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The FANatacism of America

Fan (noun): 1. an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or performing art) usually as a spectator; 2. an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or pursuit)

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Growing up in South Florida, loving football is never a choice. I was practically born into the cult of the Miami Dolfan — worshipping at the alter of Don Shula, the undefeated season, and Dan Marino. Though most homes didn’t have wi-fi the last time the Dolphins mattered doesn’t really matter much to hardcore Dolphins fanatics.

The other big game in town has always been the Miami Hurricanes — a school that has had its share of controversy but has churned out numerous Hall-of-Famers and Pro-Bowlers. Much of the Hurricane fan base has never stepped foot on the campus and need a GPS to get to Coral Gables, but they can tell you how many yards the 2nd-string tight end had in the 1987 game against Pittsburgh.

There are no bigger fans of the Dolphins or ‘Canes than my Aunt Rose and Uncle James. They have the paraphernalia and passion to rival anyone. They didn’t talk for me for two weeks after my Gators beat UM.

Being a fan requires devotion. Even when your team mires in mediocrity or worse, you have to drape yourself in colors and symbols, pack your things and gather with those with like interests to cheer your team on to victory (or defeat.) You must carry the torch of your team despite the obvious failures of the ownership, the coaching, and/or the actual players. There has to be a handbook somewhere.

Fan Handbook: Rule #1 Your team is YOUR team is YOUR TEAM.

A Miami Dolphin fan can’t look at the excellence of the New England Patriots and simply decide that they appreciate the way their organization is run, the effort the players give and celebrate their excellence. Naa, they have to wish death on every player, coach, and all their spouses and kids.

They must operate in delusion 24/7. Otherwise, you ain’t a real fan.

Your team is 0–15 going into the last game of the year? You must go down with the ship.

POLITICS

Yeah, no smooth transition there. Politics or political leanings seem to have taken the shape of Cameron Crazies or the Raider Nation.

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I imagine that there has always been a fanatical nature to things in the United States. You had to be fervently on one side or the other when it came to slaughtering Indigenous people or, you know…owning other human beings. Not a lot of middle ground there.

And it hasn’t changed.

You are either Team Liberal or Team Conservative. Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. Pro-Gun or Anti-Gun. Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter or Blues Lives Matter or No Lives Matter. A member of the Masked Up Brigade or Exercising my right to infect or be infected — goddammit it’s a free nation. #TakeAKnee or #GetTheHellOutOfOurCountry.

The belief that everything is binary and there is no room for nuance is fit for barbershop debates, not complex social issues.

As a Hip-Hop fan, one debate has reigned supreme over the last 20 years: Tupac or Biggie. I have seen grown men nearly come to blows over their ardent defense of Hit Em’ Up versus Who Shot Ya? .

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Why does it have to be one or the other? Tupac and Biggie were both good, AND they are both overrated. I like one more than the other, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to hate you because we have a difference of opinion (though, I better be on the lookout for Thug Life-branded posses.)

But, let’s say this guy put out a rap album.

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CARROT TOP

And let’s say the entire album was trash. The beats were trash. The lyrics were unintelligible. The words you could understand were racist, sexist, homophobic and narcissistic. Not the normal Hip Hip I’m the greatest ever kinda narcissism. But the I can shoot someone in the middle of street and get away with it because there’s never been a rapper like me kind of narcissism.

And if, because of fanaticism, you were an ardent fan of MC Carrot Top and lauded him over the lyrical prowess of any half-decent actual rapper, went to his concerts, bought the T-shirts and the actual physical CD, I’d have questions. And if when presented those questions, and there was no rational conversations to be had with you about your Carrot Top love, then, and only then, I’d reserve the right to call you names and dismiss the dribble you try to pass off as logic.

Fandom defies logic and rationale. It causes family and friends to have genuine beef (Sorry, Aunt Rose.) It causes barbershop homies to come to blows. It can also cause a country to come apart at its fissures.

Unfortunately, that’s where we’ve arrived. It’s just Monica or Brandy, Lil’ Kim or Foxy Brown but with life-altering consequences. And unless we abandon this blind fanaticism for party or politician, then our demise is inevitable.

But there comes a point when it’s painfully obvious that you are rooting for the wrong team.

The moral of the story is it’s cool to love different teams, rock with different artists or even have differing views on some politics. but, if you’re around here quoting Carrot Top lyrics, you might get jumped.

Written by

Poet. Playwright. Educator. Awesome Uncle. Advocate. James Baldwin disciple. IG: @dariusdaughtry

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