Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT

More than a game

Today's sports fans need true devotion to get by

Posted: Wednesday March 7, 2007 5:24PM; Updated: Wednesday March 7, 2007 5:29PM
Free E-mail AlertsE-mail ThisPrint ThisSave ThisMost PopularRSS Aggregators
Think you're a hoops fan? You better know who O.J. Mayo is.
Think you're a hoops fan? You better know who O.J. Mayo is.
Phil Taylor will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Your name:
Your e-mail address:
Your home town:
Enter your question:

It's time to make a decision -- a life choice, really. What kind of sports fan are you going to be? Are you going to be the old-fashioned kind, the one who follows the big three of football, basketball and baseball, with maybe a glance at hockey now and then, and an occasional nod toward tennis (if Serena's interested) or golf (when Tiger's on the leaderboard)?

Or are you going to step into the 21st century sports world, where fans show real commitment? If you're going to be a serious sports fan in 2007 and beyond, you have to show 24/7 devotion. You have to turn your life over to the games, all day, every day, because that's the rate at which they are coming at you. Everyone is trying to sell you on a new league, or at least a variation on an old league. They all want your time, your attention, and most of all, your dollars. You want to call yourself a real fan these days? Then you'd better keep up.

It's not just about the NFL, NBA and MLB anymore. Have you noticed how NASCAR is all over the tube lately? Arena football is turning up more and more as well, now that the league has a television contract with ESPN/ABC. Another day, another league, or so it seems, and it's growing harder and harder to stay current. It's not just the pros and the colleges, but now you need to know high school sports, because they're becoming big business. Recruiting is getting to be as much of a spectator sport as the games themselves. It used to be enough to know who O.J. Simpson was. Now you need to know who O.J. Mayo is. (He's a high school hoops stud.)

Your sporting plate is full because everyone is trying to make a buck off you, the sports fan. They're banking on the hope that you have no saturation point, that you will make room in your life for any league, any game they put in front of you. It's not enough that you've spent a chunk of your salary on NBA tickets and merchandise and buying the products of NBA sponsors -- now they want you to do the same thing for the WNBA. And the NCAA appreciates your fanaticism over the men's NCAA Basketball Tournament. Now can you give the same attention to the women's tourney? By the way, David Beckham is coming to America -- better brush up on Major League Soccer.

It's hard to find the time for it all. There's so much to know, so many games and players to follow, that you're feeling out of touch, as if you haven't been working to keep up. That's what being a sports fan is about these days -- working, doing your research, keeping up with the literature. You have to know Chris Leak's Wonderlic score and the Pistons' salary-cap situation and who finished third at Daytona. It's not so hard if you just give yourself up to it completely. The fans who get overwhelmed are the ones who try to have a life outside of sports. Did you go for a walk or clean out the garage last Sunday afternoon instead of watching the New York Dragons and Dallas Desperadoes in an Arena league game? There's your problem.

You need to surrender to it. Resistance is futile. Settle in front of the TV and let it all wash over you. Tell your boss you quit, because you have to attend to your real job, the job of being a 21st century sports fan, or maybe sports consumer is more accurate. Another game is starting right now, another league is trying to sell you, another TV network is trying to get you to watch. Forget about championships. The prize they're all trying to win is you.