Yesterday, Westword ran a blog item titled “The top 5 non-bro, non-dude places to watch sports in Denver.”
The author, Patrick Langlois, threw out a few names (Bull & Bush, British Bulldog, Big Game among them–evidently, the DudeBros stay away from joints that start with B), each bearing a brief descriptor with a bit of sass at the close, such as “(T)he place feels like a true pub without trying too hard, and it’s somewhat off the beaten path, so as not to attract cologne-soaked dudes who reek of effort” and “(I)t has plenty of comfy furniture, quirky vintage decor and a diverse mix of patrons, most of whom sport ink rather than backwards baseball caps.*”
I attend plenty of sporting events, at great cost to my wallet, liver function and general tolerance. Fans can be assholes, especially at the venue and especially after drinking 26 cans of Bud Ice. And this is a tiny little throwaway listicle, as much about pumping up some (admittedly really excellent) bars as beating on a bewhiskered trope. Still, I’m fascinated.
Why is it, exactly, that some fans–and Langlois definitely is one, as he attests in the first paragraph–feel the need to partition the notion of Fandom?
Consider this sentence: “(I)n fact, there are plenty of sports fans who appreciate the artistry of athleticism and the strategy of its execution, and who enjoy watching it take place with a good craft beer in hand and a plate (not a basket) of thoughtfully prepared food to go with it.” Leave aside the too-too snottiness of the Mile High Nouveau Hip and consider his meaning, which is: they paint their faces, swim a sea of warm Natural Light and mack curly fries smothered in ranch dressing; I carefully sip Ten Fidy and sample bone marrow crostini served on a PLATE. They yell, I nod appreciatively. I am cool. They are not.
I understand the reticence with which some–many in my own non-sports-havin’-female-dominated family–view organized sport. It’s mechanical, warlike, simplistic, prone to stoke our basest impulses. And that’s just college football. Langlois’ DudeBro isn’t imaginary, either: anyone who has set foot in LoDo’s or any of the Tavern chain of schlocksteraunts knows the type immediately.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. I don’t know a single fan of any sport who hasn’t, at some point or another, embodied the worst qualities of the group as a whole.
We can forego our college dress and attitudes, we can order Left Hand Milk Stout instead of Coors, we can think that “Lebron’s Decision was a smart business move”** and yet, at some point, we’ll be at our seats in Invesco or Arrowhead or Coors or wherever, shouting at the top of our lungs and flexing like the world’s most moronic DOOD when player A beats player B for a __. At some point, we’ll talk trash. At some point, we’ll drink way, way too much and trip into a gutter, say something we will later regret to a parking attendant and spend a night in the hoosegow. Like the tides.
The attempt to form a circle of elites in such context is laughable. You may eat off a plate instead of from a basket and imagine yourself superior to the hooting hoi polloi, but eventually you will chant DEEEE-FENSE. You can wear skinny jeans and a scarf and still end up punching a security guard.
*I’ve seen his byline for a while, so he has to know that the sight of a DudeBro with full sleeves *and* a backward hat is about as common in Denver as Starlings and bum poop.
**This bit got me: he seems to be saying, look, not all fans are solely steered by emotion, some us truly understand. Which is such a boilerplate Colin Cowherd-y thought–most fans are simps with brains dyed in team colors who don’t know how The Real World Works–that I’m tempted to simply shrug it off, but no. Fuck no. This drives me nutty.
The average fan understands their position in the relationship perfectly well: loyal consumer of a product made by individuals who only reciprocate that loyalty when convenient. Yet still they buy team gear, spend money on airplane tickets to see humiliating losses in other cities, experience wild mood swings based on the actions of 20 year-olds…and regret not a piece of it.
So yeah, when followers of the Cleveland Cavaliers watch a coddled Golden Boy like Lebron James preen on national television–and why, exactly, was that necessary? Could he not have just signed a damn contract like everyone else? The hagiographies were already being written, all he actually did was give the authors pause–you’re going to get some unreasonable civic anger, and maybe not everyone will immediately think, well, that kid just made a smart business decision! Good for him!
That’s just humanity. And fandom is nothing if not human–greasily, drunkenly human, but still.