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Fan is Short For Fanatic

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader


I just saw on the news how the Komets have more “enforcers” (a.k.a fighters) because the IHL has changed some rule; the organization is encouraging fighting.

Has good hockey become so difficult to do right that players and leagues have given up and decided fighting is the way to go? Occasionally, it’s fun to see a good fight, but really good hockey is fun to watch.

I guess that’s the answer now: if you can’t play well, just fight. The fans won’t know the difference.

I remember some fierce rivalry that occurred in what I consider the glory days of the International Hockey League, that is, the 1970s. The Toledo Goaldiggers were absolutely hated, and we especially didn’t like Paul Tandardini, who got nicknamed “Retardini.” The Dayton Gems were another team that the Komets mixed it up with. The fans occasionally got into it too; holding up homemade signs after the referee made a particularly bad call, or to visually say something to a member of the opposing team. Who remembers the guy who sat in either section 13 or 14, who used to shout out some long-winded insult? When he started in, the entire arena got eerily quiet. Despite this, I never could figure out what the guy was saying.

Sports can evoke some strange behavior in people. And the popularity of sports waxes and wanes, but NASCAR was nothing until someone thought it was cool about 10 years ago or so. It seemed to roar out of the south with as much “here I am” attitude as Rosa Parks’ act of not wanting to give up her bus seat. I remember the “Gordon is Gay” period, where people made assumptions because of the rainbow graphics on Gordon’s car. I always wanted to ask some macho man who sneered “Gordon is Gay,” “well, how do you know? Have you ever slept with him?” But I was too afraid of being smacked in the face (or worse) with someone’s Dale Earnhardt belt buckle.

Another puzzling aspect of fan behavior is the rabid loyalty to a particular college’s football team, even though the fan himself barely graduated high school and hasn’t come within 100 miles of setting foot on the campus of the institute of higher learning he is so passionate about. I had a boss who contributed to Indiana University’s basketball program when Bob “Anger Management is for Pussies” Knight was still in power, er, I mean coaching. My boss, who edited the newspaper I worked for, never made it to college and his speech was liberally sprinkled with “ain’t, “don’t matter,” and “don’t got no.” Hearing that on a daily basis was like listening to fingernails being run down a blackboard. Thankfully, he didn’t write the way he talked, but it continually amazed me that someone who sounded like a hick actually was hired by The News-Sentinel back in the day. Maybe that’s why nothing came of my internship there many years ago—I must have sounded too educated, despite my overuse of the word “like,” which makes me sound like an aging valley girl.

For years, I always got flack because I was a New York Yankees fan. My dad was a Yankees fan, so it made sense that I became one too. I went through a period of time when I was obsessed with Bucky Dent and actually wrote a letter asking him if he was married (I was 11 or 12 at the time; but it seems like I’ve always had a thing for older guys.) His infamous poster of him in cut-offs and sweats adorned my closet door for God knows how long. I don’t know where the poster went. It would probably be worth a lot today.

However, I still have that autographed picture he sent me in response to my letter. And no, I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium, but at least I’ve been to New York, which I feel puts me ahead of any local IU fan who’s never been to Bloomington (or a single college campus.)

But it really doesn’t have to make sense. The word “fan” is derived from “fanatic,” which means a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.

Or sports.

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