So I was making my weekly pilgrimage to the Riverside for another 'epic' encounter in the Championship, this week against the league leaders QPR. I say pilgrimage, its 15 minutes in the car and a 10 minute walk, hardly a trek to Mecca or anything! Anyway thats besides the point.
On this walk, watching the fans enter the stadium, certainly in lower numbers than in previous years, and talking in the game of times gone by when we used to be good, as we trail 3-0. It got me to thinking about fans, what makes a fan? Do different countries be 'fans' differently?
Now there are different types of fan, and this bit I must admit I have nicked from a fantastic book called 'Why England Lose' by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. They feature an area where they talk about 4 different types of fans, the client, spectator, supporter and the fanatic.
An overview of their arguement would be. The client is someone who comes to big games, possibly on a free ticket from business or a mate, and wants to be entertained by the football on show. The spectator buys a ticket to watch football, he has no loyalty to a team involved but likes the game and has taken the opportunity to make a day of it. The supporter is someone who has a loyalty to a team, and will try and see as many games as he can, but also has other things in his life, so this may involve getting to the occasional home game or going to an away game if they are in their locality if they have moved away from the area. Finally, the fanatic, the people who live and breath their team, season ticket holders and would lay their life on the line for their club.
Now in thinking about these, if you had asked me about 5 years ago, I was the fanatic, lived and breathed it. However, now I feel as I get older I am moving into the supporter category. Now I don't think I will ever slip as far from Boro to be classed a spectator, or, I dread to think, a client, but I have definately shifted towards supporter status.
Now easily the mantle of 'glory-hunter' could be thrown at me, because 5 years ago my club was in the UEFA Cup final, and now they are struggling to stay in the Championship. However, as those who know me will tell you, the level of football is of no great importance to me, I will watch anything. I feel that it seems to be a natural progression in life, other things become important, but what has made me so loyal to begin with?
This question has stumped me. It seems to be that is the way its done, you get a chance when you are about 6 or 7 to pick a club, some people have there clubs thrust upon them, and then you stick with that, good or bad, for the rest your life, or deal with the tag 'glory-supporter'. Maybe it was the way I was raised, maybe it was because of my mates, but I picked Boro and stuck with it, through thick and, at the moment certainly, thin.
Is this a British thing? Now this isn't scientific or anything, and I am not expecting to turn up quoted in an academic essay, "Blah blah blah, some shit about football and that" (Some knob et al 2011). This is just my observation from the 3 countries I have spent anytime in to get a gist of how they treat teams. First of all, Britain. Now I think we have a culture, as I mentioned earlier, of a loyalty to our teams. Our clubs become part of our identity, and in some cases are one of the few things going for an area. Also from that we expect a loyalty back, such as the fuss made about Wimbledon becoming MK Dons.
I feel the USA goes the other way. The British way is reserved for their college teams, which, and rightly so, is part of who they are. Their professional teams, on the whole, are treated like entertainment options, great when they are going well, but if they are not then its no great loss if they are there or not. Now there are exceptions, as with any rule. I am sure the people of Pittsburgh and Green Bay would be fuming to read that, as they back their Steelers and Packers to the hilt, but other area's teams seem to move about, finding the next city to welcome them. No loyalty.
Now piggy in the middle, in my experience, would be Australia. Now they have a culture of making their decision and sticking with it, but at the same time they will show their dismay at poor performances by voting with their feet and not backing a team if they are going badly. Also it seems that teams are part of the community, but don't come to represent it. You don't find many people saying "Perth? Oh yeah thats where the West Coast Eagles play isn't it?"
Also could there be an arguement to say that you put your own 'fandom' upon any team you support? I know I do, I back the Steelers, Penguins, Eagles, Bombers and even the Pirates, with almost the same loyalty and commitment I back the Boro with.
Now as I said this is my experience, I may be looking at it with rose tinted spectacles and be talking a load of bollocks, but one thing I know for definate, is that I am a fan, and I wouldn't have it any other way.