There is no we in fan, or is there?
When Freddy Mercury of Queen sang, “We are the Champions,” he obviously wasn’t discussing his favorite professional sports franchise. His “we” alludes to his involvement in a band, and Mercury represented 25 percent of a very successful union of men in regards to their industry.
When it comes to sports fans, however, some seem to think they can make a Mercury-like claim when referring to their favorite sports team (especially when that team is the champions).
I admit it. I’ve been guilty of the We Complex in the past when discussing the San Francisco Giants and 49ers; those teams represent my “we.” I’ve been called on it in the past, and I’ve had to defend my use of it in the past.
But recently I came to the conclusion that it’s mostly inappropriate for a fan to use we. (Reader’s note: I am not 100 percent against it because it still occasionally slips from my mouth, but I am conscious about the awkwardness of saying it and would rather not.)
It’s a tricky subject of debate but definitely relevant toward fanatics who throw it out there as loosely as Brett Favre sporadically passes a football. In a heated sports argument, nothing can throw a wrench in it like the use of the word “we.” Like a battle inside the war, the conversation can turn ugly and focus on the question: Do sports fans have the right to say “we” in reference to their favorite team? I had the evil conversation with a few colleagues not too long ago, but I let it go after a friendly debate in which I confessed my in-between attitude about it.
I had contemplated whether or not I wanted to approach this subject in a column until last Thursday night at Madigan’s Grille and Tavern in Truckee. While having a post-work beverage while waiting for friends to join me, I listened to the King of Wes a few seats away. The couple he was sitting with didn’t seem to mind that he considered himself worthy of the we reference. It was not seldom. He said it at the beginning, middle or end of practically every sentence he spoke.
The self-thought genius rambled on and on about how “we,” the (New York) Yankees, are going to do this and that this season. Everybody around the bar was treated to some pro-Bronx Bombers propaganda. Now, there are times in life when you lash out at somebody that deserves confrontation, but sometimes you let them keep talking because they are doing an adequate job of proving their dumbness..
My revenge was informing him of some details about “his” team that he did not know – among them the Yankees’ acquisition of pitcher Kevin Brown and outfielder Kenny Lofton, pointing out the Yankees’ five-man rotation will consist of all righties, informing him that Enrique Wilson would be “his” second baseman, and the Yankees’ monstrous payroll of around $250 million, which he claimed to be around $150 million. He sure proved ignorant about something he thought himself to be a major part of.
This guy not only represented The We Problem, but also begged the question: What is a fan? Can he be considered a true Yankees just by claiming he is? Here are some parameters I go by when judging an authentic sports fan (if the fan fits one of the below requirements, I consider them a true fan):
— You have a strong connection to the team, either geographically or through family.
— At one time you were employed by the organization or are currently employed.
— You can name the starting lineup, follow the team year-round, can speak intelligently about the team and are knowledgeable about the team history (In other words, wearing the hat or jersey because you like the colors doesn’t constitute being a fan).
Remember that the word fan was derived from fanatic, and the dictionary defines fan as “a devotee of sport, celebrity, etc.” So the above rules could apply to a favorite band, celebrity, or whatever. In my opinion, you can consider yourself a fan of anything, but it becomes a matter of judgment when considering whether or not you a true fan.
But saying we is another subject entirely. It walks that fine line between credibility and ridiculousness. Some extremists could argue that only the players can use we, since the players play the game. But that’s not me. I think there are a few people in the sports world who are genuinely entitled to say we:
— The players
— The coaches
— The front office (owners, general managers, etc.)
Then there are those on the bubble:
— Other employees of the team (ex. public relations officials)
— Former players who were loyal to the team over an entire career (ex. Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres or John Elway of the Denver Broncos).
— Fans who own stock in the team and make financial sacrifices to keep their team in their hometown (like the unique situation among Green Bay Packers fans – 111,507 stockholders own 4,748,910 shares in the team.)
My sports fanatic friends and I had discussions about the definition of fan and The We Problem many times in college, and it will come up countless times again. But we also considered ourselves sports fans, which is probably the reason I knew more about the Yankees than that particular man on that particular night. Does that mean I’m superior? Of course not. It just means I take offense when a guy in Truckee is saying we in reference to the Yankees – a team that not only calls the East Coast home but also has become one of the biggest bandwagon teams on the planet.
I’m currently working on a politically correct rendition of the Mercury classic called, “My Team is the Champions.” I have to admit though, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Matt Brown is sports and outdoors editor for the Sierra Sun.
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