communitas, sports fandom, anime fandom, fair use, identity, emotions

We’ve come to the final part in our short series of articles examining the sports and anime fandoms and how they intersect. While by no means a comprehensive examination of the two, our goal was to at least expand the conversation and try to connect dots between fandoms are considered to be on the opposites sides of the spectrum. Emotions over the differences between the stereotypical “jock” and “nerd” are well-known. However, as an arbiter who has a foot in both pools, I feel I should at least give it a try.

Having said that, let’s now talk about emotions in fandoms.

Emotions are often a tricky, if not delicate, subject that will be generalized with regards to fandoms to save time. Getting back to what I discussed in the last piece, individuals who have their identities tied to fandoms will have their emotions effected by the said fandom.

Your team wins and you feel ecstatic and scream at your dorm room TV (I’m so disappointed I didn’t get to see Drogba when he was on Montreal). Your team loses and you drop the f-bomb at the top of your lungs amongst a crowd a deathly silent Oregon students (and now you know why I love Maldonado). An anime you love has the most perfect ending to a well-rounded story (like hell I’m telling you which show that was). An anime you love ends up not getting licensed by any North American blu-ray makers leaving your shelf with a permanent gaping hole for the near future. 

As you can see, I’ve had both positive and negative emotions within the sports and anime fandoms separately. I can, even though I might not fully agree with it, come from a place of understanding when Attack on Titans fans, after waiting four years for a second season, only gets one cour instead of two (12 episodes instead of 24-25). I can empathize with fans of Kevin Durant leav-wait…no I can’t. You deserved that. 

When discussing emotions however, we don’t offer point out the factors that lead to their creation. This bit of joking around the previous two paragraphs is sort of where the dialogue ends up going. This is fine. It creates camaraderie within fandoms through the creation of in-jokes (did I just make a JoJo’s reference). Humor I find is an effective way to have emotions bubble to the surface. It’s important for sports fans to be able to jokingly criticize their team to the same degree that it’s important for anime fans to understand that not everyone will like their personal anime tastes. Humor, when it doesn’t devolve into belittling, helps to alleviate some of this pressure. 

Sports and anime fans ultimately have many similar reasoning as to why the emotions they have, with regards to their fandom, are manifested in the first place.

First and foremost, there is an undercurrent of ownership that most anime and sports fans feel with the product they support. It’s why myself will often refer to the Oregon Ducks as “we” instead of “they” on occasion. It’s not that I purposefully believe I am apart of the Ducks football or basketball program. It’s because I am an Oregon alum, just like those on the gridiron or court will one day in the near future be. While at Oregon, I attended classes alongside a handful of athletes just like they did. I made the same walks to class. I sat in the same lecture halls (stay out of Pacific 123 and memorize the buildings with AC come spring term). I took the same exams.

Emotionally, I “feel” as part of a team as they are. That of course is an irrational belief and I understand. Yet, even as a journalist, I’m still susceptible to it from time-to-time if I play it loose and fast on the keyboard. And don’t think well-run sports organizations don’t know this. They will play off of this emotions every moment they can to get you through those turnstiles next week or have you buy that Seattle Seahawks 12th Fan jersey (which you can hear using this affiliate link because I’m a sellout). 

Same can be said about anime fans too. What do you think cosplay is at the core? It’s taking temporary ownership of a character’s persona, because you find a connection with them, for your emotional benefit. The only men dressing up as Sailor Moon are people who have a strong connection to the character and want to take ownership of that connection. The only women who dress up as Yuuri, after forgetting that King J.J. is best boy, are people who connected with him on an emotional level or because their friend is already going as Viktor so why not (just look at the feature image). 

There’s something that could also be said regarding how sports and anime allow fans to run the same gambits of emotions. The same “breakthrough spirit” on display in an anime that makes you feel proud of the character is found while watching the annual One Shining Moment montage that comes at the end of every March Madness. Despair from a beloved character losing a battle can be seen in the eyes of sports fans (like Falcons fans) who were on the cusp of greatness before it was taken away from them. The same befuddlement over why the hell Kemono Friends is so popular in Japan also exudes from Cleveland Browns fans wondering when they’ll have the same starting quarterback for more than two seasons. 

Because sports and anime, at their core, are entertainment properties for individuals to enjoy, emotions will be very similar. It’s also worth pointing out that, while many emotions have an innocent beginning, some start from more emotional beginnings.

Take having a hometown team winning a championship. As I’ve stated in a previous piece, civic pride is a common byproduct of a sports team winning because most of the team’s fandom is rooted in nativist beliefs. “It’s us against the outsiders.” This form of pride is perfectly fine and all but there does become a point where the maintenance of the positive pride become toxic. For people who have been around college athletics, you’ve come across instances where there have been criminal cover-ups in order to maintain face. Penn State. Baylor. This even bleeds into high school athletics with cases like Steubenville

These cover-ups transpire purely based on maintaining the positive emotions that come with having a successful hometown sports team. This is a serious issue that impedes countless cases over the years and prevents some from ever seeing the light of day.

Don’t think anime fandom isn’t blemished in their own way. While mostly jovial conversations involving “best girl” and “waifu” has become a common occurrence in the fandom (hell I made a best boy joke earlier this article), there still are people who will take it too far. Behind the actions these individuals take in order to express their “love” for a fictional character are deep emotional and mental misfires. I’ll save Japan’s current social issues for another article but suffice it to say, after researching terms such as hikikomori you’ll understand why the emotional states of some individuals might lead them to latching onto a fictional character to an unhealthy degree. 

Enjoying sports or anime is a form of escapism. There’s is no question about it. It’s important, when within a fandom, to be aware that your emotions might try and get the better of you if you aren’t paying attention. Most people navigate these fandoms perfectly fine. However, there will always be people end up following down these emotionally destructive paths.

What I’m trying to get at, with this piece as well as this entire collection, is that when someone becomes a part of a larger fandom, they are doing so to have their voice heard. In this world where you can very easily get lost in a crowd, becoming a part of something bigger than yourself that’s able to stick their head above the water is very enticing. It’s almost always not the primary people get into a certain fandom. For example, I have no interest in being a part of the music fandom because, while I enjoy a good tune now and again, I ultimately don’t find my voice lining up with that fandom. 

The notion of a site dedicated to sports news and content with anime content on the side seems a bit absurd to some. It’s different. I acknowledge that. But, through my interactions at this years Sakura-Con and the interactions I have at sporting events, I believe that they have more in common then many believe. They are but two separate ends of the same horseshoe. I’m just hoping to bridge that little gap. 

And yes, those two people in the middle of the image are smacking their lips together.