It would be a stretch to imagine a group of fans rooting for a particular lion in the Coliseum 2000 years ago or even a coterie of serfs cheering on their favorite knight in a jousting match 1000 years later.
Sport fans, as we know them, are a recent phenomena. It took a village to create a spectator class and mass media to whip up a subset of avid followers into a frenzy over the fortunes of a team. How infantile. These people are suffering from arrested development. They need to get a life. I know, I'm one of them.
How could the outcome of a ballgame affect my life? Only if I subsume my identity in theirs. I would never quite admit to that. But I must confess when the Dodgers win I feel just an imperceptible inch better about the world and when they lose I push them into the background. How else to cope with a universe gone awry?
For some of us the child is still alive with a memory of bubblegum cards under crossed rubber bands bulging in our back pocket. That's when it all started. I was probably so dumb I saved the gum and chewed on the cards.
Someone should do longitudinal research to measure the effect on one's life being a Yankee fan as opposed to a Cub fan. The last time Chicago won the World Series Mark Twain was still alive. Do Yankee fans live their lives with a swagger?
A form of mysticism known only to sport fans is the effect our acts have on the game. If I put my hand on the chair the next batter will get a base hit. After all, we have to feel that our presence is not for naught. What's a fan for?
Real fans are descendants of pagans, idolaters who converse with the gods and know the power of a sacrificial act. If it takes closing their eyes to win they're ready to miss the play. They are zealots who move their bodies into others to do battle, once removed, against the forces of darkness. Not to be confused with mere spectators, they suit up for the game in a different skin, grow fangs and fur and have found the clearing in the forest where they can lay down and die. This is high drama, living theater. In the end mere players enact the ritual but it is these possessed fans who control the fate.