? So far, the answer seems to be in knowing, and repeating, that the team and players you are mourning have moved on, quickly.

Can we? You gotta be kidding!

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