Guide to Understanding America’s Sports Fans

In DDDT’s continuing efforts to help its readers navigate the pitfalls of their everyday lives, we bring you this special report on understanding the personalities of America’s sports fans.  We cannot be held responsible if any of the below is in error, but we have used our best efforts to figure these people out.  We hope it will be helpful to you.

Soccer Fan

The best way to identify a soccer fan is to notice when friends that have never been to England start using words only people from England use.  Soccer fans enjoy having their own lexicon, and really enjoy subtly pushing it on everyone else.  They’re honestly not smug about it.  Most soccer fans are actually pretty good-natured and sweet in a pitiable sort of way, sort of like a golden retriever puppy whose mother has just died.  But they still have their pride, which is expressed by their persistent use of terms that make them sound like they grew up in colonial India.  When discussing the field of play, they’ll throw in the word ‘pitch’ and refer to their team as a ‘side.’  When you talk of the speed of a ball, they’ll refer to its ‘pace,’ and at the end of the game they’ll say it was a great ‘match.’  This is not done aggressively, but with the tone of voice a quiet, overlooked child might use to say “I am working on forming my own identity!”  It’s sweet to watch a soccer fan work his way toward confident self-actualization.  He passionately testifies of the beauty of his chosen sport, which is usually nothing more than a means of convincing himself he has reasons for following his sport other than the fact that he is secretly a communist.

To be a soccer fan in America is to hold hopes that will never be fulfilled, and to pretend to have more in common with dirt-poor Nicaraguans and crazed Liverpudlians than with one’s own countrymen.  Both because of the global community that supports the sport, and because of its somewhat ridiculous downsides (chief among which is the pretense that a tie is an acceptable outcome for a competitive sporting event that grown people have paid good shillings to watch) American soccer fans are, and probably always will be, subjects of great suspicion.  And rightfully so.

soccer fan

Look, Bobby, the U.S. have notched a sporting good try, raise the American Jack!

Self-serving hyperbole: “The Beautiful Game.”  In reality: “Tie game.”

Weaknesses: The American soccer fan may be effectively neutralized by simply suggesting that Americans would dominate the game if they cared about it at all; Alternatively, argue that the game would be better if played with two balls simultaneously, and without goalies.

Pro Football Fan

Pro football fans are actually pretty tolerable.  In fact, it’s easy to like them, because when you meet one, you instantly know that you have met an inferior person. Pro football fans spend between four to ten hours every Sunday sitting watching their sport, which also requires them to consume the same amount of calories as the players themselves.  They also spend up to twenty hours each week trading pro football players on their own teams, because almost all pro football fans believe they are mangers of professional football teams.  In short, there is really nothing to dislike about professional football fans.  We should do all we can to help them, because they will likely all die very soon.


I expect to live as long as my fellow Americans are willing to remove dangerous objects from my path!

Self-serving hyperbole: “The Super Bowl.”  In reality: “The Gigantic Celebration of the Breathtaking Decline of a Once Great Nation.”

Weaknesses: Myriad.  Most notable: cholesterol, rich fantasy life, inebriation, choking.

Baseball Fan

Baseball fans are by far the most insufferable fans of any fans in the world.  While it’s annoying to call your field a ‘pitch,’ it is even more annoying to treat your field like a temple.  Baseball fans believe that the history of their sport is the same as the history of America, and that “going to Fenway,” especially when there is actually nothing going at Fenway, is a thing that is neat to do, and that everyone shares this belief.  Other fans talk themselves into thinking their sports are the best, but only baseball fans believe that all other moral people naturally agree with them.  To be a baseball fan, one must believe that the throwing and swatting of a ball are transcendent activities invoking the best elements of poetry, democracy, and racial justice.  Note that defenders of baseball never argue on the merits of the game, but only offer question-begging assurances about the smell of the grass and the thrill of the crackling bat.  Thus, one assumes that love of baseball is in the aesthetics, until one sees that the crisp, pristine field is occupied entirely by chubby, grizzled men whose main skill appears to be the spitting of tobacco mucous and committing perjury before Congress.  In short, no sport attracts a fan more unhinged from reality, which is understandable, because all baseball fans love the sport only inasmuch as it remains the sole vehicle through which they ever felt love from their fathers.  Seriously, baseball fans have issues.

america's last baseball fan

I know my daddy loves me by how hard he throws the ball at me when we have a catch

Self-serving hyperbole: “America’s Pastime.”  In reality: “America’s Grandpa’s Pastime.”

