As an esteemed
writer author internet porn browser that occasionally tries to write things about one particular school's athletic program, I am always trying to gauge what Oklahoma State fans are interested in when it comes to athletics. In trying to come up with an idea for an article today and blanking on a topic to write about, I got to thinking: What is it exactly that college sports fans care about? What are the bounds of our fandom?
I realize that there are many types of fans, and there is no real standard that defines what makes someone a fan, but what I wanted to address here is, as a whole, where we draw the lines as fans. What things to we actually care about? Do we care about 2012 recruiting? Do we care about the academic standing of the college of business? Do we care about Pistol Pete being voted the best mascot in some stupid poll somewhere? Where does fandom end, and fanatical mud-slinging begin?
As fans of a collegiate program, it is easy to get caught up in the battles waged in message boards and comments sections where every piece of bad publicity that is even remotely tied to a school is used as ammunition by an opposing fanbase, just as it is easy to turn civil discussions about which of two teams has the better offense into a barrage of off-topic comparison statements about your school versus theirs ("Ya, well at least we rank in the top 27 in liberal arts studies, you guys are a joke"). In a world full of internet (look around, it's everywhere), where we are privy to much more information than we used to be, and real feelings give way to hyperbole, name-calling, promises, threats, and wagers that have no repercussions once that thread is bumped off the first page, it is really difficult to tell what we care about anymore.
In the old days (like 15+ years ago), I would say that as fans of one particular program, we pretty much only cared about the play on the field, and maybe a few ancillary items like recruiting and the impression that our school ran a clean program. As Alumni we may have cared about academic rankings or other aspects of the school, but it was more about retaining the worth of our degrees than a part of our sports fandom. This has all obviously changed now. We now have places to endlessly argue about these sidebar issues and mash them all together to the point that in one particular discussion the perceived coolness of one college town versus another becomes as important to an argument about who has the better team as anything that has happened on the field. Don't we miss the good ol days when a game was a game, the winner was the winner, and the loser was the loser? So let's try to draw some lines here shall we?
I think the best way to do this is going to be to list the aspects of fandom, and try to weed out the ones we really shouldn't care about as fans. Once again, I realize that we care about every aspect of our own school, so the best way to think of this would be to rate how much you care about this aspect of another school. For example: 10 years ago, I didn't give a flying fuck about the academic rankings of other schools, now they seem to get brought into every sports related argument once the argument reaches a certain "now I just want to piss you off" point.
The Aspects of College Sports Fandom (that I can think of right now, list is sure to expand)
The Play on the Field - Obviously we care about this. This is why we are fans, no-brainer.
Recruiting - A tricky one. While it is normal to care about our own recruits, what about the recruiting battles between schools? Should another school gaining or losing a recruit really make you feel any emotion at all outside of being upset you missed out on the player, or happy that the recruit is now available for your school?
You can run through the list of responses on the Texags message board to Bralon Addison decommitting from Oklahoma State to see plenty of examples of fans that are happy for their own school, indifferent as it is just recruiting for 2 years from now, and the crazies that want to use it as a basis for A&M being superior or whatever.
Academics - Ugh. There are a million arguments I would love to make about why these shouldn't matter to fans, the institutions themselves, funding bodies, or the world at large, but apparently they aren't going away. So should this matter in sports fandom? Should statements like "at least my school is ranked better than yours academically" in the middle of a sports discussion be taken as a valid argumentative point, or as lashing out by someone who obviously has nothing to bring to the discussion and is resorting to the "ya, well you are ugly" method. Example: Should Nebraska being kicked from the AAU matter to sports fans?
Athletes Personal Issues - Should we care about athletes getting into trouble, getting arrested, etc as it relates to our being a fan?
Perceived cooless or shittiness of town/state/area/etc where schools are located - Should it really be comforting to you as a fan that you lost the game, but at least you don't have to live in "Shithole Town X"?
Is that it? That is all I got for now, I will probably be expanding the list as I think of more things, or as they are suggested. So, given the list above and anything else you want to add, what do you care about as a fan of a college program, and what is incidental BS that shouldn't matter but does?