Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Most Annoying Fan Traditions, Part I

Note: this piece originally ran at The Rookies yesterday. However, a massive failure on the part of our hosting server means that it isn't accessible at the moment, so I figured it would be appropriate to repost it here today so everyone watching the Confederations Cup matches could share my vuvuzela hatred. It also originally had more pictures and looked prettier. I'll hopefully be running Part II on specific fanbases over at The Rookies tomorrow if our server's back up. - Andrew

The ongoing Confederations Cup in South Africa has seen some great moments on the pitch, including the bizarre collection of circumstances Wayne and Rockabye described here and here. However, they have been overshadowed by one appalling one; the unleashing of the hated "vuvuzelas" (basically, cheap plastic trumpets) on an unsuspecting worldwide audience. A movement to ban them is already underway, and bloggers around the globe have weighed in. Even those who
respect the vuvuzelas' origins tend to concede that they're bloody annoying. Still, it doesn't look like the vuvuzelas will be going anywhere in the near future, as they're endorsed by His Royal Majesty King Sepp I. In their honour, I present my selections of the five most annoying fan traditions from general fanbases after the jump.

General fanbases:

5. Shipping Up To Boston:
This Dropkick Murphys song is actually pretty cool, which is why it only comes in at five. Moreover, it's perfectly acceptable to play at Boston-area sporting events; it's got a great intro and it's a solid pump-up tune. However, no franchise outside of Boston should touch this one with a 29.5 foot pole, and far too many of them do. The Australian Football League? Atlanta Braves' pitcher Eric O'Flaherty? The New York Jets? The Buffalo Sabres? For god's sake, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds? What possible logic is there behind any of these franchises regularly using a song about Boston? It's not even like Journey's Don't Stop Believing, where the geographical reference ("Born and raised in South Detroit") consumes a grand total of one line; the freaking TITLE of the song includes Boston. Everyone else, back off and get your own music.

Typical fan who enjoys this:
The punk:

"This song makes me want to crack some skulls! I'm so hardcore, man!"

What it tells us about the human condition: We all have a desire to feel like we're tough, and this desire's enhanced even more in an environment like a hockey arena, where all the guys are trying to prove just how manly they are. That's behind the massive eating and drinking rituals, the competitions to outcheer each other and hurl the most vulgar insults and all the rest. Thus, cities not named Boston use songs like this about fighting to pump up the spectators and instill a bloodlust, and they go home feeling like they proved themselves.

4. Cowbells:
Okay, cowbells were cool once. I am a former drummer who enjoyed making extensive use of my set's cowbell, and if I know anything, I know that you never question Bruce Dickinson (even if he isn't this one). At sporting events, though, they left cool behind a long time ago and moved into the annoying realm. A bizarre collection of teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, the San Jose SaberCats, and the Alaska Aces have become infamous for their fans' frequent cowbell use. Some junior hockey teams, such as the Everett Silvertips and the Belleville Bulls, even embrace the cowbell. Interesting gimmick at the start, but the constant ringing of cowbells throughout a game tends to convince people to pull their brains out through their ears. There's no gold-plated records to be had here, so give up the cowbells!

Typical fan who enjoys this: The frat boy. "Dude, this cowbell gig is so totally awesome! After this, let's go home and watch every Will Ferrell movie ever made so we can quote them even more!

What this tells us about the human condition: We can't think of any new jokes, so we're compelled to endlessly repeat the old ones in ways that aren't funny. The groupthink aspect of having large numbers of fans do so at the same time and instantly tell each other and themselves that they're hilarious leads to a sad self-perpetuating loop of cowbell behaviour.

3. Thunderstix:
Thunderstix are as irritating as they are prevalent. Sure, there's a cool sound when you first inflate them and bang them together, but they get annoying after only a few minutes, especially when thousands of fans are all smashing them together at once. Moreover, they lose air over time and people wind up just scattering them all over the stadiums. Far too many landfills are sadly brimming with these abhorrent creations.

