fans

There is something that even the most avid sports fan will agree on.  It is simply this!  The teams you are backing win or lose, is the one you remain faithful to.

I am an octogenarian.  This means I have been to a great number of events, seen a lot of action and, on occasion, if my favorite team was not involved, I would, in a lukewarm fashion; root for a team that normally was one of our rivals.

In my case, I draw the line at rooting for the Yankees. After all, throughout most of my formative years, my beloved Red Sox always finished second to the so-called “Bronx Bombers”.

You may ask yourself, “Why has Shelly decided to devote an entire column to the subject of fandom? Being a fan… it’s simple to understand.

The fan may not be actually part of the team, but  true fans eat, breathe, sleep and even have an imitated death over the success and failure of their favorite team.

I have many friends including Carol and Frank who belong in that category. I do not understand such fervor, but applaud their right to feel the way they do. Why shouldn’t I.  It is fans that helped me earn my livelihood during the years I worked.

Among my Fan friends are many who graduated from their respective schools over a half century ago, but come football season, there’s no talking to them on Saturdays. They even dress in school colors. One couple I know have pajamas in their school colors and the entire Saturday they remain in their P. J.’s Often, they bring food in.  This way they can eat , never moving from in front of their  TV Set until the final snap of the game… genuine hermits.  A true fan supports his team through not only the winning years, but never deserts them even in the lean years. Needless, to say, they too follow every bounce of the ball.

Some schools are coached by coaches destined for the Hall of Fame. As great as these coaches are or were to become, it never stops the fan from criticizing every call. One of the facets of being a true fan, is to adapt. Many fans actually feel they are a part of the game.  The fan, however, never takes blame for a bad call.

Then, of course, there is my son-in-law Danny. Danny is a certified Basketball referee. So in all the games he watches, or listens to… pro, collegiate, or high school… he focuses in on the Officials’ calls … commenting on what was missed and what should have been called. He’s more right than wrong! However, he has the benefit of TV and not having to make the call under duress of the actual game.

Actually, most fans feel they can coach, or call a game better than an Official.  Thus, those fans not only do this during the game… long after it is over, they will continue to sit and analyze each play.

The real  fans go all out. This phase, “Tail Gating,  has been covered extensively by all networks and even the Cooking Channel. It is a great phenomenon that I have often  salivated as I watched.  In fact, I dreamed of being part of such an obviously delicious event.

Eventually, as luck would have it, I met Bunny and Bob avid USC fans. During football season, they host a tailgate party at their home, supplying food, drink and multiple TV sets for their  friends to view all away games.

On home game days, they start at 6 A.M. Actually, they start the night before.  Their truck is loaded with all the Bar-B-Q accouterments you can imagine. They  leave around 7 A.M. for the  Los Angeles Coliseum in preparation for the game and  are set up for both breakfast and lunch long before the 12:30 kickoff.

I am a fan! Although I worked in many sports as a player, a coach, a referee, an owner and an executive, I always have remained true to my roots. My work itinerary in sports saw me based in New Jersey, Colorado, Ohio, New York and California. I enjoyed all the teams, or games I was involved in.  Yet, if they were playing against any of my Boston teams, my passion for the Red Sox et al rose to the fore. I have to be true.

Without fans, the games would never achieve their place on the American entertainment firmament, or for that matter, the world’s stage. Men make up the preponderance of fans.. but many women are right there with them.

Look at the fan base for NFL Football every Sunday.

Although, Baseball has been called the “National Past time”, fans of Professional Football even in a much shorter season is truly “America’s Game”. The Green Bay Packers ownership is a good example.  Over 100,000 fans each own a share of the team.

Then there are the fans that support the Seattle Seahawks.  The noise that they create and the cacophony that results, has caused coach Pete Carroll to label them the  “12th Man”. They are so loud that twice they have established the Guinness World record for the largest noise at a sporting event…September 15, 2013 against the San Francisco Forty Niners, (136.6 db)… December 2, 2013 versus the New Orleans Saints, (1376 dB)….THAT’S LOUD! 

By the way, they won both games.

Multiply my friends by millions across the country who each game day act exactly the same way.

It always amazed me that even when I was a lowly sports executive that when my wife and I would attend a party, for example, every man there would gravitate toward me for conversation.

The reason I was amazed and continue to be amazed is because in attendance at the parties often times there might be a multimillionaire builder, the largest car dealer in the area, an insurance agent that just made a million dollar policy sale and others like that.

Made no difference, I was connected to the local team and in their minds I might have some insight to share with them.

It is the fan that paid my salary for many years.  This fact is brings me, I guess that goes to the reason why I wrote this column. The owners and the players, to a great extent, have forgotten the nucleus of where their wages originally are derived.

Basically, the humongous TV deals, spending billions of dollars for the right to broadcast the games, have created an atmosphere where the fan is secondary to the quest for as much lucre as possible.

Now, don’t get me wrong!

I believe in capitalism and the ability to make the most money you can. However, when a utility such as Cable and Over-the-Air TV came into existence licensed by and with the support of government action as something that was conceived for the good of the public, it is wrong for rights holders to withhold the product from the most viewers in a community.

When in 1948 John Walson, Sr created the first Community Antenna Television, (CATV), signal to Mahanoy City, Pa, his intent was to deliver a signal to rural, urban and poorer areas where they couldn’t get Howdy Doody, Dave Garraway, the News, or Jack Paar. Neither did Bob Block have any idea of depriving the public, when he founded Select TV, the first over-the-air pay TV system.

The fans clamor for sports on TV!  Most average fans cannot afford the ticket prices so TV is the only way than can enjoy and support their team. Unfortunately, in many markets there is a competition between systems that preclude the maximum number of fans from viewing.  Many individual teams have made deals with one system and unless competing systems pay an exorbitant price, they will not share those rights. Such is the case in Los Angeles, where Time Warner owns the rights and does not with either the Dish System, or Direct TV.

The owners are hurting the fans that stuck with them for years. Unfortunately, all too many fans are lemmings and accept the situation.

We have all heard about “Road Rage”.  My next column shall be about “Fan Rage” which is ugly and ruinous.

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