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Opinion: Fandom & Amateurism

A better way to watch sports

NCAA Football: Georgia at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

I saw a tweet the other day that has stuck with me for several days. I think it was by Bomani Jones, but I can’t find it now for some reason. Anyway, it said something to the effect of, “Your sports teams don’t owe you wins. Your ticket price, cable subscription, etc… is paying for entertainment – not victories.” The point being that the players and coaches of any level of sport don’t owe you, the viewer or fan, anything besides entertainment.

For whatever reason, maybe it’s because this is a slow sports season, but the more I thought about it, this kind of shattered my worldview as someone who consumes sports regularly. There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother where they point out that everyone has random knowledge gaps - something they missed learning in their upbringing, and I felt like this was suddenly one of mine (1).

Since this is a college-team blog, let’s not even approach this as being fans of your NFL or MLB team or whatever, but let’s approach this as being fans of unpaid, amateur, college athletes.

When I renew my season tickets for football, I’m paying for 6 home games. I’m paying to sit in Bobby Dodd Stadium for 6 Saturdays this fall to watch a bunch of 18-22 year olds play a dangerous game that can have lifelong implications on those player’s mental and physical health. I’m paying for the community of sitting in a stadium of people wearing the same colors trying to cheer the home team to victory.

A healthier approach to this fandom, according to my new enlightenment, is that I should walk into that stadium, any stadium, not contingent on getting my money’s worth with a victory, but by being entertained. And it’s certainly not a cop-out to say this over these last 3 years when wins have been harder to come by. Have there been disappointing losses? Certainly. But does that mean we should be disparaging these coaches, and especially players, over on-field results that generally mean nothing in the grand scheme of life? Of course not.

This is also not to say we shouldn’t demand excellence from coaches and student-athletes. You would be hard-pressed to find a collegiate athlete not trying their hardest in any sport, so maybe let’s tone down our collective, disparaging, player-specific rhetoric? Again, these are unpaid, amateur kids who don’t owe you anything besides entertainment. And I would argue that even the worst of college football games is still entertaining… albeit some more than others.

I just think the mindset of going into your favorite sports season as entertainment, rather than hinging your day, weekend, year, etc… on wins will make you enjoy it more.

Unless you’re a fan of the Patriots, Alabama, Duke basketball, and the Yankees... which I realize if you’re a fan of one of those, you’re usually a fan of all of them... your price of admission isn’t consistently paying for wins anyway. You’re a fan of your team not because they win championships all the time, but because you grew up somewhere, went to school somewhere, or were adopted into this team by proximity of close friends or family. You’re a fan because it’s entertainment, and it’s communal. Wins were never why you got into this in the first place.

After that Falcons Super Bowl loss, I told myself I was taking the next 6 months off of caring about the outcome of sporting events. I regularly attended Atlanta United and Hawks games that spring and summer. And you know what? Going into it with that mentality and not getting bent out of shape over losses made me enjoy it so much more. It made my interactions with friends at and after the game more pleasant. I wasn’t going to sleep at night still thinking about a bad call or a player who messed up at a key point.

Georgia Tech doesn’t owe you a third victory in a row over Georgia in Athens. The Falcons don’t owe you that Super Bowl win. The Saints don’t owe you that playoff win over the Vikings. It’s entertainment, and you can hardly argue any of those things weren’t that.

So when you attend the sport of your choosing this year, especially if it’s a collegiate one played by amateurs, don’t go in thinking they owe you wins. That’s not what your admission cost covers. Victory is great, and your team will probably not go winless this season, but it’s not what your ticket pays for. It pays for entertainment, and approaching your fandom from that mindset will be freeing, healthier, and make you enjoy it more.

  1. Another one of mine was that I didn’t realize until I was like 27 that narwhals are an actual animal that exists on that planet right now. I had only known about them from the movie Elf, and I assumed they were fictional.