I had the opportunity – nay, the privilege – of attending a Clippers game this past weekend at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Clippers are a basketball team, just so we’re all on the same page. The stadium was filled with fans adorned in red, white and blue, and I repeatedly checked my calendar to make sure it wasn’t that particular holiday in July. As I cheered on the Clippers and the Suns (the other basketball team, just to make sure you’re following) I  looked around the stadium in awe at the amount of energy and passion being pumped out of fans towards these players.

Blake Griffin says "hi and bye" to a Suns player.

Blake Griffin says “hi and bye” to a Suns player.

I kept marveling at the fandom around me on Saturday night as I stole a foam finger from a nearby tween taking selfies. I rested the foam finger under my chin as I thought about what it means to be a diehard fan for any sport these days. Sports aren’t a hobby or an interest. From both the player and fan perspectives, sports are everything. To get mathematical for a second, let me break this down. For most people, Sports = Life. Does that make sense? 

It takes an obscene amount of research to know who the key players are, what their stats mean for the season and where one player may be traded to next. Conducting analyses and stat breakdowns for football, soccer, basketball and baseball should be available at universities and colleges as some sort of concentration track between mathematics, psychology, and anthropology              (…should I become an educator? I’ll table it for now). Outside of the research, there’s a dedication of time to watch every game, read every ESPN tweet and push notification and follow every Instagram even loosely tied with your favorite player or team.

So…you’re in a relationship. You make time for it, your schedule is contingent on theirs, you figure out what went wrong when there’s an injury or loss and you’re in it “’til the end.” You’re quite literally married to the game. 

I continued to ponder as I tossed my original foam finger onto the court and snatched a different color foam finger from another adjacent tween who was dabbing-while-selfie-ing. I tapped the foam finger gently against my temple as I tried to remember the last time I was a diehard fan, specifically for basketball. 

Sure, I live in LA so the Rams and Dodgers are going to get me to stand up for the wave repeatedly. But the 76ers, specifically from 2001-2003…now that, that was team, a dream, and a time to be alive. I wore my I3 Allen Iverson shoes (photo below) to the games at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. I left my Gameboy Advance IN THE CAR – that’s how much I was paying attention to Eric Snow, Allen Iverson, Matumbo and the gang do what they do best on the court. I was the tween with the foam finger, cheering on what I thought was the greatest team of all time. Regardless of championships or not, they are champions to me. My first love. My first real relationship with sports. 

 

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I snapped back to reality to realize that the parents of the foam finger tweens were yelling at me, threatening to call security if I didn’t return the finger. So I gave them the finger – the foam finger – and turned around to continue to cheer on the Clippers and the Suns. 

The moral of this story is don’t steal foam fingers find your sport, whatever that means to you. It’s one of the best relationships you’ll ever have. 

 

P.S. SHOUTOUT TO THE DODGERS WHO ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES. LET’S GOOOOOO.