For some weird reason, this week featured a number of conversations with family members. On Monday, I spoke with my brother to wish him a happy birthday. After catching up on the basics, the discussion turned towards talking about Star Trek: Discovery and Picard as both of us enjoy the Star Trek universe. Later in the week there was a family intervention to stop my youngest niece from leaving the White Sox fandom. She discovered that her favorite player would not be with the Sox next year so she pondered whether or not she could actually cheer for the team anymore. Both of these conversations combined in my brain to get me thinking about fandom and whether or not there are advantages and disadvantages to fandoms involving music (like mine), like TV/movies (like my brother’s) or like sports (like my family’s). Is it easier or better to be a fan of one over the others?
I know a little about sports fandom as I was born and raised in a White Sox family. This means that we watch games together, we cheer for the team together, and we definitely pay attention to the standings to see if our team has a chance to make the playoffs. I think a few memories might highlight the good parts to sports fandom. Baseball has always been shared with our extended family. As a kid, this meant that we went to games at old Comiskey with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Likewise, after my grandpa died, we did what he would have been doing himself, which was to turn on the game and cheer for the Sox. It helped us get through a really tough summer. Over the years, we have shared magical moments together like when they won the World Series in 2005. When the final out was made, my parents and I jumped up and down to celebrate just like the players on the field right before the phone started to ring with my siblings calling to join in. We were together, emotionally, even though we could not be physically together.
What does all of this tell me? Sports fandom brings people together like the White Sox have with my family. This, in turn, creates shared memories and traditions that can be passed down. My nieces, for example, have grown up as White Sox fans even though they live in North Carolina. Sports fandom is such that it is a constant. Every spring, we know that the baseball season will begin along with the potential of a winning team. A constant like sports can definitely provide comfort as well as a distraction from real life worries. On top of that, it is also the most socially acceptable of fandoms. No one thinks it is weird that my family plans trips around seeing the Sox. All that said, the people connected with one’s fandom does change. My niece is feeling that right now as her favorite player has moved on. We also learn little about the players beyond their statistics on the field. It is far less personal. No one (or very, very few) is reading or writing fanfic about baseball or other sports. It does not allow a lot of creativity or fan production. Then, there is the question of what the heck to do in between seasons or if the team sucks. Do you watch highlight reels of winnings years? While I think you could, I’m not sure that it feeds the soul in the same way as other fan activities might.
How does TV or movie fandom compare to sports fandom? Like the sports fandom, I feel like I have some experience with this. As many of you know, I was pretty involved in the Roswell fandom when the original TV show was on the air (early 2000s). That fandom was good to me as I met some good friends through it. In our case, the four of us met on a message board for the show. Through various posts, we discovered that not only did we interpret the show similarly but we also loved fanfic surrounding it. When we all figured out that we were all in the Midwest, we jumped at the chance to meet in person resulting in a weekend in Wisconsin with little sleep, much junk food and more laughs than I could count. Of course, the show did not last forever. In fact, it was only on the air for three seasons. Yet, our friendships adjusted and remained.
It seems to me that there are two big differences between sports fandom and one surrounding a TV show/movie. First, sports have a much longer life span. While the players and uniforms might change, the team lives on. TV shows and movies usually have a much shorter life span. Of course, there are franchises like Star Trek that carries on past the half century mark, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Still, though, there have been many a moment that seemed the end for Star Trek. Therefore, there is always a possible end to TV shows/movies. While there is always the opportunity to watch it again and again, there will be a point in which nothing new is produced. Maybe, this is where fans enter the picture as they create new stories, videos and art about their fandom. It gives fans a chance to produce something themselves. Yet, I would argue that it is much harder to keep a fandom going once there is no more official product released. On top of that, unlike sports, it is often misunderstood by non-fans.
Obviously, we have covered music fandom pretty intensely on this blog since it began nine years ago (!). In some ways, music fandom definitely does parallel TV/movie fandom. Both offer chances to rewatch/re-listen. I think about how TV/movie fandom have conventions that are super popular. Yet, they also have premieres. I think music fandom is pretty cool in that it has concerts, which, to me, is like a premiere and a convention combined. You get the opportunity to see a show for the first time (even if it is not the first concert of a tour as every show is different) and you get the chance to hang out with other fans. Maybe you even get to see the subject of your fandom in person–just like a convention! At the same time, music feels different. While both have the chance for fan productions of fanfic and fan art, one tends to focus on fictional characters and the other is about real people. For me, music fandom allows a really significant escape from reality when you are on tour but has less chance of small moments of escape that can be found with a TV show.
Obviously, I have not thought about every aspect of fandom or how they compare when looking at these three big categories. Instead, I just let my mind wander about how they compare. Clearly, there are similarities with all of them. For instance, they all bring people together or can. They provides chances for escape or big fun moments or times. Yet, there are differences. Some are about real people and the other is fiction. Some have a better chance at continuing through the years than others. Society likes some fandoms more than others. There are advantages and disadvantages for all of them and fandom in general.
What about the rest of you? What sticks out in your mind about the different categories of fandom?