Fan = one-sided love affair

After the Los Angeles Sparks’ last home game before the Olympic break, the organization had an event they called “SEC Night.” Players who had gone to a college in the SEC conference (9 out of 12 Sparks) participated in a panel-type question-and-answer session, rife with good-natured jawing and trash talking. Afterwards, they signed autographs.

My seatmate at Sparks games – Daniel – was mildly unnerved by what he characterized as the hysteria of some fans during the Q and A. He said the screaming, the frenzied states some were in, and the way they kept pressing forward towards the players was just too much. He didn’t understand it.

As usual, I can see both side of the issue.

I’ve been around the WNBA long enough to have seen some nutty fan behavior, though that usually occurs during during and after games. A good example is when players try to go back into the locker room and people are yelling at them to sign something or take a photo. The craziness at a fan event like SEC Night was a little unusual. But that night, like every night at a Sparks game, the crowd was full of little kids, women, and a few men who might have felt like yelling but kept it in check (probably the same cats who say they don’t listen to R&B).

The kids you can pretty much excuse. When I first began taking my basketball girls to Sparks games in 2006, they were all 16 and would literally jump up and down and scream for Lisa Leslie. Female basketball players have got role models now, and I couldn’t be happier.

I can’t even be mad at the adults for screaming or wanting an autograph. I know I’m not the only one who has lived vicariously through players at times.

Then there’s the other side.

When I was a Seattle Storm season ticket holder, I would walk out to my car after games, past the driveway out of the Key Arena parking lot. Without fail, after every game, there were a contingent of fans who waited for the Storm players to drive out in their cars, one by one, so they could try to flag them down and talk to them. That’s going too far in my book. But my yardstick is small.

I’ve met and been in the vicinity of all of the Sparks players several times this season, because I’ve been to every fan event they’ve had. It’s not so much that I’m a geek, but that I don’t want to miss anything. I’ve always been this way – ask my parents.

During those events, there have been times when I’ve wanted to linger and talk with a player who I’m conversing with, because the convo is interesting. But then I pull myself back. Because even though it seems like an intimate experience for me, it’s one-sided. It’s easy for fans to lose sight of that fact.

Being a fan is a solo relationship. You know everything about your favorite player: where she went to school, when she began playing ball, how many siblings she has, where she’s from…….and she doesn’t know squat about you. For example, I’ve watched the Tennessee videos from the last two years and have read everything I can get my hands on with regards to UT. I can tell you plenty about those young women, including their mannerisms. If a fan comes around often enough, as I do, a favorite player might remember your face, but that’s about it. It’s best not to expect more than that.

As a teacher, I can relate. Teaching is a high-profile profession, and there are fewer of us than there are students. Kids may not be in my classes, but they know who I am. Many times I’ve been on campus and been greeted with a friendly, “Hey, Ms. F!!” from a kid I don’t know. I look twice to make sure I can’t come up with their name, and then I say “what’s up?!” because I’m a friendly person. Even so, it’s funny to me that those kids have that sense of fan familiarity with me. I imagine basketball players would feel the same way. What us high-profile profession people need to remember is that we’re being watched, and it’s nothing personal. Humans are just curious that way.

Sometimes I have “fans” that try to hang out and/or get something from me. If they’re not cutting a class or trying to get money, I usually indulge them for a little bit. But then I send them on their way. I mean, I don’t really know them.

I remembered that last month when I was struck with the thought that the UT players and Kiesha Brown would be really fun to party with. I’ve watched them at their funniest this season; I mean, I’ve seen them more than my own homies. It feels like we’re friends. But I’m glad I am able to remember that we’re not before I go off and say something dumb.

We are lucky that women’s basketball players are still generally at ease with the occasional crazed/screaming fan. They seem to really appreciate their fans.

– Sue F.