Weaknesses: Understand that there is never anything to be gained by arguing with a baseball fan, who will hear all of your arguments as simply variations on “I really, really can’t stand America.”  If you must, the best way to get a baseball fan off balance is to ask, whenever he mentions Maris, Mantle, Ruth, Gehrig, Musial, Williams, or any other ancient ‘hero,’ “yeah, that guy was so good.  What drugs did he take again?”

College Football Fan

This report focuses on fans of sports.  Unfortunately, fans of College Football are not fans of sports, but rather spend three months of the year cheering for their teams and the remaining nine months arguing about politics and bureaucracy and civil rights.  The fact that these arguments concern the politics and bureaucracy and civil rights of their favorite profit-making institutions does not mean that these people are actually rooting for a sport.  To be a “fan” of college football, one must know as much about television revenues, federal antitrust law, and the original intent of the founders (both of the USA and the BCS) as about spread offenses and blitz packages.  This is plainly illustrated by the fact that more people are following the current intrigues regarding conference realignment (it’s complicated– think Rubik’s Cube+the Civil War+Enron) than will ever go to actual football games when November rolls around.  Being a fan of modern college football is more like being a fan of the General Electric Family of Companies than following an actual sport.

Cycling Fan

Cyclists are like normal people, but without the personalities.  Whereas other sports fans get together and tell stories about things that happened in last night’s game or in their pickup contest at the gym, cyclists get together and talk twice as long about nothing at all.  Cyclists live dramatic lives full of peddling, steering, fretting about wild animals, and generally disliking people who drive cars.  Cyclists like to regale their audiences about how they rode up and then they rode down and then they turned and then there was another cyclist and then they were tired.  What is amazing is that a cyclist’s stamina in telling such stories is generally as great as his stamina in taking boring bike rides.  And NEVER get them started on “Lance.”  You will regret it.  The cyclist makes up for his total lack of personality by wearing by far the most ridiculous getup in all of sports.  However, the cyclist gives absolutely no indication that he knows how ridiculous he looks, proving in the end that he actually doesn’t have any personality after all.  The cyclist also enjoys watching “races” on TV, where people ride bikes for days at a time.  Again, this is not done ironically.


Of course, this would only look more ridiculous if bikers let the hair on their legs grow

Self-serving hyperbole: “. . . the sport of cycling.”  In reality: ” . . .”

Weaknesses: The cyclist/cycling fan has no known weakness.  He is irrepressible and cannot be stopped, except by an SUV.

Professional Basketball Fan

Fans of NBA basketball are not easy to find.  Although it is one of America’s most mainstream sports, it has almost no fans.  Although some critics believe this is because of the unique structure of the sport, in which every game’s outcome is pre-determined by one man sitting in a large, darkened office in New York City, that same setup has not had any appreciable negative effects on its sister sport, Pro Wrestling.  The NBA has attempted to re-ignite its fan base by temporarily deciding not to enforce any of the rules of basketball (but only during the games).  This innovation has led to increased scoring, a new age of superstars, and calls for all such superstars to enjoy absolute immunity from federal and natural law throughout the universe.  And yet, one still struggles to find a fan of the sport outside the podcast guests of Bill Simmons.  NBA fans are generally good-natured, except that they are often susceptible to conspiracy theories and fatalism, mostly because they inhabit a morally bankrupt bizarro universe where being the most evil team in the world regularly results in huge success.

Self-serving hyperbole: “Referees.”  In reality: “The Illuminati”

Weaknesses: Like America itself, the sport is built on an illusion of fairness and parity while roughly four teams have all the talent and money, and everyone else is simply placated by the fantasy that that talent and money might someday trickle down.  As in America, it never will.  The NBA fan knows this fact, and may be silenced quite easily when it is wielded correctly.

Golf Fan

There are people who are “fans” of golf.  They watch it on TV.  They live otherwise normal lives and seem to love their families.  Almost nothing is known about these people.  More study is warranted.

Self-serving hyperbole: “A tradition like no other.”  In reality: “Seriously, what is going on here?  You act like you like this, but you can’t actually like this.  Honestly, what is going on?  Just tell me, I swear I won’t tell anyone else.”

Weaknesses: They cheer for golf.  What else do you need to know?

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25 Responses to Guide to Understanding America’s Sports Fans

  1. Davis says:

    I hereby declare that I will dedicate my allegiance to any major presidential candidate that makes the following speech:

    “We as Americans dominate economically, culturally, and militarily. Well, we used to, at least, and I plan on putting us back on top of those areas where we’ve slipped a bit. But I’d like to speak to you today about the one arena where the United States has never dominated: the soccer arena. Do you know why we’ve never dominated soccer? Because we’ve never tried. Throughout our history soccer has been the sport played by kids who weren’t good enough to make the football or basketball teams. That’s just a fact. As short and good-looking as they are, the men who currently play for the US team simply aren’t even close to the best athletes the US has to offer. The only people who go to soccer games would cheer against the US in a match between the US and Mexico/Honduras/Guatemala. It’s a sixth-rate sport, somewhere ahead of bowling but behind curling. This is going to change.

