Sports. Fanatics. Like peanut butter and jelly.

Are you a fanatic? Do you know someone who is?

Im here this week to give you a fanatics guide. Sort of a playbook, if you will.

How it Begins

Fanatics are a special breed of sports obsessed fandom that goes above and beyond for their favorite teams. I know.

My name is Tim Clark, and I’m a sports fanatic. I’ve been a fanatic for 44 years, 8 months, 27 days, and counting.

I was watching my first USC Trojans football game on November 30, 1974. A stirring comeback versus arch rival Notre Dame. I was eight so I only vaguely understood the nuances of the actual game. However, I was hooked by the marching band, the white horse galloping around the LA Coliseum track, Anthony Davis’s touchdown knee dance, and the Song Girls…God bless the Song Girls.

My friend Scott shared he, too, was watching this game with his grandmother. His gram did her part to put the kibosh on Notre Dame that day. Scott would also become a fanatic. Maybe his gram showed him the way.

Some may not be sure if they qualify for this not terribly exclusive club. Let’s look for the signs.

Clothes

The first sign you may be a fanatic is your attire.

First, you must wear clothes that easily displays to others your allegiance to your favorite team. Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, whatever…brand doesn’t matter. Head to toe coverage is what matters.

Hats are a must. It’s sports not church so strap one on. Good hair, bad hair, it doesn’t matter. A fanatic doesn’t need an excuse to don a hat. My only rule is no flat bill caps for guys over 40. You’re a fanatic, not a twenty-something hipster.

Jerseys are great for big games, but shirts are your staple for all other occasions. You will need a bunch. Wearing the same shirt repeatedly lacks creativity, not to mention cleanliness. Short sleeve, long sleeve, sweatshirts…a fanatic is prepared for any temperature.

The same goes for below the waist. Shorts for warmer weather, wind pants or sweatpants for cooler weather.

Sneakers? Why not. I have sneakers for all of my favorite teams. They are bright, bold, and leave no doubt which teams they represent. Before you lace up your team sneakers, slip on a pair of team socks. Multiple pairs of team socks are a good idea because… feet…smelly…hey you are a fanatic, not a pig!

The biggest key to the fanatics clothes are that people in your hometown immediately recognize you based on what you are wearing. Often times these sightings are accompanied by eye rolls and snickers. Let it go. Those people don’t get it. Fellow fanatics will applaud the pride and passion you display for your team.

So if you open your closet and have trouble finding “normal” clothes, you may be on your way to claiming fanatic status.

Oh and give yourself a bonus point if you own team underwear. After a 5-7 season last year by my beloved USC Trojans, I decided I needed to do more.

✔️.

I would have modeled them, but I just don’t need the lady fanatics blowing up my phone all night.

Big Game Watching

Where do you watch the big game?

Call it a man cave if you must, but the room must leave no doubt to guests which teams you support.

There are two rules for this room:

  1. There is no such thing as too much.
  2. Tacky is okay, and in fact encouraged.

As an example, my sports room has framed pictures, posters, pennants, pillows, lamps, curtains, Terrible Towels, team balls, team tiki statues, bobble heads, and for good measure a team colored lava lamp. Clearly tacky is not even a consideration for a fanatic.

Aside from your sports room, there are many other places to earn your fanatics card.

Again, I’ll use myself as an example.

Fore!

When I hit the links I start with a team golf bag, towel, umbrella, and ball markers. In addition I use team personalized golf balls. This way when that rare shot(wink, wink) goes in the woods, pond, or someone else’s fairway people can easily identify who hit the errant shot.

Give yourself another bonus point if you like to scatter golf balls in order to spread your fanaticism.

✔️✔️.

Not only do I spread my fanaticism, but I give a shameless plug for our website and my column.

Let’s face it, they are already laughing at me because of my bag, towel, umbrella, shirt, hat…oh, did I mention my putter grip, so a little more chuckling at my expense is just fine. Fanatics don’t embarrass easily.

On the road…back at home

The car is a great place to accessorize. Seat covers, bumper stickers, window decals, license plates are absolutely fine. Furthermore, when going to the store, dropping off your kids at school, or really wherever you are going, consider it perfectly acceptable to blare your school’s fight song. Music to your ears, annoying to others. Perfect.

Back at home you can do fanatics work inside and out.

