What it means to be a fan
What does it mean to be a fan? I’m asking because I’m not sure that I’ve ever truly been a fan of anything. By virtue of living in Kentucky in March, I’ve had the opportunity to observe large communities of people who consider themselves to be college basketball fans. I have friends who avidly follow TV series, rock bands, comic book series, politicians, and even startup companies. They know every statistic, the histories of every character/player/musician, and they commit themselves to staying up with the latest news.
The closest I’ve ever come is being a fan is for science fiction author Michael Crichton. I read half a dozen of his (rather lengthy) books while in middle school, and continued through high school and college. However, I doubt that a true fan would fail to notice when the object of his fan-ness faded into the past-tense, as I did by failing to discover Crichton’s early death until six months after his passing.
Being a fan, a true fan, is indeed a commitment, one that often requires a good deal of time and money. One reason that I’m not a “fan” of being a fan is that I’d rather commit my time and money to activities in which I can actually make a difference. Since I was young, rather than watching sports, I preferred to be playing. Sure, it was cool watching the College World Series when I was growing up in Omaha, but every clink of the aluminum bat just made me want to leave the game and spend the rest of the afternoon in a batting cage, honing my own skills. That’s where I see myself now: rather than exerting my time and effort keeping up with someone else’s story, I’d rather be writing my own. Maybe this is a core difference between producers (ie makers) and consumers.
But we need fans. Kevin Kelly discusses how artists often sustain themselves by attracting 1000 True Fans. And art, music, theatre, and sports. These have been hallmarks of our society for millennia, and hopefully won’t disappear soon. And these institutions haven’t found a business model that allows them to survive without fans.
So, what does it mean to be a fan? If you are one, why?