>The Fringes of Fandom

>Driving to church yesterday, I tuned in for a local call-in show that dissects all things UT sports. Yesterday, the discussion centered a bit on the men’s basketball team and their current slump (hopefully broken tomorrow night here in Nashville).

As I was heading into church, a caller suggested that it was time for a chance at men’s basketball coach. His logic (such as it was) was that Bruce Pearl is 4-8 in his last 12 games and it’s time for him to go.

I couldn’t hear the response, but I was left shaking my head. Once again, you have the “what have you done for me lately” fandom coming out of the woodwork. How easily we forget that this is the same coach who has taken the UT basketball program to new heights, made a lot of hay last year with a team that got rid of several star players and has posted 20-win seasons in his first few years as coach. Yes, he’s done some really dumb things that have brought the NCAA down on the Vols’ doorstep (I’d still argue that in the long run whatever he’s done will be far less damning that Lane Kiffin’s year in Knoxville), but I still don’t think it’s necessary to make a chance at the top just yet.

That call, coupled with the incident in Alabama, has got me thinking about fans–of any team or program. For the most part, we’re all relatively well adjusted and outside of a few hours each weekend, we resemble most sane, ordinary people. Then you’ve got the outer fringes that all programs have. I’ve seen numerous examples of fringe fans for the Georgia Bulldogs (though I’d argue their fringe is far larger than most) and I’ve seen it for my team. And now we’ve got this fringe fan calling in, demanding a change. And then you’ve got some fringe fan in Alabama who loves his team so much that he’ll go out and poison trees and potentially human beings because he’s unhappy about their big rival winning.

A lot of times, it’s easy to feel better about my level of fandom because I can point at people on the fringes and say–well, I’m not as bad as they are. But hearing the caller and about the guy in Alabama makes me wonder–are there people those fans point to and say, “well, I’m not as bad as that person.” Or do they just figure the rest of us just don’t love our team enough to call for a firing or to go to jail in support of the team.

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