    At this point you’re asking yourself, “What national interest would be served by spending a lot of money to get really good at soccer?” Well, if by national interest you mean some vague notion of political and economic strength, my answer is, “None.” But that’s a pretty narrow definition of the national interest, isn’t it? In my view, the national interest would be incredibly well served by getting really good at soccer for one reason and one reason alone: to take something away from Europe that means a great deal to them. My fellow Americans, you have no idea how big a kick Europeans get out of manhandling the United States in soccer. It’s like an older brother who has fallen on hard times – got divorced, gained a lot of weight, career going nowhere – who receives a visit from a younger brother who married a superhot wife and makes a ton of money. The older brother can tease and torment and give nougies to this younger brother, and it somehow makes him feel superior again, even though his life lays in shambles and he quietly weeps every night before falling asleep. That’s what soccer is like for Europe, and I’d like to take that away from them. I ask you: can you tolerate the existence of something that enables the people of Spain, France, England, and Portugal – Portugal! – to feel superior to America? I, for one, can not. Let’s wrest this last, tiny relic of superiority from these once great nations. For this reason I am announcing the “American Soccer Initiative.” We’re going to be throwing US$5 billion a year at this until we’ve won four consecutive World Cups. And do you know what we’re going to do once we’ve accomplished this? We’re going to drop it. From one day to the next. Shut the whole thing down. We’ll send Europe a little note that says, “You know what? It’s honestly not that fun. You guys can have it. We just wanted to show you that we could own it if we wanted to.”

  2. Christian says:

    Capital post! Really, well done, old man! (I’ve been watching World Cup. At hospital. And university).

    I know I’m in the VAST minority, but I’ve never understood the American male compulsion to be watching a sports game, any sport, at all times. I love the World cup, March Madness, and get into the NBA finals if someone I hate or love is playing. But dudes who are watching a Marlins game or bass fishing tournament at US 11pm just because they have to be watching sports, cause they are, you know, big sports fans? Don’t get it. Actually I do get it, because I’m compulsive about some things too (like giving money to orphans). As long as they admit it’s compulsive, then I can empathize.

    Davis, so funny and so true. That’s exactly how I feel. It rubs me to see an event where the U.S. is underdog to these weak, puny little mosquitos of nations. Losing to Germany is one thing. But France? Portugal? Brazil? Give me a break.

  3. Eliza says:

    Dang funny and clever post. thank you for making me feel so justified in not liking sports, which of course has nothing to do with ignorance and lack of interest and ability, but has everything to do with my intellectual superiority and all the reasons you listed above. great comments boys, so funny. (, older divorced loser brother, compulsive when giving to orphans, lol)

  4. Just to be clear, I love sports. Just don’t want to watch them played all the time.

  5. Andrea W. says:

    You failed to mention one important category of sports fan. That is, the guy that is a diehard fan of every single one of those sports you listed and more. What light can you shed on them? Can you offer any hope for them and their families?

  6. Wade says:

    Ry, that was awesome.

  7. Layne says:

    What about car racing fan? They usually have some muscled-up truck with a sticker of Calvin urinating on a number in the back window. And they talk about running cars whatever that is.

    I was at church one time and the guy teaching the lesson started getting into all of this nascar stuff and says to someone in the front row, “Are you a Jr. fan?” After a brief hesitation, the response was a befuddled “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    I love that the cyclist guy is wearing socks with sandals too.

  8. that cycling fan picture is worth the post in itself. That guy should totally be wearing biker spandex. He made the right choice.

  9. Nate says:

    Great post Ryan and awesome commentary by Davis and Christian (“dudes who are watching the Marlin’s game or bass fishing at 11 pm…hilarious).

    So what I want to know is…

    Which one are you? If any…

  10. Ryan says:

    Yeah, Nate, it’s a little weird to write with that kind of vitriol about sports that I love. But all of it’s true, even if some of it is about me. Truth is, huge college football fan, big fan of footie (but only international tournaments), and, of course, love the NBA conspiracy complex.

  11. Ryan says:

    Davis, that’s a great plan, especially the part about just dropping it after giving it a successful run. I think we could get that Greene guy from South Carolina to make this his platform. In fact, we could probably run his campaign if we want.