Around the outside of the house consider lawn ornaments, team flags, backyard games such as corn hole, and certainly patio chairs fanatical ideas.

Inside the house, drinking cups, salt and pepper shakers, pot holders, coasters, and blankets are great items to display your team spirit. And remember, this isn’t even your sports room. A real fanatic doesn’t limit themselves to one room of the house.

Don’t worry. I’m sure your wife will understand. She knew what she was getting when she married you, right? Of course, I am single so what do I know?

By the way, give yourself a bonus point if you plant flowers based on team colors.

✔️✔️✔️.

Game Day

This is where we separate the men from the boys.

Relax ladies. It’s just a figure of speech. You, too, can be a fanatic. Fanatics don’t discriminate. Everyone is welcome.

My friend Ang can curse a blue and white streak with the best of them during Penn State games. She is closing in on fanatic status. Scaring the bejeebers out of her husband when she does it is a big step in the right direction.

There are very few things that should keep you from watching or attending a game. Family emergency, obviously. Kids school events, yes. Birth of a child, sure. Although if you are a good planner this one can be avoided. Simply check the schedule 9 months down the road and uh…behave accordingly.

My friend Eric was put on fanatic probation a while back. He missed the start of an important Steelers game in order to do a “favor” for a friend, totally disregarding his fanatic friends who now could not properly text during the game because they didn’t want him to know the results. Unacceptable.

Eric has since regained fanatic status due to his solid rants on Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and the fact that he has abused Scott and I for being Pittsburgh Pirates fans.

Speaking of Scott, he had an interesting game day experience this past week. Before his kids went back to school, he took them to a baseball game.

Baltimore vs Kansas City.

True fanatics don’t do that to their kids. Hell, human beings don’t do that to their kids.

Scott is the most fanatical fanatic I know, so I’m going to let this one slide and assume maybe he went to the bottom desk drawer at work for the whiskey one too many times that day.

Once the game begins a fanatic will really stand out. They twist, they shout, they spasm all about, and often times, when screaming maniacally at their TV, spit will fly out of their mouth like Bill Cowher, circa mid 1990’s.

And, boy, do they ever yell at the coach. You see, fanatics think they are far superior coaches than the actual coach of the team.

This is where texting becomes important. Your fellow fanatics will commiserate with you over the game. They will complain with you about the officiating, the coaching, the players having bad games.

You CAN Make a Difference

Fanatics sit in the same place during winning streaks, they rely on rally caps, they wear lucky charms, and they will even change clothes if a game is not going as planned. It’s exactly why having only one jersey in your closet is very risky.

Fanatics have mystical powers, or so they think. It may just be that fanatics are too far gone to accept any reasonable debate over such matters.

Just like Stranger Things, They’re Among Us

My three friends mentioned above: lawyer, business owner, chemical engineer. Me, well my side gig for the last 30 years is teaching. Just in case this sports columnist thing doesn’t work out. I’m willing to bet none of our co-workers suspect we turn in to crazed lunatics when our favorite teams play a game.

As football season rushes upon us, this is the time true fanatics start their training. Scott was worked up over something in a preseason game last week. And you thought those games were just for player preparation.

In another week or so, the spit will start spraying, blood pressure will start rising, and remote controls will start flying.

It’s football season, baby.

Fanatics unite!


Two Cent Takes

~Andrew Luck is retiring. Classy Colts fans booed him off the field Saturday night. Unreal. Luck has a Stanford education. He has money. He has other interests. Plus, he doesn’t want to hurt anymore. He has his entire life in front of him, and I’m sure he prefers to go forward without being in constant pain. That doesn’t make him soft, as some moronic media members said, it makes him intelligent.

~Bad news for the Colts. The timing of the announcement definitely stinks. This close to the start of the season leaves Indianapolis with few options this side of Jacoby Brisset, and that option takes them from a playoff team to an also ran.

~One rumor blowing up Twitter was that Luck was retiring from the NFL so he could join his dad with the newly reforming Vince McMahon created XFL. As a former wrestling fan I can tell you that would be one of the great heel turns of all time.

~NFL players are dropping like flies. Preseason NFL blows.

College Football

~August football is never quality football. It never has been, and it never will be. Florida beat Miami on Saturday night in an utter slopfest of a game.

