I can remember Feb. 1, 2009 as if it were yesterday. I was in the living room, heart pounding, hands sweating as I frantically paced the room. At one point I felt as though I might pass out from anxiety. I had never experienced an anxiety attack before but this felt as close to one as I could imagine.
The moment passed and my heart began to slow, I could breath normally again and the feeling of gloom turned to joy. The anxiety induced moment was from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger releasing a football as it spiraled into Santonio Holmes’ hands as Holmes would then tiptoe into the corner of the endzone securing the SuperBowl win. I don’t remember everything in my life, but I remember that. I can tell you every detail of that Sunday evening. Sports can do that people.
Some team winning or losing really shouldn’t have an impact on someone who isn’t even on the team and thus really has no impact on the outcome. But it does.
The word fan is short for the word fanatic and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a fanatic is someone that is “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.”
Fans are passionate because they’re always enthusiastic about their team, and that enthusiasm brings about a devotion. The enthusiasm is what keeps the fans coming back, even if their team loses 100-0, there’s always a sense of enthusiasm that just maybe their team might win the next time out.
Fans showing their devotion to a sport is not something new. Sports have been a big part of the world since the times of the Romans as thousands would gather to watch the gladiators in the Coliseum. Today we gather together to watch sporting events such as the Super Bowl or World Series. Sports have always been a part of society, so to has the relationship between teams and their fans.
To many fans, cheering on their team is a part of life. If their team wins, they feel as though they took part in the victory, conversely if their team loses they might feel as though they somehow didn’t contribute enough. In other words, fans experience the highs of victory and lows of defeat. Eric Simmons, author of “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession,” stated in a Washington Post article, “A sports team is an expression of a fan’s sense of self.”
Simmons added, “It is not an obnoxious affectation when a devotee uses the word “we;” it’s a literal confusion in the brain about what is “me” and what is “the team.” In all kinds of unconscious ways, a fan mirrors the feelings, actions and even hormones of the players. Self-esteem rides on the outcome of the game and the image of the franchise.”
In October’s National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers played the Chicago Cubs for the right to play in the World Series. For former Palomar student Susana Hernandez, 28, it was a series filled with high aspirations, accompanied by a demoralizing end.
Hernandez was born, raised and currently lives in Escondido, however she drives two hours north to watch Dodger games in Los Angeles during baseball season.
Hernandez said that she’s been a fan of the Dodgers for quite a few years now. Despite the 93-mile commute back and forth, and the exhausting L.A. traffic, Hernandez makes it a priority to catch as many home games as she can during the season even rushing to home games during the work week.
“I love going to the games. It’s like a different adventure every time,” Hernandez said. At the start of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs, Hernandez stated that she was very excited but very nervous at the same time. The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead over the Cubs in the series before losing two straight and falling behind 2-3 in a best of seven series.
Basically, game six was win or go home for the Dodgers and their fans. The Cubs took an early lead and never looked back. While the Cubs and their fans rejoiced in the song “Go Cubs Go,” the Dodgers and their fans sat in the silence of defeat. Hernandez, like many other Dodger fans was heartbroken by the end result.
“I felt devastated. I legit felt like I wanted to cry, I did tear up a little bit,” Hernandez said.
There’s two sides to every story. In sports, there’s the winners and there’s the losers. Hernandez and her Dodgers had the misfortune of being on the losing side of this story. Cubs fans got to enjoy the spoils of being on the winning side of their own.
The Cubs treated their fans with a thrilling seven-game series in which they fell behind three games to one, before winning three straight–including a dramatic game seven that they won in extra innings. Many Cubs fans watched the whole series filled with anxiety. Their team after all, hadn’t won a championship since 1908; 108 years of being on the losing side.
Joel Glassman, 55, is an accounting professor at Palomar who has experienced the highs and lows that come with being a Cubs fan. Glassman is originally from Chicago and can remember going to home games at Wrigley Field on Sundays. He described one playoff series game where he was teaching a class while the game was on, but he would continually check the score.
Before watching his Cubs win the World Series, Glassman remembers many other times when his team fell short from the heartbreaking losses against the Padres in 1984 and then the Marlins in 2003.
“I guess in a sense it’s just part of my life. It’s part of who I am, it’s part of my upbringing,” Glassman said on being a devote fan. “So I think that if all of a sudden it was taken away, there would be a void in my life.”
When the Cubs recorded their final out in game seven against Cleveland, Cubs fans breathed a sigh of relief, followed by heartfelt cheers and tears. Glassman described it by saying, “Relief and the exhilaration of it finally happening, because I had never experienced it before in my life.”
Brook MacMahon, a 22-year-old Palomar student, is a fan of the Super Bowl champion’s New England Patriots. MacMahon is from Escondido but has been a fan of the Patriots for 17 years. Growing up a fan, he said that he has been on both sides of the story.
“Watching them lose two Super Bowls to the Giants was really difficult for numerous reasons. As a fan, there comes a point when your team stops becoming ‘them’ and starts becoming ‘us,’” MacMahon said.
He continued by expressing the joy of seeing the Patriots win the Super Bowl this past February. “It was like euphoria as a fan that culminated with a, ‘We did it!,’” MacMahon said. “Sports to me [just below] religion, but not by much. You have to be all-in and when you give your soul and your passion to a team, a beautiful thing happens.”
In this last Super Bowl, the Patriots fell behind by 25 points at halftime, but after a furious comeback in the second half, the Patriots capped off the comeback to win their fifth championship. If you were a fan of the Atlanta Falcons it was utterly depressing, if you were like MacMahon it was as he described–euphoric.
That’s the thing about sports, there’s a narrative. It’s a cycle that continues from season to season. Sports isn’t just athletes playing on a field or on a court, it’s a story. People watch sports because they want to be invested in that story.
Sometimes their team is on the losing end of the story and sometimes they’re on the winning end, but the story always continues. Fans invest time and energy into sports because it’s an escape from the other parts of their lives. Fans are fans, because they are part of the team. Fans are fans because they want to be a part of the story.