808s & Fast Breaks: Sports and music fans have plenty in common

The past editions of this column have mainly focused on commonalities between sports and music through the nature of certain industry practices. But one thing I’ve noticed over the past few weeks is that one of the most common elements between music and sports is the behavior of fans. 

One of my roommates helped bring me to this revelation when he burst into our apartment and announced, “This ‘Jesus Is King’ album is growing on me.”

I, as the curious journalist I am, responded by asking what exact aspects of the album have grown on him. The living room fell silent for a comically long amount of time, with the only background noise being an obsolete Cardinal Gardens air conditioner and the commentary of a Brooklyn Nets versus New Orleans Pelicans game.

A late-game dunk from Nets center Jarrett Allen, followed by the realization that my Pelicans were en route to becoming 1-6, halted my laughter and made me understand just how similar my roommate and I were in that moment.

He had been so blinded by his fandom of Kanye West’s music that “Closed on Sunday / you my Chick-fil-A / You’re my number one / with the lemonade,” was a hook he was willing to wholeheartedly defend. 

And I was no better. I had watched enough Brandon Ingram highlights to convince myself that a team ranked second-to-last in defensive rating could somehow sneak its way into the playoffs. 

This singular parallel made me more observant toward any other possible similarities between the two fan groups, and what I found was that the groups are nearly identical in their respective adorations. 

One of my most prominent observations was that fans of music and sports find strong sentiments in certain performances that outsiders could never truly understand. 

The term “cult classic” — to be obscure or unpopular with mainstream audiences and often revolutionary or ironically enjoyed — comes to mind for music fans despite it usually pertaining to film. 

For example, in 2013, Justin Bieber released “Journals,” and music critics saw it as nothing special; the Chicago Tribune gave the project two out of four stars and encouraged Bieber to take a break from music altogether. 

Meanwhile, the album has a 97% user approval on Google and 4.9 out of five rating on Amazon Music. Fans of the album, myself proudly included, enjoy the project despite what mainstream critic reviews have to say.

The same goes for sports, as fans find themselves forever attached to a particular season or roster even if the end result isn’t one the average observer would appreciate. 

Think of Golden State fans’ attachment to the “We Believe” Warriors. Despite Golden State having one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history and arguably the most talented roster ever in the ‘17-18 season, a majority of real (emphasis on real) Warriors fans will refer to the ‘06-07 team as their personal favorite bunch. 

A roster of misfits and castaways managed to barely make the playoffs and defeat the No. 1 ranked team in the NBA. 

That’s it. 

They didn’t win a championship, and main pieces like Baron Davis and Jason Richardson were gone the very next year. Analysts don’t ever mention the team as an all-time great, but that ‘06-07 group will forever hold a special place in the heart of any real (again, emphasis on real) Warriors fan’s heart, evidenced by Golden State playing their last home game in Oracle Arena in the uniforms that the “We Believe” team made famous.

Aside from attachments to unheralded performances and sharing in denial of poor ones, music and sports fans share in many more similar elements, like excitement toward music snippets and workout videos and their pride in being fans before their idols’ successes. The last element I want to highlight, though, is the pretentious nature of certain fans in both demographics. 

For example, I have been a fan of J. Cole since George W. Bush was president, but talking to a fellow Cole fan is like sitting in a Marshall School of Business class — every word is carefully uttered to let you know that they’re better than their peers.

The same goes for Patriots fans, Lakers fans and fans of any other storied sports franchise. They have been spoiled by sustained excellence to the point where they feel entitled to a championship every few years, and any team that hasn’t beaten their team in meaningful postseason play is cast aside as basically a minor league team. 

Regardless of whether they’re engaging in music or sports, fans are fans and they have more in common than most would think. 

Taj Mayfield is a sophomore writing about the connections between music and sports. His column, “808s & Fast Breaks,” runs every other Friday.