Lately, The Father has taken up philosophy in his retirement. And despite being retired with all sorts of free time on his hands (in which to philosophize), he has again anointed me–The Chosen One–to spread his gospel.
In this week’s message, The Father has charged me with the task of discussing being a fan, and in particular, the question of whether the possession of a foam finger or bobblehead makes you a “real” fan.
On its face, this seems a simple semiotic problem. Does the finger or bobblehead signify fandom? That seems horribly reductionist. We all know Wittgenstein dismissed this sort of thing by discussing family resemblances in the matter of definition. In other words, there is more fluidity to “fan” than just an either/or category. Perhaps this is what The Father meant when he suggested a “Graduated Steps of Fanhood.” Such a system, however, still contains hints of the Platonic essentialism embodied in the fan/not fan distinction.
So, let’s tackle (pun intended) the question from a different perspective. Possession of a bobblehead implies the purchase of a branded product of which some percentage is given to the team and is ultimately routed to the ball club in some way. So, does monetary investment, however slight, mean being a fan? I would argue yes in the same way that buying bionic beef at the supermarket says one thing about you and buying grassfed beef from a local producer another.
But the issue runs even deeper. To consciously adopt the insignia of a team, on however a transient basis, is to advertise for and represent that team. When we see someone walking around in a generic NIKE shirt, we all know the brand and at some level realize that individual is an advertisement for that company. Compare that to someone with their old Duane Bickett bobblehead on their desk. Perhaps there is an inclination to say that person is not a fan because they do not have the current Peyton Manning bobblehead. I would say there is no difference. That person made a choice to have that object in their possession and on display–just like throwing on a NIKE shirt.
Going back to the question of the “Graduated Steps of Fandom,” what would the purpose of such a system serve? Its blatant hierarchical structure can be used to categorize fans according to level of commitment and dedication and those who are more committed to the hierarchy are rewarded while those who don’t participate or are at the bottom with their bobbleheads and foam fingers are marginalized as deviants for not being more thoroughly engaged in the hierarchy. From the perspective of Foucault, the whole notion of being a fan (or steps of being a fan) is a way to exercise power through classification and control. Then that raises the whole question of whether dedicated fans are fans at all, but instead are they a part of the system? Turning the question on its head, who is more of a fan, the person who freely decides to buy a foam finger for a game or the poor fool who is compelled by the system to which they are chained to buy every piece of merchandise, travel to every game, and to read every blog?
Now, after this ramble, I’m going to slip on my Colts socks, put on my Jim Harbaugh jersey, grab a hold of my Bill Brooks action figure and head off to bed* and dream of a victory in the Pats game.
*Not really going to bed, but figure that was a pretty poetic way to end this post. I’m really going to stay up late watching movies and doing some work.