Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: Top 11 Sports Fan Steps to the Dark Side

Top 11 Sports Fan Steps to the Dark Side

by DMtShooter, Five Tool Tool

Get old enough, and you realize that you've definitely seen part of this sports fan movie before... and that your soul is blacker than coal. Here's the experiences that everyone eventually gets to, provided you live long enough.

11. The first shocking win.

For me, this was the Miracle of the Meadowlands, where the Giants fumbled while running out the clock, leading to Herm Edwards (yes, that Herm Edwards) running it in for the win. Administered early enough in life, the Shocking Win can keep you from a lifetime of early exits from games. This is not a panacea.

10. Your childhood hero.

Everybody's got one, and your best hope as a fan is that your guy doesn't go all Orenthal Carruthian in his declining years. I had Julius Erving, which was, paternity troubles notwithstanding, a fine one to have. You'll also, for the most part, never feel the same way about a player again. Which makes your betrayal easy...

9. The acceptable loss.

Some people never get to this stage (I happen to be related to them), but you know you've reached a certain unfortunate level of fan sophistication when you take a moral victory. This one came for me in 1976, when the Big Red Machine crushed the Phillies on their way to the World Series. When you are rooting for cavalry versus tanks, it's hard to be too sad when the bad thing happens.

8. The unacceptable loss.

Eventually your up and coming team turns out to be just another inconsistent sack of frustration, and the cynicism fills you like caulk in a roach-infested crawl space. I still have nightmares of the Eagles losing a playoff game in Atlanta because of a hurt field goal kicker. I just also made the spines of any number of Eagles fans of a certain age contract.

7. The championship.

Sorry, Cleveland Fans, but for most major sports metropolises, this does happen often enough to not be a singular experience. Heck, you might even get one in childhood, when it will really burn the impact in. After Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson and leaped into the air like the Muppet he was, my older brother took me to a local gathering spot in our area, where we all yelled a lot together and chanted. Eventually, we went home, and I went, almost immediately, to wondering if they could possibly repeat. Greed is pernicious.

6. The heart-breaking trade.

Willie Montanez was a left-handed hitting first baseman who didn't, on further review, really deserve to ever be a regular player. His career slugging percentage was .402, and his OBA was .327. But when the Phillies traded him in 1975 to San Francisco for some schlub named Garry Maddox, I was still as heartbroken as a five year old can be, which is to say, more heartbroken than, in all likelihood, anyone connected with the trade. "But he was Willie the Phillie!" I cried, to no avail, in one of my earliest childhood memories. I'm sure it would have all gone much easier if his name didn't rhyme.

5. The team-wide scandal.

As old as Shoeless Joe on the courthouse steps, and as inevitable given a culture that more or less puts players on an athletic scholarship since childhood. When the guys in your laundry are found with the needles or the gamblers or the criminals or the sex workers, you never quite look at the laundry the same way again. (Oh, and for the record, the Phillies were very involved in MLB's cocaine troubles in the '80s.)

4. The fire sale.

This doesn't apply to major market teams, but when it becomes very clear that you care more about who wins or loses than the ownership and the players, it's a scarring moment. Why again is that, considering that you are the one paying them in this arrangement? The only thing I can say about this stage is that the illusion that it's temporary, or can be alleviated by rooting for teams filled with plucky and unjaded younger guys, is the only thing that keeps us coming back. That and the other million-odd reasons of sports addiction.

3. Media disillusionment.

Gosh, this analyst doesn't know the game at all, and is only getting the job because he's a famous ex-jock! And this sports radio mouth jobber seems to be just saying stuff that no person in their right mind could actually believe, just to provoke controversy! What's going on here -- is the whole world filled with complete liars? (Answer: yes. But don't worry, you can always develop an interest in politics instead!)

2. Front office disillusionment.

Different from the fire sale ennui; this is where you start to honestly believe that you could do a better job than those slobs who actually have the gig. It's kind of like playing poker and folding bad hands that hit on the flop, in that you'll only remember when you were right -- Warren Sapp, you idiots! Not Mike Mamula! -- and never when you were wrong -- um, the rest of you fools who wanted Ricky Williams instead of Donovan McNabb. He went to my school, so I was down with 5 from the beginning. Give me the job already!

1. Gambling against your team.

Perhaps you don't think you've gotten here, but if you play fantasy sports, and don't just own players from your team (which is to say, you play to win, rather than just give someone else your money)... you've done this.

Welcome to the dark side, young one. We have been waiting for you.

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