I was recently at my local bar (surprise, surprise) watching Sunday Night Football on the T.V. While I was watching the rather lackluster Giants vs. Redskins match-up, a friend of mine and I struck up a conversation about DC Comics’ New 52 launch. As we were discussing the pros and cons we both found about the creative re-launch of DC heroes and villains – we were rudely interrupted by a fellow drunkard at the bar. He shouts, “Hey, quit yappin’ ya nerds footballs on! Not Batman.”
I digress into my argument that we, Nerds, are exactly the same as any sports fan. There’s not much difference between being a nerd and being a diehard sports fan – the only difference is how our current American culture defines the two. A sports fan is more common place and tends to be a bit more masculine, right? Where as a nerd, despite recent years of revival, are still rather introverted, oddball types. Now I understand I’m speaking in generalities here, but to me it is funny that especially in a bar every once in a while talking geeky is frowned upon. If you’re in a bar you should talk shop – sports and women. Now, I enjoy both of those conversation pieces, but let’s face the fact that sports fans are just as odd as us nerds.
Both are extremely passionate groups of people and are extremely biased when discussing their beloved interests. I mean, have you ever heard an Eagles fan ever give credit to the Dallas Cowboys? You’ve never heard a Superman fan admit that Batman is superior either – the two demographics share the same blind love for their teams/heroes. Personally, I become equally emotional when I start discussing my hatred for Derek Jeter as I do stating my argument for why Thor is a giant tool. The reason being that I share the same exact passion towards both subjects even though neither is particularly culturally relevant.
Sports fans believe in their teams, love their favorite players and utterly despise any player who has betrayed their team or defeated their team. Just like fan boys love their heroes, love (to hate sometimes) their villains and utterly despise any differing opinion. You ask any Cleveland fan why they hate Lebron and you may think that Lebron stole their child’s lunch money. The guy ditched his home state and a woeful sports city in such a way that he went from Savior to Public Enemy #1 overnight in Cleveland. To many Cavs fans (and sports fan) what Lebron James did to them is unforgivable. Eerily familiar to fan’s thoughts about Jar Jar Binks. Ask any Star Wars fan their feelings on the Gungan and you’ll likely be met with explicatives and nonsense. Unless you too were a fan and understood where this hatred came from. It can be very well argued that Jar Jar Binks killed the new trilogy (Episodes 1-3) for many fans but unless you’re a Star Wars fan, the hatred seems misplaced – just like unless you’re a NBA fan you’d never understand why Lebron is loved and hated by so many.
This unique blend of hatred, biased and mild use of facts to support such hatred is directly linked with how a sports nut/nerd comes to being a fan. It is because the passion is embedded into one’s DNA. Most sports fans are grandfathered into a team’s fan-fraternity and are forever linked with the club. Most nerds are taken under an older nerd’s shoulder and shown the Ways of the Geek. With these similar circumstances the connection between fan and team/geek and comic become exponentially greater because you begin to feel like you’re a part of something larger than life.
When a team does poorly and lives through season after season of hardship and failure the future looks bleak. Top players begin leaving town, each draft pick seems like an even bigger bust than the previous one, possible relocation rumors mount atop of each new depressing article of news but then at the bleakest moment it happens. Your team suddenly starts to find success. A sudden sputter of life rejuvenates the team and next thing you know, you’re cheering your team on in the championship game and life is complete. When someone attacks your team, you defend them with unmatched ferocity because now after surviving their worst moments you can now proudly display their achievements as your own.
Any nerd who has openly criticized a movie or an actor/actress knows this exact feeling. When the world of comics/video games doesn’t necessarily share the exact heartbreak the world of sports delivers – it does deliver the same real-life manifestation. Your childhood heroes become your adult’s secret identity. So when you hear a guy like Ben Affleck is playing Batman you immediately grab a sword, a laptop and a cup of Joe and verbally desecrate him online. You do this because something you love, something you’ve cherished and grown with is on the verge of being tainted. Anyone in their right mind would become hostile when a situation like this presents itself. It also happens to be the same reason why you can’t bring up Joe Carter in Philadelphia. It brings up horrific memories but you best believe any Phillies fan would gladly remind you about 2008 World Series and tell you exactly where they were that night.
Finally, there’s one last similarity I have to acknowledge – women. Women in the realm of sports and the geek universe are both subject to unnatural amounts of admiration, lust and the resulting awkwardness. It is because both are fueled by a large male population that doesn’t always have women in their respective realms and universes. A woman who watches sports is a good girl but a woman who tells you why Jerry West is better than Isaiah Thomas is clearly wife material. Women in these male dominated groups become uniquely segregated – not in a bad way – but in an odd courtship way because women in these demographics are unknowingly being tested by sports fans/nerds as possible fiancés.
Thus, the resulting awkwardness many women in a stadium or convention receive because so many of us have never see an attractive female (or one who isn’t already a friend of ours) inside our little private worlds. When we do, we immediately turn into that wolf from the old cartoons: howling, jaw dropped, all googley-eyed trying to get a female’s attention. To our defense, we imagine us looking cool while we howl at you but you have to understand that you’ve caught us in our public man-cave and you’re now witnessing our best defensive offense. We simply would just like to know how you got to this convention. How long have you been a fan? And will you marry me?
It is no coincidence that females who play videogames are exponentially hotter than most ordinary females out there. It is because they have taken a liking to the geek universe, a part of most nerds that is who they are. Just like any sports fan isn’t just a Sunday-football watching fan – they are the Steelers, they are the Patriots and they are a part of that community. It is a demanding bunch but it is a bunch that has been molded by endearment. We’ve been through the sub .500 seasons, we’ve had a Death in the Family, and we’ve overcome it with new found appreciation for the Stanley Cups and the Watchmens. Just to finalize my argument, if you still don’t believe sports fans and nerds are alike think about this: the most recent League of Legends final drew more social media hits than Game 7 of the NBA finals or the Super Bowl. Diehard fans apparently wear capes to match their jerseys nowadays.