Thursday, February 2, 2017

Being an Indy Eleven fan

This post was supposed to happen earlier this week, but the Eleven decided to submit a #IndyMLS bid. Had to write something else instead...

My relationship with the Indy Eleven is a complicated one. First and foremost, I consider myself a fan, but we'll get into that more here in a bit. Secondly, I'm a writer for the team. I'm not employed by the team, but I'm allowed access to various locations, information, and personnel the same way that the mainstream legit media outlets are allowed (mostly...Rakestraw gets information that I can't get. I know. I've tried...). I believe, at this point, I'm the longest continually running "grassroots" media outlet for the Indy Eleven. There were some before me. There have been others after. There are sites that are more prolific and post more frequently. Yet, I was here early and just keep plugging away at my own pace.

I don't say that to brag, because my very first official post came after the Indy Eleven's first game. If it was not for a bunch of other people who were around before me, my fandom wouldn't have had the chance to exist. I say it because I'm grateful for the efforts of others that have provided me with a wonderful outlet over the past 3 seasons to discuss a sport, and now a team, that I love. Their efforts have allowed me to meld two of my interests, soccer and writing, into one, while also giving me the opportunity to experience soccer in a different way than I have ever been able to do.

I'm watching games differently. I'm seeing the business of soccer differently. I'm seeing fans differently.

Merriam Webster defines "fan" (as it's used in our context here) as:
1:  an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator
Probably short for fanatic.

Merriam Webster defines "fanatic" as:
: marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion
Origin and Etymology of fanatic
Latin fanaticus inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple
Continuing on...
The Latin adjective fanaticus, a derivative of the noun fanum, meaning “temple,” originally meant “of or relating to a temple.” It was later used to refer to pious individuals who were thought to have been inspired by a god or goddess. In time, the sense “frantic, frenzied, mad” arose because it was thought that persons behaving in such a manner were possessed by a deity. This was the first meaning of the English word fanatic. This sense is now obsolete, but it led to the meaning “excessively enthusiastic, especially about religious matters.” The word later became less specific, meaning simply “excessively enthusiastic or unreasonable.” The noun fan, meaning “enthusiast,” is probably a shortening of fanatic.
It's all starting to come together, isn't it? We become "fans" because we are inspired by the gods and goddesses of our sport. We go to watch in the temples of our stadiums. And we become "frantic, frenzied, and mad" watching them play in a way that is impossible for the majority of us. Doing the things that lesser human beings are incapable of doing. With their successes and failures, we become overwhelmed with excitement and anger. For some that means involuntarily jumping out of their seat when a goal is scored and giving high-fives to everyone around them. For some it means cussing out a referee who can neither hear them nor care what they are saying. For others it means that the seat that they purchased has never seen their ass as they stand for the entirety of the game and goals are celebrated with beer flying and scarf preparations as the "smoke is cued."

In soccer, that last group of people are often located in the "supporter's" section. For the Indy Eleven, that section is routinely referred to as the Brickyard Battalion's section. In three seasons of going to Indy Eleven games, I've never watched a game from the Brickyard Battalion's section. I've recently been standing underneath the section for brief periods, but I've never spent the entirety of a game among the masses. Clearly "supporters" are a subset of "fan," but I've wondered, what truly qualifies as being a supporter?

Does simply sitting in the BYB make you a supporter? Is everyone in the BYB a supporter? Can you be a supporter and not sit in the BYB? When do you change from being a fan to a supporter?

I've seen the quote around on the internet, "being a fan doesn't mean you were there for the beginning, it means being there until the end." The folks running the capos for the BYB? They're there until the end. The leadership in the BYB? They're there until the end. Season Ticket Holders who can't even fathom not getting tickets next season no matter how this season goes? They're there until the end.

Somewhere in that area is where I think the transition from "fan" to "supporter" starts. Like most things in life, I don't think there is a fine line demarcation that makes it obvious where you fall. I know Season Ticket Holders who have been to every single game, but do not wait on pins and needles during each off-season to find out who is returning, who is leaving, and who is joining. I know people who have sat in the BYB, but have absolutely no idea any of the players' names. They were there for the experience. There is an entire subset of fans like myself who spend way more time online than is probably reasonable in the Indy Eleven Reddit and Big Soccer forums, listening to 1070 The Fan's Soccer Saturday, and looking anywhere else we can to glean information to tell us about the team we consider to be our own in the good times and the bad times. Somewhere in there is the difference between "fan," "supporter," and "Supporter."

You can call them fans, supporters, season ticket holders, or "those crazy obsessed fuckers," but if they ever uttered the words "XI 'til I die" at any point during this tumultuous off-season, then they're my kind of people. I started writing this blog to talk about my favorite team and I don't have any intention of stopping anytime soon. I've always tried to write in a professional/journalistic manner (the occasional "fuckers" notwithstanding) but doing it more from a commentary standpoint, and I have tried to extend that mentality further once I became a credential member of the press. That's why I've made a conscious effort over the years to refer to the team as the "Eleven" and not "we," but everything I do for this site has been from the standpoint of a fan. From the time that I spend writing recaps, to the inputting of statistical data for future use, to the time spent harassing the front office staff for information, to the graphics that I've slowly added, you don't put as much time into this as I do without being fanatical.

Being a fan isn't easy. It means being willing to be routinely disappointed. It means being willing to spend large chunks of your time devoted to things you can't control. It means being willing to spend large amounts of your disposal income on tickets, gear, and concessions. It means being willing to irrationally curse a ref. It means being hysterically happy to the point of leaving your seat, jumping the railing, and celebrating a championship on the field with the team after an improbable victory. It means spending a large portion of your free time writing, or thinking about writing, content for a site devoted to soccer.

Or maybe that's just how my fandom has manifested itself...

"If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter."


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