Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Existential Crisis: Why are we fans?

Friday on Minnesota NPR they spent an hour chatting about why people follow sports, being fans of one team in particular. The radio hosts were a little smug about the whole thing, and the callers were the typical assortment of armchair intellectualdom that calls in to shows on NPR. Don't get me wrong, plenty of sports fans called in, but most everyone who did so addressed the topic with a mixture of pity and disdain, the tone in their voices reflecting their sympathy for the poor uneducated rabble who do things like root for the Cubs or will spend 2 hours at a rain-delayed game eating hotdogs and drinking beer while knowing that the game will, in all likelihood, be called off.

I've thought about this question a lot over the past few days, particularly because I am a grown man who both checks off the highest level of education box on employment forms and collects pieces of cardboard with pictures of baseball players on them. These two facets of my life seemingly contradict each other as, objectively speaking, anyone with a basic understanding of economics could tell you that spending money on baseball cards is lower down on the investment hierarchy than buying lottery tickets, an act that one journalist once referred to as "a tax on the stupid." 

The baseball cards are meaningless without the game, and I am a fan of the game. So this, I guess, is the bigger question tapped into by NPR. Why is anyone a fan? I honestly have no idea and could only give, at best, incomplete and sentimental answers. 

I can say, however, that collecting and fandom have ebbed and flowed together throughout my life. From roughly 1985 until the spring of 1994 I lived and died with the Braves and had a passing affinity for the Mets (mostly Doc Gooden). The strike put my fandom on hiatus until the past few years when my spouse and I started attending Durham Bulls games with friends of ours. Shortly thereafter I started collecting again. Oh, I'd occasionally bought packs over the years, maybe even a box here and there, but "collect," no, I didn't do that and I was hardly a fan. But here I am, again, and I have no idea why.

1 comment:

  1. This sums up the mystery very well. Why do many pleasant, smart people collect little cardboard pictures of men in, basically, pajamas? It must have to do with some kind of organizing/sorting gene. Perhaps we are less hunters than we are gatherers.