FanSided Fan of the Year Finalists

Meet our four finalists for FanSided Fan of the Year, one of whom will be winning our Grand Prize — a two-night stay at Wynn Las Vegas and roundtrip airfare.

We’re all fans of something. Here at FanSided, that fan spirit is what brings us to work every day, working to connect your fan communities with the stories that get you excited. Fandom binds us all together and that is why we’re excited to share our finalists for the 2021 FanSided Fan of the Year.

Check back on Nov. 9 to find out who wins our grand prize!

Meet the finalists for FanSided’s 2021 Fan of the Year

Dave Colon has been a diehard Cleveland Browns fan for most of his life, but his path to fandom is as battle-tested as it is unique.

“So my family moved to Ohio when I was about 12, actually like, two months before 9/11. I started becoming a Browns fan a couple years into being in Ohio, probably 2003,” Colon told FanSided.

Colon’s arrival in Northeast Ohio from New York came around the same time as the Butch Davis-led team made the 2002 AFC playoffs. This was an expansion-era team brought back to life in 1999. It would take another 18 years before Cleveland tasted meaningful January football again, but Colon quickly became immersed in Browns’ culture.

“Yeah, it was shortly after that. Like I said, I was coming from New York, New York teams. Growing up seeing the Yankees, seeing the Knicks. It’s funny. I used to kind of make fun of my friends. ‘Why do you like the Browns? They suck. They’re terrible.’ But just being around the community, being around the people in Ohio and just how diehard they are for the Browns, I guess you can say the fanbase really made me fall in love with the team.”

Win or lose, Browns fans know how to have a good time. No matter how well the team performs (or not), the passion for this fanbase emanates from one crazy tailgate after another.

“Oh, oh, big time. Especially now being an adult”, said Colon on the tailgating component of Browns fandom. “Being able to drink now at the tailgates. Yeah, the tailgating is second to none. For a while, the Browns were bad. It was almost like the tailgates were the big thing to look forward to and the Browns were just kind of there to watch.”

“As for the atmosphere, wherever you go tailgating, the community lots are big here in Cleveland, it’s phenomenal. The 1 o’clock games, 6 am, you see cars pulling in there, fans barbecuing, getting ready for the game for five hours. It’s just insane and how crazily loyal these fans are.”

As Colon said, this is a community thing. Being a Browns fan transcends winning and losing. It’s about being forever hopeful and being grateful for even the smallest of blessings a bad team ever hope to provide. After nearly two decades of ineptitude, the Browns are finally good again, and it is something Colon does not take lightly.

“Oh, for sure. The Browns have been the laughingstock of the league for the last two decades. Now they’re having success. Even being 4-4, we’re still hopeful. The fanbase here, they’re out of their mind. We’re thinking playoffs every year now.”

From being all-in on the Johnny Manziel draft pick, to the two seasons that resulted in one glorious win under Hue Jackson, Colon maintains the faith in his beloved football team. He still has his Manziel jersey, but believes his favorite player Nick Chubb will take his club to the promised land.

“I think that my story is unique. Coming from New York to Cleveland and rooting for a team that never won anything. I rooted for them in the lowest of lows. I’m riding with them at the highest of highs. I just think it’s pretty unheard of for someone to just jump on the Browns bandwagon, especially when they were so bad. So I think it makes me a unique fan. My love for the Browns is a very close second to my wife.”

For those who are hopping on the Browns bandwagon over the last two years, Colon doesn’t mind. He welcomes anyone and everyone who wants to cheer for the Browns to do so, but get ready for the ride.

In discovering his unconventional path towards Browns’ fandom, there are a few things we can learn from Dave’s journey.

The first is it doesn’t matter when you become a fan of something. It’s about being passionate through the good times and bad.

The second is it’s not about you, or even the team you cheer for. It’s about the experiences you have along the way, hopefully, with the many great people you meet on this football journey of a lifetime.

And finally, it is about being forever hopeful. If you are going to be invested in something for the long haul, you must have faith. Scraping along at rock bottom will be bad throughout. However, when things start to change for the better, being that emotionally and financially invested makes all the sacrifices that much more worthwhile.

