WALLY'S WORLD: A Case of No Pain, No Fun

What does it mean to be a fair-weather fan?

I guess the answer is obvious when you deconstruct the term. When its sunny outside, the home team is winning ball games, and fans pack the stands.

And when the sky is dark, no one wants to come out of his or her room. They’d rather sit inside and play NBA 2K9 than buck up and support the team.

But there’s another hidden meaning to this: you just like the team if they’re good.

For Harvard students, many of us cast our lots with the Red Sox, or Celtics, or Patriots during our time here.

I’m from Virginia, which has zero professional sports franchises. But I have family around in Chicago, the South, and California, so I saw Jordan play, my dad took me to see the 49ers win the NFC Championship game in 1995, and the Braves always blasted on TBS.

But only one of these teams has stuck with me. I still like the Niners, maybe because of Terrell Owens, maybe because I like football more than I like other sports.

So, when I came to Boston, I picked up rooting for the Sox, and after Kevin Garnett—the hardest working man in basketball and my personal favorite player (I have his rookie jersey from the T-Wolves—I don’t know, I just have always thought that he brings it every night, never complains, and is what we should expect professional athletes to be)—came to the Celtics’ line-up, I rooted hard for him to get his first title.

What does that make me? I’d like to think I’m exempt, but I am, by definition, a fair-weather fan. These teams here in Boston are good. Six titles in six years good.

As a result, sticking with them is easy. It’s too easy.

That’s why in fandom, you have to go through something to really make a team stick. I think I’ll always like the Red Sox because I was rooting for them in 2003, when I knew I was coming to Harvard, when Aaron Boone took Tim Wakefield deep in the bottom of the 11th of Game 7, and broke Red Sox Nation’s collective heart—again (shout out to my boy Evan O’Brien, who was at that game).

I felt that pain, just as I felt the pain last weekend, as the Tampa Bay Rays ousted Boston from the playoffs.
 
But I still, as far as sports fans go, have not gone through enough.

And neither have fans from Tampa Bay or St. Petersburg. There’s probably 500, maybe 600 actual fans in Tampa. Like, real fans.

I know the park sucks, I know the team sucked, I know the Bucs are so much better, but that’s still no excuse. Rays games had like ten people attend them over the course of several years.

Now, they’re in the World Series, and they’ll win it, I think. But what does that do?

The same thing happens with the Marlins—they win a World Series, then go through three horrible years, then win another. They’re due next year, by the way.

But during those bad years? Nada. Zipo. No real fans, whatsoever, and the ticket sales have suffered as a result.

I could wax poetic for a while on the inane antics of Rays’ fans to make up for their lacking in true love, but I won’t. I’m a fair-weather (aspiring to true) fan of Boston sports, and I’m a fair-weather fan of Harvard athletics.
This seems paradoxical—a Crimson sports writer admitting that he doesn’t really care about sports?

But by society’s standards, by Boston’s standards, I don’t.

Where’s my Bill Buckner, where’s my Aaron Boone, Bucky Dent, or Grady Little?

I came to Harvard as a UVA sports fanatic, and I still am.

I never had the pedigree, the years of rooting for Harvard athletics.
And I like beer, and kegs, and tailgates that don’t end just as the game begins. Let’s just say, Harvard has never really been the place for me.
Let me also say that the Harvard Faculty Committee’s decision to limit our tailgate in this way shows they’re out of touch with the student body and don’t really give a flying rat’s arse what students think and what students care about.

But I digress and “download my anger to make room [in my hard drive] for more anger,” so quoteth former Vice President Al Gore ’69 . Or Robocop.
Our sports teams are great this fall season—crew placed well at the Head of the Charles, women’s and men’s soccer are both pushing for an Ivy League championship, and football is poised to crush the Ivy competition—again.

My question is: will it matter?

Until we all join together to root for a team—and then watch it lose in devastating fashion—we’ll never know what it really means to be a Crimson fan.

Until then, all we can do is get drunk. Oh, wait, this is Harvard.

Never mind.

—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at wehowell@fas.harvard.edu.

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