Or maybe it just seems that way. I’m not a big fan of soccer (sorry to my UK readers: football) but I’m sure there are some pretty off-the-wall fans there too just because of the soccer riots in stadiums that I read about or hear the crowd go singularly nuts in unison when a goal is scored. I’m also quite sure there are rabid fans in other sports: hockey, basketball, football, golf, baseball… I’m sure of this because when I peruse the forums on sports news websites (you know, where you can leave comments after the articles) there are quite the insane spats between the ummm “fans”.
Curling is another perfect example. It has always been known as a conservative, blue collar sport that attracts an older crowd. However, in recent years, it has been attracting a younger crowd both on and off the ice. Try introducing some colour or flair (or anything different) into the game and those offending charlatans will be roundly sneered at, mocked or debased to the harshest degree – mostly online. I can still remember when six-time Canadian champion Colleen Jones was vilified by outraged “fans” for chewing gum, wearing a skirt and talking too much. Okay… Still, during the curling season, there is always an online spat between these “fans” who pick and snipe at the curler du jour.
I understand we all have our own favourite player, but the over the top nastiness and vigor that these “fans” express in defending their hero is disturbing. Some of it has to do with online trolling. At first I thought an internet troll was just that – you know, that nasty, ugly, short, smelly version of a gnome that lives under a bridge. I soon discovered that an internet troll is someone who posts inflammatory, off-topic, over-the-top responses on message boards and forums to provoke a response. A perfect example of this exists on TSN’s website in their tennis section whenever there is an article written about Milos Raonic. A poster constantly posts that Raonic was born in Montenegro and therefore is not Canadian, even though it has nothing to do with the article – causing an immediate response from the rest of the forum.
Which brings me to the tennis “fan”. For some reason, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova generate some very strong feelings among their most ardent supporters. At times it is downright scary – as if they all belong to a cult and have all been brainwashed into defending everything they do whenever a differing opinion is raised against them. I am at a loss to explain it. The only reason I can think of is that these players are not only at the top of the rankings, they are very polarizing people – especially Nadal, Djokovic, Azarenka and Williams – people hold very extreme opinions of each of them at both ends of the tennis spectrum.
As a tennis nut, I try very hard to restrain myself in posting comments about these players because I know I will get the googly-eyed wrath of their off-the-wall “fans”. At times it can be very entertaining to read the back and forth on www.tennis.com between the crazy “fans” and those who just have an opposing view on things. At other times, I end up shaking my head in disbelief at the scary cultish comments. It’s too bad, because as a tennis fan I’d like to have an adult discussion about tennis with other adults. However, when I try, I’m pounced on by banshees in straight jackets. I end up leaving benign comments in general so as not to raise the ire of the crazies who lurk in the shadows.
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