SANTANNA: Despite rough times, rewards of a fan make it worth it

Kaitlin Santanna

“Days like this are why we are fans.”

This statement was texted to me at 9:46 p.m. last Saturday from my best friend. We have shared countless sporting events together, and I have witnessed some of my favorite sports memories with her by my side.

Last Saturday she wasn’t with me, but still close in touch through the genius of modern technology. She was spending the evening watching our favorite ice hockey team dominate its division rival by a score of 7-2. The game also featured the team’s leading goal scorer tie, and then moments later break, the franchise’s record for most goals in a season. This was quite the feat considering that the team has been in existence for 77 seasons.

I, on the other hand, was standing in the Boston Garden. The happenings of this evening have been well-documented, but at the time I received the message, Shane Clark was trying to figure out how to go about making the first cut into the basketball net. The team was scattered throughout the court, hugging someone new at every glance. As all sporting teams are, every one of the players was dressed in the same outfit, but in this moment starch white championship T-shirts took the place of the traditional blue and white jerseys.

The reception of this text combined with the sheer emotion of watching the team I have followed all four of my years at Villanova advance to the Final Four reminded me why I am a fan. Being a fan is a difficult and emotionally draining hobby. When your team loses, you lose too. You feel like something has died inside of you.

These heartbreaks mirror those experienced in relationships. After a breakup, you generally question why you attempt this thing called love and how you will ever do it again.

But you do fall in love again. After a few months away from the thing you love, you are ready to give it another go. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the stagnant period between the last game of the season and opening night often heals all wounds. We forget about the disappointments from the prior season and open ourselves up to the new challenges that lay before our team.

If being a fan surely involves this sort of trauma, why follow sports at all? The reason why we fans subject ourselves to this emotional torture is for nights like last Saturday. It’s for the adrenaline-rush produced by a tied score with only five seconds to go in a regional final game. It is the feeling that connects you to a team no matter how far away from them you may be. It’s for holding your breath for what seems like eternity as a ball heaved by the opponent with .5 seconds remaining threatens to ruin your team’s chance at a Final Four appearance in over two decades. And it’s for the emotion that changes from the nervous energy that you’ve been feeling for the entire game to sheer elation and glee as you realize your team’s unbelievable fate. This is why we are fans.

Being a fan has its ups and downs, and, as a fan, I have experienced both of these extremes. I distinctly remember when the Washington Capitals were eliminated by the Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. I recall first feeling an emotion of stunned disbelief quickly followed by a sort of sadness that only comes with the realization that the long and trying season has abruptly come to a close. These are the memories fans try to forget quickly, for they are the ones that challenge your unwavering belief in the team you love.

But then there are the highs, and despite the differences in these situations the reactions always seem to be the same. Last Saturday’s victory in Boston was one of the highest highs. The response to the victory caused fans to jump up and down, hug each other, scream and high-five complete strangers whose only connection to you is the fact that you are both wearing a V-shirt. It is at this moment that the faith that you completely put in the hands of something you can’t control was rewarded. Fans wait seasons for this sort of a reward. For some franchises, the wait is a lifetime.

When in a relationship, a best friend is always needed with which to share the good and bad. There is a special bond formed between the two partners for certain, but sharing the effects of this connection with others around you only makes the experience greater. It is the same situation with being a fan. I, of course, would have been ecstatic about the outcome of ‘Nova’s game last Saturday even if I were locked in a room by myself. There is a certain inimitable feeling and bond, however, that forms when the joys of victory can be shared with those close to you. I am extremely fortunate that I was able to share Saturday with two of my best friends, one standing next to me and one communicating through text message hundreds of miles away.

Life as a fan is an emotionally taxing one, and the odds are that followers are forced to deal with the bad more often than the good. It is not often that we have the opportunity to gloat to our friends who support rival teams or see our team discussed constantly on national television.

Despite the outcome of next Saturday’s game, the ‘Nova Nation has had the pleasure of experiencing the feelings attached to a wonderful and long-lasting relationship. Just like in life, these relationships don’t come around very often. Even if this one ends in heartbreak, we will be ready to jump back in the water by the time Hoops Mania rolls around next year. These highly charged emotions are what we’ve been waiting for.

This is why we are fans.


Kaitlin Santanna is a senior mathematics and communication major from Hummelstown, Pa. She can be reached at [email protected].