  12. Ben Pratt says:

    Religion has got nothing on spectator sports as the great opiate of the American masses. That and reality television.

    I’ve hit a few golf balls, and it was pretty fun. But for me, watching golf on TV ranks below watching bass fishing, bobbing for apples, and of course underwater basket-weaving on TV.

  13. StefStar says:

    This post is brilliant. Especially the part about baseball fans. “Why do you love baseball?”
    “It’s…well, it’s America’s pasttime!”

    I guess by this logic I should love everything America passes time doing…

  14. Bryan H. says:

    Enjoyed that post. Give me my NBA illusion, my NFL fantasy (team), and my occasional lapse into continental parlance when discussing the mysterious game of rugby. Just please, please don’t subject me to that inferior product encased in tedium that is college football.

  15. Landon says:

    excellent post. i love all those sports you mentioned, but with one qualification. The event has to be directly leading to a championship or the championship game. hate regular season mlb, nba, nfl etc. But if someone has the chance of hoisting a trophy, medal or oversized salad bowl (wimbledon) I love it. college world series is coming to town this week. I have never watched college baseball until this year, mostly because it lacks the crack of the wooden bat that you mentioned, but this year i can’t wait to go to a few games.

  16. Ryan says:

    StefStar- I agree with you about that awful claim of baseball fans. You can’t just stand on a fifty-year old claim and act like it’s true because someone said it. And then, even if it were true, it still doesn’t make your horribly boring sport into a poetical metaphor for life.

    Bryan, don’t celebrate yet. I reserved a whole post’s worth of material for rugby fans. Horrible, nasty s.o.b’s, those rugby fans.

    Landon, that’s actually not a bad rule. Too bad sports have to be about making money. If you could get rid of the particular innovation known as ‘the regular season,’ almost all sports would become much more watchable. We need to try this, maybe just for a year. The year of playoffs only. How great would that be?

  17. Amber says:

    I am hereby offended–and absolutely entertained–by your portrayal of college football fans. It isn’t JUST about the BCS, its about the underdogs constantly being, um, underfoot.

  18. Braden says:

    Probably the funniest thing you’ve written, Ry. That was a masterpiece. Well done. Come to the South, though, and spend some time with our Nascar fans. That needs an entry.

  19. Charlotte says:

    Being married to someone who falls under multiple categories here, I loved this very factual look at sports fans. So much so that I emailed it to my husband to read, too.

  20. Norm says:

    Let me try to give golf a voice, notwithstanding how small it may be.

    Last Saturday in the US Open at Pebble Beach Tiger Woods found himself in contention for the lead but in trouble on the final hole of the round. He was 260 yards away from the hole right behind a tree with no realistic shot at getting around the tree to reach the green. At home we watched Tiger stare down the challenge that lay before him. The television audience in rapt attention sat listening to the commentator, former US Open winner and golf analyst Johnny Miller give his opinion that the only option Tiger has is to lay up well short of the green… that to try to go for it would be crazy. On cue, Tiger pulls out his three wood signaling his intention of going for the green. The untrained golfer is thinking, “How?” The experienced golfer sits forward in their seat knowing that Tiger is going to hit a “cut” shot (an incredibly difficult shot to control where spin is purposefully placed on the ball to cause a left to right trajectory for right handers).

    It is time. Tiger’s hits the ball and it sails out around the tree and out over the ocean then unbelievably cuts back into the green and lands 8 feet away away from the hole to set up an eagle putt.

    In football, or basketball or baseball there are certainly great moments that make you jump out of your seat and cheer. But only in golf do you jump out of your seat to pick up your jaw because you can’t believe what you just saw.

    After the round Tiger was asked about the shot and he just stated matter-of-factly, “It was just a “holdie” (meaning that anyone can cut a shot out of control and out of bounds but he was able to “hold” the cut to the precise abount (in this case 300 plus yards around the tree, out over the cliffs of the ocean and back on the green). No biggie.

  21. Davis says:

    Solid effort, but nope.

  22. Ryan says:

    Those are some decent reasons to play golf Norm (assuming you can hit a cut shot over the ocean from behind a tree). Hard to see how they’re reasons to watch it.

  23. Troy says:

    Normy, to your credit, I actually enjoyed reading your account more than I would have enjoyed watching it on TV.

  24. Davis says:

    Agreed. Norm, if you’d agree to live blog a tournament, I could be induced to watch.

  25. Ryan says:

    Wow, how cool would that be?

    By the way, I saw Landon Donovan interviewed yesterday, and I know this won’t be obvious to anyone, but seriously, when he talks, he’s very reminiscent of Norm. Kind of cool.

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