TUESDAY MARCH 28, 2017
 
Blog EGOS & ICONS
BOO TO NORTH AMERICAN FANS
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Are North American sports fans the most boring bunch in the world? The recent World Baseball Classic offered evidence that they might be.

First, let's get this out of the way: fans on this continent definitely don't lack for passion. That fact is not in dispute. But relative to the rest of the world, there's a distinct lack of creativity and collectivism at most of our stadiums and arenas. Try telling a sports nut from Europe or South America that chants of "De-fence!" or 'Let's go (team name)!" are inspired moments of sporting fandom, and they're liable to laugh in your face.

Truth is, the simple, formulaic support that most North American teams receive would be considered terribly substandard by hard core followers of European soccer squads or Caribbean baseball teams, fans who've never needed a scoreboard 'Noise Meter' to turn up the volume another few notches.

That fact was on display during the final round of the WBC in San Francisco this week, where tens of thousands of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans bathed the ballpark in energy and island rhythms, quite literally dancing in the aisles as the action played out on the field. Their infectious delight fired up the teams, which in turn raised the fever pitch in the stands even more, a sort of merry circle of riotous revelry and celebration.

Even the Japanese, supposedly so staid and reserved, showed more spirit than their American hosts. They banged on taiko drums throughout their semifinal loss to Puerto Rico and rose in unison during every at bat by veteran first baseman and cult hero Atsunori Inaba, jumping up and down as they belted out his personal plate appearance song.

The WBC isn't the only example. When basketball's World Championships were held in Turkey in the summer of 2010, visiting American journalists gushed with envy at the boisterous crowds who energized arenas with their chants and songs. Even in cricket, a sport as genteel as they come, the traveling English fans known as the 'Barmy Army' can always be counted on to liven up matches with organized exaltations of joyous support.

Unfortunately, it's often hard to find a North American equivalent for that kind of freewheeling fandom. Whether it's the growing corporatization of our sporting scene, or a cultural tendency towards individualism, we just don't seem to let it all out the same way. Like sheep, we react to piped-in exhortations during timeouts and moments of tension, rather than coming up with organic displays of emotion.

im8ge.jpgThere are, of course, some notable exceptions. The costumed oddballs who inhabit the end zone seats at Oakland Raiders games could hardly be considered boring. The youthful exuberance of student supporters at many college basketball games, most notably the Cameron Crazies of Duke, are a cut above, even if their antics are sometimes fuelled by excesses of alcohol. And in aspiring to match their foreign cousins (at least the non-hooligan ones), the dedicated followers of MLS teams have elevated their cheering out of the morass.

But the rest of the crowds don't offer much of interest. Sure, they'll tailgate for hours, paint their faces in team colours and remove their shirts in sub-zero temperatures. But come up with a clever song to root on the home team, or to denigrate an opponent? That kind of creative expression just isn't happening here. You can yell 'A-Rod sucks!' as long as you want. But when it comes right down to it, your cheer sucks, too.

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