By Shane Thomas
Fandom isn't that complicated. You experience something. You like it. And then you follow it until it loses its appeal. Whether it's religion, a television show or a musician, it latches onto your consciousness and becomes a permanent part of your very existence. And this is never illustrated better than in sport.
For those who don't know, I am an Arsenal fan, and have been since the age of four. So it's safe to say that as far as the team goes, I'm in. My horse is firmly hitched to their wagon. You may have a choice when you choose a sporting team to follow, but once that choice is made, it's more unbreakable than any contract you'll ever sign.
In the more popular sports - particularly one such as football, which tends to have a strong working class following - you tend to get two types of fans. The first set are the tub-thumping, flag-waving sort who believe that their team are God's own, the greatest team the world has ever seen (which is a common chant up and down grounds across Britain). Their view of their team tends to be one-eyed and reductive. And any time they suffer a defeat it's down to extenuating circumstances. This la vie en rose way of thinking means that they can never countenance losing simply because the opposition are better.
I'm the kind of person you'll find in the other camp. The primary emotions my team evokes in me are not optimism and enthusiam, but anxiety and nervousness. I worry about every possible variable that could derail my team's chances of success. I won't be caught chanting at a ground randomly for fear of looking foolish in the event of the opponents scoring a goal. No match situation is ever safe until the final whistle is gone and Arsenal have the victory. And even when that does happen, I don't feel happy that we won. Just relieved that we didn't lose. Well, until the tension of next week.
The first set of fans look at the next game as another chance for glory. They don't waste their time meticulously analysing the game. They're too busy reveling in the joy that they are certain will arrive over the course of the next 90 minutes. But the second set (people like me) view at it as another potential pitfall. If we played well last week, then it means that we could become complacent next time around. Or if we didn't play well last week, then we're in a bad run of form, and are certain to lose.
The television presenter Adrian Chiles is a good example of this. He is a lifelong West Brom fan and has made no secret of the fact that while he loves the club dearly, he always expects the worst. When talking about West Brom (or England and/or Croatia) he looks as if he has just been sentenced to an eternity in purgatory.
The reason I bring this up is that I will be taking my first trip to Arsenal's Emirates Stadium tomorrow afternoon to watch them play Blackpool. I will be documenting my experiences over the course of the season whenever I get an opportunity to visit what is one of Britain's finest stadiums.
And yes, the nerves are already kicking in. I've already predicted Blackpool to finish bottom of the Premier League this season, so how embarrassing will it be if we lose? And Blackpool are currently second in the table, so do they have momentum on their side?
See the kind of fan I am? It's only Blackpool for heavens sake, and I'm sounding more anxiety-ridden than Woody Allen. Let's hope I don't end up going to watch Arsenal play Chelsea this season. I don't think my nerves will be able to take it.
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