Kat Joseph

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Fans play a huge part in what makes sports so special. There is just no experience quite like walking into a baseball stadium to find your seat while you have a hot dog in one hand and a soda in the other. Some of the fondest and saddest memories consist of the times when we sat on the couch with family and watched as our teams marched off the field in victory or missed crucial shots to lose in a rough fashion.

If one is to journey into fandom, he or she must be ready to endure hardship. It’s an easy thing to be a fan of a team when that team is winning, but it’s a different kind of journey to remain faithful when there is a dry season with only several wins, but many losses

The Boston Red Sox were said to be under the “curse of the Bambino” – a curse that resulted from their trading Babe Ruth (The Great Bambino) in 1920 – before finally breaking through and winning the World Series in 2004.

Fans that have stuck by their teams despite constant losing streaks can tell you there’s something special about finally seeing that sweet playoff appearance or seeing your team turn things around after many rough seasons. True passion emerges when struggles appear, and true Red Sox fans got a taste of what that means.

A bandwagon fan – a fan that jumps onto a team’s winning bandwagon, buys a jersey, maybe a poster, and learns a whole bunch of stats – will know little about the teams formative years, and will come and go, but a true fan is marked by their faithfulness and love for the team.

Some teams are easy to support due to their countless years of success. Despite currently having a bad record and being on the brink of rebuilding, the Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the more successful franchises in sports. Lakers fans have been known to be among the more passionate fans. They’re always sure to keep true to traditions; rain or shine, a loss or a victory, Lakers fans are always there to riot in the streets of downtown L.A.

Fans are the ones who bring the energy. Whether it’s the Packers fans and their infamous cheese-head hats, Steelers fans and their Terrible Towels, or the Cameron Crazies of Duke University who create one of the most intimidating environments in college basketball, fans are the ones who pack the house and carry on the traditions.

There are fans who believe that the amount of paint they have on their body is proportional to how much they love their team. Some think it’s the amount of obscene statements and harsh jokes that makes for the true test of their fandom. Philadelphia sports fans like to show their love by throwing snowballs at Santa Clause during Eagles games, storming the field at Phillies games (ending with a Taser), and climbing up glass (which inevitably collapsed) to fight a hockey player at a Flyers’ game.

Fans are known to be a contributing factor in the final outcome of a game. Many people, including players and coaches, believe the energy that fans bring to a game can impact how well a team plays – a phenomenon commonly known as “home advantage” (or home court, field or ice advantage, depending on the sport). Bleacher Report published an article that discussed several different studies that were conducted by researchers.

These studies revolved around better understanding “home advantage”, referring to it as the “homer effect.” The homer effect eludes to the idea that fans can influence a referee’s sub-conscious. The way Seahawks fans react to penalties could certainly make a referee think twice about penalizing the Seattle Seahawks in CenturyLink Field. Loud noises from the fans may be playing a bigger role than one would have thought.

Whether or not teams have an advantage when they play in their hometown has been debated. The Dallas Cowboys actually have a losing record in AT&T Stadium since the opening of the 1.2 billion dollar playpen. However, the Spurs have proven – with a 37-0 record at home – that there could be something to the idea of home court advantage. There is definitely a difference in the level of impact that fans can have across different sports. Fans have a greater opportunity of effecting players with loud cheers and taunts when the stadium is much smaller in size. Cameron Indoor has a seating capacity of only 9,314 despite Duke having one of the most popular college basketball programs in the country. The majority factor in a team’s win-loss record at home is definitely the quality of the team, but some teams do become more threatening when they’re played in their hometown.

There have been questions over what makes a fan. There’s a population that believes people are born into fandom – that if people are raised by families that cheer for the Dallas Cowboys or the Los Angeles Lakers, they are fans by default. Some say that it is really a matter of geography, meaning that you have to have been born or at least raised into the city of the team for which you cheer. We must learn to consider the true mark of fandom by the emotional investment one puts into their team, not by where they’re from or where they’re going.

One thing is for certain though, sports wouldn’t be sports without the fans. It’s a wonderful thing that people can come together under one house and be part of something bigger than themselves.

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