We are all fanatics about something: from our families, to our friends, to our sports teams, to the movies we love, to pretty much anything. That’s the glory of being fanatical, that it can encompass just about anything. Sometimes our fanaticism is pure and unadulterated, while other times it’s all tied up and twisted in the 12-step ethos. “Hi. My name is Sam, and I’m a Back to the Future addict.”
Is it better to be an addict for sugary sweets than an addict for the rush of catfishing? Is it too much to be fanatical over gambling? How about the Olympics? The definition of a fanatic is someone who “is filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.” It presupposes commitment to one thing to the exclusion of all else. To that end maybe it’s never a good thing, the idea that too much of a good thing cannot possibly still be a good thing. And too much of a bad thing is worse.
I am a fanatic about my schedule. I have a singular purpose, to make sure my calendar is evenly balanced, that I get to where I need to be on time, and that I don’t forget my appointed times to see and be seen by others. That’s what a schedule is, after all, a series of times when I have committed to being out and about, like a politician on an election tour. There’s an adrenaline rush I feel when I’ve made it to where I’m supposed to be, on time, a rhetorical fist bump that validates my entire being. Every once in a while I wonder if that’s too much emotion for maintaining a schedule.
I’ve known people who are fanatical about a variety of things, of people, and of situations. I knew a guy once who couldn’t sleep if he didn’t kiss the picture of his dog who died when he was 12 years old. There was a girl I dated a long time ago who had every ABBA album ever produced… on vinyl. Being a fanatic about things like that lead others to ridicule and harass them for it, which is ironic since the things we hold so dear we would fight to keep from being ridiculed. This is what they hold dear.
As a fan of the Eagles, I have followed them since I was a little kid, going to games, praying for the players, and fighting hard to gift them enough good luck to win the Super Bowl. I’ve collected team cards, copied every game I could see on TV, and watched those games so often I wore out the tapes. I’ve ranted and raved at the screen, at the team, at the refs, and at anyone else who would listen about the Eagles. I’ve cried when they lost games, and exhaled when they won, screaming my lungs out as if I had just caught that final ball, or called the final positive play. I say “WE” when talking about what the Eagles did.
But I would never hurt someone else as a result of an Eagles win, or loss. I would never run down the street and hurl a rock through a store window because I was amped up on the glory of an Eagles Super Bowl win. I would never boo Santa Claus just because I could, or punch another fan in the face because he happens to root for the Giants. I would never do any of those things because even though I’m fanatical about the Eagles, even though I spend some sleepless nights anxious over the possible outcome of the next day’s game, I understand that it IS just a game. I get that. Some people don’t.
So I’m ashamed when I read posts from people who say they have no respect for Eagles fans, when they lump us all in together because of what a few lunatics have decided is appropriate behavior for a fanatic. They judge all of us based on the actions of some rogues who refused to draw the line, who couldn’t separate the team from their own individual pride. But most of all, I’m ashamed when I see those posts because it doesn’t have to be that way. Tell that to the gambler who goes for broke just to actually go broke. Explain that to the Kevin Spacey fans who now have to come to grips with the actions of their hero.
Perhaps we can agree to disagree. Maybe you feel somehow superior by lumping all of us Eagles fans into some kind of “basket of deplorables,” but it doesn’t have to be this way. In the immortal words of Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?” Well, can’t we? What’s stopping us from all treating each other as individuals instead of as caricatures of ourselves based on those of us who choose to be caricatures? I feel like some people wouldn’t know what to do if they couldn’t just generalize when it comes to everyone who isn’t quite like themselves, instead of digging deep and making informed choices based on actual solid information.
My fanaticism doesn’t preclude me from understanding and supporting yours, even if I don’t happen to share it. My fanaticism doesn’t stop me from treating you like a human being. And I hope it doesn’t stop you from doing the same.