As I write this, the Detroit Tigers are down one game to the Texas Rangers’ two in the American League Championship Series. The next two games are in Detroit, before the series (hopefully) heads back to Arlington. There are many reasons to be pulling for Detroit, among them their underdog status and their lack of stupid facial hair, but the biggest for me is that they’re my hometown team. I’m in Boston now, and in addition to never wanting to be a Red Sox fan, rooting for the Tigers is one of the few things I can do here the same way I could do it at home. Moreover, I have friends from both St. Louis and Milwaukee, so I could really get excited about the World Series no matter the outcome of the NLCS. In spite of all of these reasons to really get into this series, something makes me feel weird sitting down to actually watch a game. That something is a fear of being a Fairweather fan, a specific yet ubiquitous type of poseur.
I’ve alluded to a general disinterest in sports, stemming from not being able to compete with my older brother, but I don’t think I’ve illustrated what exactly I mean by “sports.” That my brother was four years older than me explains why he would be able to best me in everything from basketball to living room wrestling matches, and that I’m prideful would explain why I thus never really developed much of an interest in playing sports. To a kid, that might naturally play into not developing an interest in watching sports, but I think there were a few more factors that goosed me towards that outcome. Chiefly, my brother wasn’t just a sports playing fanatic, he was a sports trivia fanatic. He knew every player, every number, every stat, and not just for the Detroit teams, but for everybody. This has paid off in the age of fantasy football, but at the time, it was just one more thing he could hang over my head. This meant I couldn’t even watch a game without being chastised for not knowing what DH stands for, what a touchback is, or for not having the proper hushed reverence for Barry Sanders. This made the very act of watching sports embarrassing, as I just didn’t know all of the things a “real” fan knows about the team, or even the game in general.
To some degree, I still feel that today. Real fans keep track of their teams throughout the season, they question moves made by the coaches, and are well aware of which players are injured, and how that will affect the next game. I don’t know any of that shit. I don’t think I can be blamed for not knowing, since I really don’t care, but if I think of an analogous situation, say somebody going to see The Dark Knight and not knowing that Harvey Dent will eventually have half of his face burned off (in one way or another), I know I wouldn’t have any patience for them. My being so judgmental is certainly an issue, and one I think I’ll eventually have to address if I’m going to overcome my poseurphobia, but that doesn’t change the fact that people will think I’m an idiot for not having the specific knowledge they take as a given. I realize that that’s their problem, but I still don’t like people thinking I’m dumb, even if it is about something I don’t place any value in knowing. Maybe that’s weird, but it ultimately doesn’t just apply to sports.
I think the fear of being a fairweather fan comes up everywhere for me; I won’t get into a band or a movie or a tv show once it becomes popular because I don’t want to be one of those latecomers. It actually goes a step further, because I don’t want to be confused with those people, even if I’m technically not one of them. This causes me to jump ship on things I actually enjoy just because I don’t want to seem like a fairweather fan. This ends up giving me the unfortunately hipsterish habit of abandoning interests simply because they’ve become popular. This has always seemed preferable to the equally-hipsterish-but-way-more annoying “I liked X before it was cool,” but I think there’s another option I’ve never considered, which would be to just not let these trends effect what I do and don’t like. This is clearly the way to go, but it still makes me uncomfortable.
On closer examination, I’m realizing that my fear of fairweather fandom fuels much of my poseurphobia. It gets exaggerated and distorted, but is ultimately at the root of my reluctance to try new things, from facebook to contra dancing. Trying to topple this particular pillar of my fear is going to take a lot longer than I realized when I sat down to write this post. In the meantime, I’ll will myself to not feel weird as I root for the Tigers this afternoon.