Fandom

Are you a true fan? There will be a quiz at the end

Kansas City Royals Desktop Wallpaper by Charlie Lyons-Pardue flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

​Are you a true fan? There will be a quiz at the end

I have been friends with Marcia since high school, when we played together in the marching band, worked at the same nearby department store, and shared our high school secrets. I was her maid of honor; decades later she was one of the witnesses at my wedding, but in between we’d lived far apart and not always kept in close touch. Now that we both live in the same area again, we can have regular lunches and return to sharing our secrets.

One fact about Marcia that is no secret — but was new to me when we reconnected — is that she is a huge Royals fan.

Royals as in the 2015 World Series winning championship baseball team. Somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000 people (depending on the source) turned out for the celebratory victory parade in Kansas City. The Royals haven’t fared quite so well since 2015, though they’re doing a good job of avoiding being in last place this season. Go Royals!

But Marcia was a fan long before the Royals were the champions, and she’s a fan whether they win or lose.

As a huge Royals fan, Marcia is a member of the whole community of Royals fans. We’re both big fans of the KU Jayhawks men’s basketball team, so I know how to Rock Chalk Jayhawk. But I’m a mere occasional watcher of the Royals. So at one of our lunches Marcia taught me what it means to be part of Royals Nation. (What works for Royals fans works for fans of any team, so feel free to substitute your own favorite team for “Royals” in what follows.)

As baseball’s regular season nears the end, and for those of you who aspire to true fandom, here’s what being a true Royals fan means.

It means you’re a fan all season long. Marcia watches every game on TV. She builds her schedule around when the team is playing (listening to the radio broadcast of a game is a poor substitute). Two other friends of mine, at separate social events within the same week, have excused themselves because they needed to get home in time to watch the game.

You go to as many games as you can. Marcia’s son, with season tickets, has treated her to some great times in Kauffman Stadium, including sharing a reward from work with special seats in the Diamond Club, the section behind home plate. Marcia has traveled to away games. She and her friends took a vacation to Minneapolis in 2016 to watch the Royals face the Minnesota Twins in their three-game series.

​Of course, like any true Royals fan, Marcia has plenty of Royals gear to wear to those games — and to wear at home while watching the games. Any true fan knows you have to keep wearing the same clothes when the team is on a winning streak in critical games. Royals merchandise is in big demand. A 2016 give-away of a Salvy Splash bobblehead to the first 20,000 fans through the gates had people lining up at 1:30 for the sold-out (that’s 38,000 attendees) 6 pm game. Marcia can tell me stuff like that, because she’s a true fan.

​A true fan doesn’t just sit and watch the games in Royals attire. Marcia keeps stats when she watches the games, of course. Scorecards make that easy for those who know how. At the stadium, the scoreboard is full of players’ stats and game stats to follow. You can chant “Let’s Go Royals” when the team needs a lift. And you have to follow your rituals (Marcia watches the games with a wishing dragon sitting beside her at home, rubbing its claws to wish for a hit, strike out, or whatever the team needs from her), just like the team itself has its superstitions and rituals.

The good luck Rally Mantis seemed to me to have become a bad omen when he died. Rally Mantis Junior returned some luck, joining the team at Comerica Park in Detroit, where the Royals swept the series. “When he left the team Sept 5 to go to a nature center in Missouri,” Marcia tells me, “Rally Mantis Jr was 12–6 and we were 3 games back in wild card race.”

True fans know a lot, from the stats of the team and players to the walk-up music of each batter. When I asked Marcia if she knew the walk-up music, she looked at me like I’d asked if she knew her son’s name. Less knowledgeable fans can learn more from the Royals media guide, yearbook, or Baseball Insider magazine. Or maybe they use an app like the MLB’s AtBat.

Every fan knows the mascot Sluggerrr, and if you’re young enough you can join Sluggerrr’s Blue Crew fan club for kids. Young women can audition for the Royals KCrew. Everyone can be part of the Social Media Clubhouse by liking the Royals on Facebook, tagging @Royals on Twitter, or following the team on Google Plus, Pinterest, tumblr, or Snapchat. Or you can display your Royals pride on a laptop stickon or, like Marcia, your bumper sticker so that everyone knows, whether you’re in a club or not, on social media or not, that you are #ForeverRoyal

For Marcia — and many true fans — following the team is a lifelong family and friends activity, creating a tighter community within the larger one. Going to the ballpark together, watching games together at home, messaging during the games, talking about the games afterward, and going to the ballpark together — all ways of connecting through the team.

To recognize and commemorate that shared love of the team and each other, Marcia honored her father, who first taught her how to be a true Royals fan, and her mother, who helped her continue the tradition after her father died and through her own illness, with a legacy brick placed at Kauffman Stadium

Games, gear, logos and hashtags, mascots, rituals, scorecards and scoreboards, tickets, media guides, music, and fan clubs. And the slogans and chants and experiences and memories

All the markers of a true fan and the makers of a true fan community.

Now for the survey

How about you? How well do you score as a true fan of your team? Give yourself one point for each statement below that is true for you

  • You watch the games — every game you can
  • You own — and wear — more than one team t-shirt or other gear
  • You proudly display the logo on your bumper or laptop sticker
  • You hashtag your team’s hashtag
  • You have an app that lets you check scores or watch the games live
  • You have visited the team’s website
  • And its ticket site (and bought tickets)
  • And its stadium (and attended games)
  • You know the different sections of the stadium
  • You’ve lined up at the stadium hours early for a free give-away
  • You’ve either snagged or tried to snag one of the team’s bobbleheads
  • You and the mascot are on a first-name basis (well, maybe it’s a one-sided relationship)
  • You not only know but chant the chants
  • You have your repeated ritual that helps the team win
  • You believe in the rituals that others do to help the team win

How’d you score?

12–15 I’m a true fan

9–11 I’m a fan

5–8 I know the team exists

0–4 Not a fan (and proud of it?)

For my KU Jayhawks Men’s Basketball team, I scored a 12 out of 15. Not bad. My proudest acquisition is my Coach Bill Self bobblehead, a lucky giveaway snag. I may try rubbing his head for luck during the next March Madness, to add to my watch party’s ritual of turning my Jayhawk earrings (or taking them off altogether if the situation is desperate). I think I qualify as a true fan and a member of the Jayhawk community. #RockChalk

Marcia, of course, scored 15 out of 15. And like a true fan, she has stayed a true fan in their lean as well as winning years. At the end of baseball’s 2016 regular season, Marcia spoke as a true fan and a true member of the Royals community:

“​As I am watching my final game for 2016 season…..disappointed that we don’t have October baseball but proud of our boys in blue and encouraged for next year to once again be Forever Royal” — Marcia

#ForeverRoyal

Revised from an original blog post published at www.amydevitt.com.

Writer, teacher, researcher, PhD, optimist. I explore language & everyday genres to help people see & choose the language & genres they use. www.amydevitt.com