Actors, sports, bands, universities, movies, characters, books – we’re all fans of something. And with the ultimate sports fan event arriving any minute to the delight of football enthusiasts everywhere, we’re can’t help but think about just what it means to be a fan. Is there a minimum requirement for being able to call yourself a fan?
The idea of being a fan has old – and odd – roots. Merriam-Webster defines a fan as “a very enthusiastic supporter or admirer.” The word fan itself came about as a shortened form of the word fanatic, meaning “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” Fanatic, in turn, comes from the Latin fanaticus, which was a nice way of saying that someone was a little bit crazy because they were possessed or inspired by a god or deity.
Today, you’re more likely to see the word fan in conjunction with another word, like fanbase, fandom, fanboy or fangirl. We’ve even come up with all sorts of names that particular groups of fans call themselves, like “Potterheads”, “Whovians” or “Faithful” 49ers fans. It’s safe to say that a lot of us take being a fan pretty seriously.
But where does our sense of being a fan come from? Maybe it’s something you grew up with, like a favorite show or music album. Or maybe it stems from a sense of loyalty to where you live, where you once lived, or a school you attended. But what about those of us who don’t have that direct connection? Are you still a fan if you’re a newcomer? Are you still a fan if you’re not a hometown native, or a university alumnus?
Maybe being a fan can start with something as simple as a friend pointing you in the right direction and saying, “Here, you’re going to love this!” And before you know it, something you never knew existed is now one of your absolute favorite things.
Being a fan is like being part of a relationship. There’s a meaningful connection and reciprocation of support that makes you feel like you’re a part of something special. When you truly connect with something enough to call yourself a fan, you’re joining in a positive cycle where your enthusiasm allows the thing you love to continue.
In the relationship of supporters and the things they love, the relationship isn’t dependent on the “when” or the “how” of becoming a fan – we think it’s all about how you feel. So go ahead – get a little fanatic, a little crazy, a little possessed and inspired. There’s room for everyone, no matter what kind of fan you are!