Sports “Fans”, Now With Two Definitions

Two sports stories made big headlines this week, with two definitions of the word “fan” being talked about around the globe and at our kitchen table. Since my family loves sports, these two events were the source of many discussions about sportsmanship, character, and for my own benefit, social media. The first, traditional kind of fan caught Derek Jeter’s 3000th homerun ball. The second type of “fan” showed up on…yep, you guessed it…Twitter, to congratulate and the US Women’s Soccer Team on their amazing, come-from-behind match over Brazil. I found both of these events fascinating. The many discussions in our house centered on sportsmanship, character and for my own benefit, social media.

Jeter’s homerun ball made headlines, not because of the fan who caught it, but when that same fan returned it to Jeter after the game. In the news and in our house, the opinions were fairly even between that fan’s status as hero and goat.  Personally, I thought his selflessness, and ultimately a loss of income in what many experts agree could be a six-figure piece of sports history, showed incredible character and honesty.  Jeter and the Yankees showed their appreciation with plenty of memorabilia, season club seasons and other rewards, but I hope the fan’s ultimate reward was seeing his image splashed across print and online publications with a mile wide grin, standing next to Jeter. Talk about your 15 minutes of fame!

The US Women’s Soccer Team made me proud, not only as a woman and the mother of two daughters, but also for their amazing teamwork and a sense of patriotism on my part. What I found even more interesting (and certainly related to my line of work) was the article in USA Today about the gauge of popularity after the team won against Brazil. Twitter seemed to be the measuring stick. From the USA Today story:

“It’s been so fun,” Boxx, a veteran midfielder, added. “I turned the phone back on after the game, and right away I had about 30 e-mails, a couple of texts. I don’t do Twitter, but the young ones all have Twitter and they’ve been getting tweets from the most random people, which is very cool.

“It makes you appreciate the people back home supporting you. We’re kind of building. You’re hearing, ‘I never watched a soccer game before, but now I’m watching.'”

Some of the random fans congratulating the players on Twitter: basketball’s LeBron James, football’s Aaron Rodgers and Hollywood’s Tom Hanks.

“That’s pretty cool,” Boxx said. “It’s fun to hear that these big names back home that you watch and idolize are watching women’s soccer.”

Midfielder Heather O’Reilly said her Twitter followers almost tripled overnight. “I think this game has really got people talking,” she said.

We’ll be watching the next match against France on Wednesday, and I’ll be wondering how many more “fans”  will show their appreciation! Will you be watching? What do you think about the fan who returned Jeter’s baseball?


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