“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath…”
“Sing a few songs, have a few drinks, break a couple of commandments.”
--Dean Martin’s purported plans for his first Vegas show
Fandom is the safest form of love; that is, it is a love from a distance, love from the stadia seats, a love comfortable with separation and clear limits. Fandom is love without demands or consequence of its absence, a love of uniforms, color palettes, and easily measured expectations.
Fandom is uncomplicated. Fandom is binary: One either is a fan or is not. A fan cannot possess split allegiances. A fan cannot be made, only recognized. There are but rare moments when the fan is allowed mimicry of a participant: fourth down plays, quarterback audibles, price hikes. The fan cannot exist in a vacuum.
Of course, even fandom sometimes bleeds beyond its accepted borders. Dead trees and hired quarterbacks attest to this. But aren’t these still the aberrations in the range, not the mode?
Coach Homer Smith—offensive genius, novelist, theologian, and gentleman—passed on this week. He warned his players about taking a lead for granted: “You must always play a little scared.” Good advice.
Advice that was likely ignored by Alabama’s players in the second half of the Iron Bowl last year, ignored by many of Alabama’s fans after the national championship two years ago, ignored by would-be lovers every day.
And it is every goddamned day. There’s the mystery: Not that one turns one’s attention away from disaster only for it to happen, but that one continually does so. One is compelled to do so.
If Coach Smith could help us today, he’d offer that coaching football is not about defeating the other team, but about defeating risk—ever present, creative, alluring risk. Yes, the lady is there, but so is the tiger.
You must always play a little scared. You are always thirty minutes from blowing the lead. You’re always one play away. You’re never as a terrific as the person who loves you says you are.
Fandom is the safest form of love; that is, it is barely love at all.