Here are 10 different laws I wrote in becoming identifiable as a TRUE fan. Are you a real-deal fanatic? or just a fake?
#1 - STAY TRUE TO YOUR ROOTS
#2 - IF YOU CLAIM THEM, KNOW THE ESSENTIALS
I can't tell you how many times I see on Facebook someone post "Roll Tide" but after you ask about their starting QB they reply, "I don't know all that, I just like them." Well then, as Vince Vaughn would say- Your fandom is now “erroneous on all accounts,” there is no excuse in not being able to regurgitate basic information. Some of this information would include: historical or championship years, team retired jerseys, current team stars (at least in football) & starters, stadium and coaches names, etc. It is unacceptable to ride a team’s glory train if you have nothing invested in them. Knowing this type of stuff will help you refute inaccurate criticism about your team when the time comes.
#3 - PICK A SIDE
You must pick a side in all rivalries and in areas/states with 2 teams, without being a flip-flopper. For example, you can't be a fan of both the Yankees & Mets; you can't jump college teams by sport, none of this "I am a Georgia football fan but I root for Georgia Tech in Basketball because they are better" You have to draw a line and stay on your side, through the good times and the bad times. If you are in a relationship where the house is divided, it is acceptable to wear a generic color to a game of your spouse/partner's team, but it is totally unacceptable to represent any logo apparel of the rival team; it's probably time to reevaluate your manhood if you were to purchase or own anything like that in the first place.
#4 - COMMIT TO A RELATIONSHIP
Sports bigamy has become a serious problem in today's world. You are only permitted to be a fan of one team in each sport or choose not to pick a team at all (hockey). A true fan doesn't claim to root for two teams; a lot of folks will say, "I like both of these teams, I always have" No- you probably just choose the better of the two, it doesn't work like that. If you’re in a REAL relationship- you can't be with two people at the same time (unless you’re from Utah), once you get married you're stuck with them; in sports there are no divorces or remarriages, you have to deal with those team selection decisions you made forever. True fans cannot unconditionally love two teams if there’s even a small chance they may play against one another someday.
#5 - REP THE GEAR
A real fan wears their colors with pride, for better or for worse. When you purchase apparel you must buy the real deal, none of this Wal-Mart knockoff crap. It is acceptable to wear a jersey, but only under certain circumstances- which happen to never include an NBA game (unless you are on the court). Real fans aren't stupid enough to wear a jersey to a game in which that team is not actually playing, don't do that. If one of your teams players gets traded, you should retire from wearing any jersey/t-shirt with their name to events, (exception: unless they are a franchise legend-Ripken Jr., Biggio, Jeter, etc) it makes me want to throw up when I see nothing but "FRANCOEUR" shirts & jerseys at The Ted, it is time to let go. With signage- You can't be a real fan if you’re the type of guy that has LSU car magnets in January but UGA car flags in September, that's probably a red flag (no pun intended). Finally, if your team wins a championship, you are required to buy vast amounts of apparel and souvenirs from that event; obnoxious amounts. It would probably be a good idea to go ahead and order that SI commemorative (insert tacky marketing item here) and sign up for a new subscription ASAP.
#6 - PRACTICE GOOD ATTENDANCE & MINDFULLNESS
If you can't make it to the stadium- true fans ALWAYS find a way to keep updated: watch it on TV, listen to the radio, get out your SportsCenter app or something, your awareness of the team must be at a high level (i.e. transactions, scores, standings). If you go to a game, go to WATCH THE GAME. One of the biggest things that I hate about Atlanta is that most of our teams feel obligated to give people a reason to go other than to watch the game. Why people pay good money to attend a Braves game to visit “Tooner Field,” play interactive video games and hit in the pretend batting cages while a game is going on is beyond me. Why not just head to Chuckie Cheese instead? If your team is losing or it is a key situation in the game, a true fan will avoid breaking-down or siding with the drunken college student who tries to get the wave started for 30 minutes; WATCH the freaking game idiot! Take care of your food/souvenir/drink/etc. needs beforehand. You shouldn't leave every inning and a half during a baseball game; constantly have people getting up to make room for your Dippin' Dots needs while the home team is batting. Explore the stadium when you leave, it will still look the same.
#7 - GIVE THE BALL TO THE KID
Unless you are under the age of 16, it is your civil duty as a keeper of the game to give all foul balls, pucks, etc. to the KIDS. What the heck are you going to do with it anyway? Most kids will cherish that memory forever- and in turn you'll have the gratification that you did right by possibly recruiting a new fan of the team for life.
#8 - TAKE PART IN THE GAMEDAY EXPERIENCE
A real fan tailgates hours before the event; mentally and physically preparing themselves for the event climax. They usually arrive before the gates open, and never show up in the third inning or leave in the 7th to "beat traffic". True fans take care of the business beforehand and don't spend 45 minutes on Opening Day standing in line at the box office to buy tickets; they take care of their needs and have their tickets, t-shirts, playlist, radio presets, itinerary, etc. set well in advance. Under no circumstances does a die-hard fan leave during a 2 hour rain-delay, they have their hideous poncho ready to go and stay put.
#9 - NEVER SELL (or worse-GIVE) YOUR TICKETS TO OPPOSING FANS
#10 - REMAIN LOYAL
The good book says that others should see the light within you from your actions, not words. The same is true in sports; real fans don't have to tell you who they support because you'll already know it. Becoming a legit fan requires one to take in both the highs and the lows, and being able to withstand the justified smack-talk when your team is in the gutter. It is OK to criticize your team or be angry with them under certain circumstances. If a situation is validated for the greater good, a real fan should be able to- for example, you hope your team loses so you can get a top draft pick or your sorry coach will get fired, you see the big picture. Some see it as being a hater, but all good things come with time & building a solid foundation. One of the best things about rooting for a team that sucks it the appreciation you have for success when it does come; the glory of achievement after years of disappointment is that much more special, and the climb to the top means a lot more when you've seen the bottom. It is easy being a fan of a team that is a perennial contender, not so much one of a team that often struggles. This alone is what separates the real from the fake, the faithful from the bandwagoners. As in life, sports allegiances are not a one way street- they require an honest devotion, making the taste of victory when it does arrive that much sweeter.