What Sport Has the Best Fans?
There’s a collective concentration on the game
I was thinking about this when I saw some highlights of the USC versus UCLA American football game, where 90,000 people packed into the stadium. I was thinking about this when I saw the Cameroon Crazies at Duke, standing, if not jumping up and down the whole game. It got me to thinking, what sport has the best fans in all of sports?
And sure, I am biased towards soccer, but I’m also a sports fan in general, so I’m willing to take any argument or reasoning into consideration on which sport has the best fans.
To answer this question you have to take a closer look at the sport itself, where is the game played, indoors or outdoors, are there breaks during the game, how close to the field are the fans, how intense are the fans, how passionate are the fans, and so on. All those factors come into play.
Moreover, what I’m gauging this on for the most part though is how intently the fans follow the game, since I think intention comes across in the stadium, there’s a buzz, a hum, a feeling that everyone is hanging on every play. Fans don’t have to be boisterous and loud throughtout the entire game, although that is usually a given. At times, a quietness and stillness can actually makes things seem louder. There’s a palpable energy that emanates from the fans that watch the game with such feeling – a pure passion. They've come to take it all in.
Don’t get me wrong, fans that sing songs for their teams are amazing. And what a feeling it must be to hear your name chanted or inserted into a song as his common in England. I just thought that, ironically, there are fans who are unlike the painted faced American football fan, who sit composed at their seats and cheer intermittently throughout the game and can actually come across in a more meanfuly way than those wear their painted faces in drunken passion. Of course you can single out any appearance, rather, it comes down to the individual. I'm just saying that soccer fans don't need any music during the games, cheerleaders (can't hurt though), mascots, timeouts, and side show entertainment.
And of course in soccer there are few stops and starts, no time outs or huddles. Soccer is a free flowing game where a good fan hangs on every play for the whole 90 minutes. Moreover, the soccer fan hangs on every touch, move, cut, kick, and throw, through the game. It’s church like.
Yes, all other sports will claim the same devotion and passion. I'm sure you’ve heard of fans in Brazil not leaving the places in the stands, peeing in the stands instead of going to the bathroom since they'll miss some of the game. Hooligans, yes, soccer does have that. They're not good for the game.
However, it’s not the overt passion for the game that I give more weight to, rather, it’s the fixated fan who knows when to cheer, sing, stand up, whistle, boo, or scream. If you have a stadium full of these educated fans then you have quite the atmosphere. There's a syncronized symphony going on, from cheers, to boos, to oohs and ahhs, to screaming, to exuberant celebrating.
Which is where soccer comes in, the soccer fan is wholeheartedly fixed on this is non stop action. Again, there’s no band, cheerleaders, raffles, prizes, loud speakers – the entertainment is entirely contained within the pitch and within the usual 90 minutes plus injury time allowed.
Sure, you can classify different types of fans: families, father and son, friends, season ticket holders, foreigners catching their first game ever, fanatics, old timers, but they all love the game they watch.
Let’s put it this way, if there’s a constant banging of drums and noise, then there’s not that big of a difference when something does happen and there’s a sudden surge of noise. Let’s say your out camping in the desert or in the woods somewhere, there’s a flash of lightening and then thunder, that lightening seems a lot brighter and that thunder a lot louder out away from the city where there’s lot’s of light and noise already. It's the quiet that actually makes certain moments that much greater.
So, I guess the question could be what kind of fans do you prefer, ones who sing songs the whole game, ones who are on their feet their whole game, ones who sit during the game but are locked into the game, ones who paint their faces and wear costumes, ones who wear suits and ties, ones who burn flares and bang drums, ones who talk on their cell phones or to their friend the whole game. I like the fan who can't look away from the match.
History is an important factor as well, how long have the fans been following a certain team or club? And then there's the stadium's themselves, increasingly becoming places to pilgramage too, like the Camp Nou or the Theatre of Dreams at Old Trafford.
Then there's watching a game on TV, that new LCD or flat screen HD plasma, it's almost like you're there. I enjoy watching the Los Angeles Lakers play at home, there's something about how the court is framed in black, the side areas dark and that puts the court more in focus, the court almost glows along with their yellow jerseys. Some stadiums or locations have certain characteristics that add to the game. They have that mystic.
Something else that makes soccer unique, is when a player is removed from a game there's a reverencial applause for the player if he's played well. Or, if he's played poorly there's a harsh whistling and booing. Other sports do take players out towards the end of the game, say in the NBA, so the crowd can give them their due, but in soccer the subsitution at the end of the game for the goal scorer is almost routine.
Fans could also be split up in different classes, groups, types, again, from those who wave flags perpetually throughout the match to the elderly fan who's had season tickets for nearly his whole lifetime. I guess what it gets down to is the educated fans versus the entertainment seeking fans.