There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Fair-weather Zone.Suspended in time and space for a moment, here is your introduction to the fair-weather fan, who we will call Mr. X. Mr X lives in a very private world devoid of thought, a universe where his imagination and not his knowledge of the game reigns supreme. This happens to be the Fair-weather Zone, and Mr. X, along with you, is about to enter it.
He is wearing a Michigan hat, shirt, flip-flops, shorts, and Wolverine-covered trousers. He knows “Hail to the Victors” by heart. He says he can remember when Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy, yet he was roughly 6 years old when it happened. He can recite each team’s individual record throughout history and every coach from Bennie G. Oosterbaan to Gary Moeller, but Mr. X has never set foot in the state of Michigan, never even traveled past Tallahassee.
But Mr. X isn’t alone.
There are others exactly like him. You see them on the street and pass by them without any notice. They returned from the winter break sporting University of Texas hats and Tom Brady jerseys despite being unable to list the states New England comprises.
Now the questions that come to mind: What makes a seemingly normal person attach himself to a sports team or college? The answer – I hope – is that we live in a world of vast information and cable television that allows people to follow any team they want. You know these people – Mr. Y and Mr. Z. They are in a class all to themselves, such as the TBS Braves and the WGN Cubs fans.
But usually these “fans” are no more than casual sports watchers, glancing at SportsCenter periodically at night to bring up inane sports chatter the next day. “Shaq is awesome,” Mr. X will say. “Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game,” claims Mr. Y. “The SEC is clearly the best conference,” is the rallying cry of Mr. Z.
But few scientific experiments have prodded the subject. Several journalists, who have embedded themselves in groups of fair-weather fans, have returned more confused than ever.
It’s different in their world. In their universe, only newly crowned champions are worth following, and by picking those teams, they can avoid the endless jeering that supporting a regional or “bad” team would entail. Maybe their fathers yelled at them for losing. But that’s another story for another time … in the Fair-weather Zone.