I remember attending the USC/Virginia Tech game on August 28, 2004, and having a running argument with a guy sitting in front of me. He insisted USC had no chance to contend based on what he saw that night. I explained that games in August may as well be thrown out. USC won the National Championship that year.

Playing games this early is stupid, and oh by the way, So is the slogan “Week Zero”. If the calendar doesn’t say September, then footballs shouldn’t be flying yet.

~Arizona and Hawaii looked equally sloppy. They probably just didn’t care as much because they were in Hawaii.

Another black eye for the PAC 12 to start the 2019 season, with Arizona losing to the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii. Kevin Sumlin’s stay in Arizona is looking like it will be a short one.

~The worst mystery in history ended when James Franklin named Sean Clifford his quarterback. The timing was bad. The decision seemed obvious. It gave fans and media early fodder to question Franklin. Never a good sign when the fan base is questioning you before the games start.

Golf

~Most sports hope to get their two best teams in to the finals. Golf usually doesn’t have that type of ending to their season. Thanks to the relatively new FedEx Cup Tour Championship the PGA got just that on Sunday.

The two best players in the world going at it in the final pairing in Atlanta. Brooks Koepka vs Rory McIlroy.

This quickly became a one man show. McIlroy didn’t flinch and reversed the usual trend. Typically it is Koepka who steps on his opponent’s throat. This time it was McIlroy stomping on Koepka.

~We all knew the money was huge for this final tournament. I didn’t need Dan Hicks telling me how much each putt was worth. Also, I didn’t need Paul Azinger to, well, speak.

~Phil Mickelson didn’t make the Tour Championship. He seemed okay with that.

Baseball

~Just say no to the player’s weekend uniforms. They were awful. Baseball needs to quit trying to be football. Baseball has always been a more traditional sport. Keep it that way with the uniforms.

~The Pirates played the Reds and didn’t fight, and as I’ll write about later, the Pirates can use any type of excitement.

Derek Dietrich, the fire starter from earlier this season, is now hitting .202.

 Clearly Derek Dietrich is still an idiot. White eye black in his first at bat Sunday, before going back in black for the rest of the day.

~The Philadelphia Phillies don’t have the pitching to get on a long win streak, but fortunately for them the other wildcard contenders aren’t running away from anyone. There is a lot of mediocrity in the NL wildcard race.

Corey Dickerson continues to give the Phillies a big lift.

The Phillies have a brutal 11 game road trip through Atlanta, Cleveland, and Washington starting on September 17. That’s a tough stretch for a team that will most likely need some wins to grab a playoff spot.

~One good team in the American League will be left out of the playoffs. Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Cleveland/Minnesota are playing for two wildcard spots. All are on pace for at least 94 wins.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

This looks like a man who has had enough. Yea, us too, Clint.

The Pirates aren’t just losing most nights, but rather being embarrassed.

Even when the club does something positive like invite the Little League World Series teams to the park for a game, it ends up working against them.

While interviewing one of the kids from Canada, ATT Sports Network’s Dan Potash asked the kid what he thought of PNC Park. After complimenting the park the kid hits Potash with , “Man, there’s not many people here.”

Hey, kid, welcome to the Pittsburgh Pirates world, where most nights at PNC Park you can literally hear a pin drop.

I noticed the other night they were selling 50/50 tickets. That makes sense. Every little league game you go to sells 50/50 tickets.

Despite sweeping the equally moribund Cincinnati Reds, this second half collapse is still one for the ages. Since the break the Bucs are 11-30. Their run differential is -109, and that is after a +16 this weekend.

The only teams with worse records and run differentials are all in full rebuild modes. Baltimore, Chicago(AL), Kansas City, Detroit, and Florida have all gone in to “tear down, build up” mode.

It is precisely what the Pirates need to do. I had the privilege to interview former Bucco third baseman Bill Madlock, and he noted the current Pirates aren’t just a player away, they are 4 or 5 players away. I would actually argue they are 4 or 5 pitchers away as well. It is time to quit shooting for .500.

It has been 40 years since the club’s last World Series. They are currently under the stewardship of one of the worst owners in baseball. I’m running out of ways to say it, but the first tear down should happen with this front office. Until then, fans can enjoy the fireworks and 50/50 drawings.

Hey, someone snap Clint out of his trance and tell him they drew his number.

Just my Two Cents…