In football/soccer, the most popular teams tend to ebb and flow with their success. The crowd of front-runners and bandwagon jumpers is most likely not going anywhere. It is just too intoxicating to be “a winner”. Historically speaking, the team that you were bound to support depended heavily upon your geography. The local team was the one that people supported because they were an extension or a representation of you and your community. Since we now live in a more global community, you can choose to support any team because local is basically everywhere. Whether or not the true locals embrace you as an equal or anyone knows about your fandom is immaterial. Being a fan is a series of choices. My terms for these choices would be PICK, STICK, SUFFER and CELEBRATE.
The first step is to PICK a team. Depending on who you are, this may include picking a name out of a hat, detailed spreadsheets with statistical data or in my case, a desire to make a video game more challenging. The reason you choose a team is less important than what you do from then on.
Probably the most important step is to STICK. Once you’ve picked a team, you need to stick with them, regardless of results, personnel changes or other inconveniences. Front runners and bandwagon jumpers struggle with this step and it is what precludes them from being true fans regardless of the number of jerseys or scarves they might own. Being a fan is similar to being in a committed relationship, sure breakups happen but moving around too much says something.
SUFFER might seem like an undesirable step to go through but it is necessary to be a true fan. Anyone can go through the motions of fandom. Buy some merchandise, watch a few games and you’re acting like a fan. The true test for whether you’re invested is that you hurt when your team hurts. If you feel nothing in the moments of disappointment, then most likely you’re a tourist. Taking pleasure in success is also far too easy for anyone to do. I take pleasure in different teams success all of the time. As my team needs points toward the end of the season, I will celebrate almost any team’s success that helps my team’s cause. It’s pragmatism, not fandom. If you’re only in it for the good times, you’re not really in it at all.
Finally, you can CELEBRATE! You’re no longer a nomadic loner. You have a tribe! A group of people to share experience with. This may be relegated to online or through other means but that is largely irrelevant. You’re a part of something bigger than yourself. People have been doing this type of thing for millennia. Clans, cliques, clubs, tribes, guilds, unions, etc. fill a human need for connection. Now you’ve got one!
Now that you know the steps for being a fan, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest my favorite club as a possibility. Peterborough United Football Club, known as “The POSH,” are small club located about an hour outside of London. After 17+ years of supporting the club, I’d say that I’m committed or maybe I should be. They play in the EFL Championship and typically are among the top scoring teams in English Football. CHECK THEM OUT!
Be a fan!