Typical fan who enjoys this: The eight-year old kid. He only enjoys using Thunderstix "properly" for a few minutes, though, and then starts banging them off innocent spectators' heads.

What this tells us about the human condition: We've gotten to a point as a society where we can't enjoy events on their own any more. We can't tolerate boredom, and young kids especially can't. There's a need to be entertained at all times, which leads to the creation of vile devices such as Thunderstix to spice up games that need no enhancements to be enjoyed.

The new kid on the block (at least in terms of awareness in North America) checks in at number two. There's a good reason tons of people have been querying about mosquito infestations or audio feed static during the Confederations Cup; these things produce a horrible monotone buzzing that seems to go on for the entire match, seemingly never adjusting its pitch or producing any attempt at a tune. Look, marching bands are cool, but they actually play recognizable tunes on real instruments. There's a considerable difference between that and a stadium of untrained spectators attempting to blow their own lungs out for 90 minutes, producing a mind-numbing drone that infuriates everyone else.

Some hide behind cultural relativism in their attempts to defend vuvuzelas , but that's hardly a good excuse. Bad culture is bad culture, regardless of where it comes from; you don't see too many Canadians attempting to defend Celine Dion or Nickelback. Stupid fan ideas are everywhere, and should be addressed on equal terms. Unfortunately, these things are going to make it painful to watch the World Cup next year, but most of us soccer nuts will persevere regardless.

Typical fan who enjoys this: The tourist student who isn't really there to watch soccer at all, but to pick up some sort of "deep experience" he can relate to his friends later. "Oh yeah, I've been to Africa; I'm totally in to the culture, man. I got a vuvuzela and I blew the
hell out of it!"

What this tells us about the human condition: Stupid behaviour at sporting events is hardly limited to North America. Of course, there are the riots and hooligans that afflict global soccer, and in the grand scheme of things, these are much worse than vuvuzelas. Vuvuzelas show that some overseas fans have gone beyond the riots and violence at games to a more North American-style of just annoying the hell out everyone watching. Maybe that's progress, but progress could have been made without this horrible intermediary step.

1. The Wave
One of the most ubiquitious North American sporting traditions is also the most annoying one in my books. Hey, you've just spent a lot of money for a game ticket, and then more still on food and drinks? Well, why not forget about actually watching the game thanks to the people around you who'd rather spend the entire time trying to get the wave going. As Andrew Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans once wrote, there are plenty of good questions to ask anyone trying to start the wave:

How old are you, four? You actually want to start the wave? In a huge crowd of adults who are trying to watch a baseball game like big boys and girls? Seriously? Exactly what the hell will this accomplish? What void in your tiny existence will this fill? I'm serious, I want to know. Did your uncle touch you and this is the way your silent inner torture manifests itself?

Typical fan who enjoys this: The 25-year-old who thinks the world revolves around them. They give far too much importance to their own actions. "Hey, you may have enjoyed the game, but I started the wave, man! I'm a god, a legend! I'M KEITH HERNANDEZ!"

What this tells us about the human condition: People have a need to feel accepted and affirmed. They can't enjoy a game on their own as just one fan in many; they have to stand out, which leads to dressing up in ridiculous costumes, crazy ideas like the KissCam and self-promoting stunts like the wave. The wave demonstrates groupthink at its best. Like so many of these topics, it's an inherently stupid idea, but if everyone else is doing it, you're suddenly the outcast and loner if you don't go along.

So, we give in. It's always easier to conform than to rebel. We wear our punk shirts and give our cries of bloodlust whenever "Shipping Up To Boston" comes on, we bring our cowbells, Thunderstix and vuvuzelas to the stadiums, and we try and start the wave whenever possible. It's not just about sports any more; it's an ongoing process of group identity, cries for acceptance and stupid stunts to increase our own profiles. The horror! The horror!

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! But now I want the 5 best ones...looking forward to reading that post.