People who follow sports with a passion have been referred to as "fans" of that sport, or perhaps a particular team, for decades. The term 'fan' has also been applied to people who follow any object or person passionately.
Yes, this use of word "fan" has come to be accepted as part of the language for a long time. For those few people who may not know, or remember, where the term originated, let me refresh your memory. Although many "fans" may be full of hot air, the term has nothing to do with the kind of fan which blows hot or cold air.
No, "fan" is a shortened form of the word "fanatic." Quoting from the dictionary, here is the definition of a fanatic : 'a person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, esp. an activity.'
Being enthusiastic about something is usually a good thing. The "obsessive" part of that definition is where the trouble usually begins.
What trouble, you may ask? Well, at stadiums in South America, Europe, and other geographical locations across the globe, "fans" of the sport which is number one in the world most everywhere but the U.S. - soccer - have, through the years, exhibited overzealous fandom which has led to tragic consequences; that is, a riot or even death.
Now I know there are some people who would like to see soccer also become the number one sport in the United States, and it has made a little headway in recent years. More schools are playing the sport, at least partly because, especially in hard economic times, fielding a soccer team is much less expensive than putting a football team on the field. At any rate, if soccer becomes the rage in the U.S., so be it. What I don't want to see happen is the influx of the kind of fan who causes riots and other types of "unsportsmanlike conduct" which leads to more serious consequences than a 15 yard penalty.
Unfortunately, there have been a couple of incidents at professional sporting events this season that, among other things, have given "fandom" a bad name. First of all, in both cases, the incidents occurred outside of the ballpark and it really hasn't been proven that the incidents were in any way related to hard feelings between fans.
Both incidents took place in California - one in the southern part of the state and the more recent incident in the northern part of the Golden State.
The first incident, which took place in the parking lot outside of Dodger Stadium after baseball's season opening game this spring, involved two men savagely beating a third man into critical condition. After months of being in a medically-induced coma after suffering brain damage as a result of the beating, Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old married father of two who - ironically - was employed as a paramedic- has only recently begun to show some signs of starting down the long road to recovery. Stow was a San Francisco Giant fan who was wearing a Giant jersey when he was attacked.
The second incident was actually a series of at least three incidents which took place on August 20 at an NFL exhibition game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, when a 26-year-old man was hospitalized in serious to life-threatening condition after being assaulted and knocked unconscious in a men's restroom at the stadium; a 24-year-old man, who reportedly was wearing a "F--- the Niners" T-shirt, was hospitalized in serious to life-threatening condition after being shot several times in the stomach after the game; and a 20-year-old man was treated for wounds in a separate shooting. Police say that man is likely not going to die.
Fellow Fans - don't overdo it - 1) leave your guns and switchblades at home; 2) limit your use of intoxicants, both the legal stuff sold at the ballpark and any other stuff that you may have brought with you; and 3) remeber - it IS "just a game."
Please don't spoil a good thing for the rest of us who actually enjoy the games, as well as the atmosphere both inside and outside the ballpark.