Five Rules to Sane, Empowered Entertainment Fandom

There are so many problematic faves.

Will Leitch

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My son William is a Cleveland Browns fan. He cheers for the Browns — who play in a town that’s exactly 703 miles from our house in Athens, Georgia — because his favorite player is former Bulldog Nick Chubb, and Chubb plays for the Browns. He’s such a big fan of the (perpetually beleaguered) franchise now that he requested Santa’s big gift last year to be a trip to Cleveland for a Browns game, making him the first Southern kid in memory to want his vacation to be in the Rust Belt.

We did have a grand time, though.

After that trip, he’ll be a Browns fan for life. Which is why it was tough when the Browns — in need of an upgrade at quarterback — traded for DeShaun Watson, a terrific player who had been accused by literal dozens of women of sexual assault and harassment and was facing a substantial suspension from the NFL. They didn’t just trade for him: They gave him the biggest contract in NFL history. They didn’t care about the looming suspension, or the accusations, or any of it. They just wanted to win. They were willing to do whatever it took.

This was a hard thing to explain to my 10-year-old son, for a variety of reasons. I am trying to raise him to be not just a thoughtful person, but a kind one, and one that has a healthy respect for women (and humanity, really) that Watson so obviously lacks. Was he wrong to be cheering for the Browns? Should he feel bad wanting them to win if Watson is their quarterback? Should he root for another team?

We ultimately landed on that it was OK to root for the Browns, even if Watson is the quarterback who leads them to their ever-elusive Super Bowl. Our discussion led me to try to come up with five solid guiding principles about fandom, whether it’s sports fandom or, as they say in the world of entertainment, your “problematic faves.” How do you enjoy entertainment, even entertainment produced by less than savory humans, without losing your soul?

Here are five principles:

  1. Finding a perfect avatar for fandom is impossible

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Will Leitch

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com