From 0-16, to beating the snot out of Pittsburgh in the playoffs to end their season, it’s great to see a guy like Dave have his 20-year investment finally paying out in dividends.

This is what fandom is all about.

John Buhler, FanSided Staff Writer

Janet Morgan was having a hard time.

Who wasn’t? The COVID-19 pandemic had brought the world to a standstill. Everything was uncertain. Life as we knew it was changed.

Sports fans felt the pandemic in their own unique way. First, there was the disappointment of seasons canceled and delayed. Then, the elation of their return.

It’s a good thing too because Janet was struggling…

And then there was Orioles baseball.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about Janet Morgan: She loves her Orioles. She bores her friends with conversations about them. She takes teasing from a man at a local store over them. She groans at the idea of naming a favorite player.

“I love them all,” Morgan says over the phone, her voice conveying the genuine truth of that statement.

She gets frustrated by trades because it means losing one of her “guys.” Then, in comes some stranger replacing him in that Baltimore jersey. How is she supposed to feel about that?

“It takes about five seconds for me to fall in love with the new guy,” she laughs.

Here’s the next thing you need to know about Janet Morgan: Despite being in her late 60s, she’s a relatively young baseball fan. In truth, she’s only closely followed the sport since 2018 and the Orioles since 2019.

Her brother introduced her to Oregon State baseball first. It was through the Beavers that she grew attached to College World Series phenom and Pac-12 Player of the Year Adley Rutschman. When Baltimore drafted Rutschman to be their catcher of the future with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, they got Morgan as well.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking she is a bandwagon fan. First of all, the Orioles are immune to that phenomenon, finishing bottom of the AL East four times in the last five years. Morgan isn’t attracted to winning, though she earnestly believes it’s coming. “I think they’re going to start kicking some butt,” she says.

She’s all about the team, win or lose. And there’s been plenty of the latter. They’ve lost 253 games since she came on board. She couldn’t even watch games when she first started following the team. Without cable and living in Oregon with no local coverage of Baltimore’s struggling baseball team, she’d pull up MLB.com’s GameDay tracker and follow along as the balls and strikes appeared on the graphic.

When her younger brother gifted a subscription to MLB.TV, it changed everything. Finally, she could see these human beings who would become her “guys”. Her “boys” playing the sport they loved. Playing what she had come to love. The connection was instant.

Every sports fan knows that feeling of emotional investment. That’s when they’ve got you hooked. And Morgan is definitely hooked.

But she is also an Orioles fan, which means winning isn’t always part of the equation. There’s frustration, sure. When a pitcher throws a wild pitch, Morgan is right there shouting about it. All the more positive elements of sports —effort, togetherness, joy— are also there. They’re the things that matter to Morgan.

“These boys, they never give up,” she says. “You can see it in the way they play. It’s so inspiring.”

So when the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the 2020 MLB season, it also threatened to take away the ray of excitement that the Orioles had become to her.

“Oh come on, I just found you guys, you can’t do this to me,” Morgan said to herself.

It didn’t help that she was dealing with physical ailments and the disheartening reality of aging. When you can’t be as active as you once were, it weighs on you, not just physically but emotionally.

“Everybody has needed to find something to carry them through, to give them hope,” Morgan says. “For me, it was baseball.”

MLB did come back in 2020 and Morgan watched closely as Cedric Mullens and the Orioles tried their best in a losing season. She always looked forward to “her boys” doing better on the next pitch, the next swing, the next game. And she continued watching in 2021, as they went 52-110. And she’ll be watching next season and the season after that, looking forward to the day when Adley Rutschman gets his chance in the big leagues.

Maybe one day she’ll get to watch him catch for Baltimore at Camden Yards along with all of the other players who have become fixtures in her life. For now, she’s in her “own little Orioles world.”

At 67-years-old, Morgan is new to the Orioles fandom but she’s a shining example of what it means to be a fan. It’s all about passion, no matter your age, proximity to your team or how long you’ve worn the colors. She’s entered a new phase of her life and the Orioles are helping her to live it to the fullest. It’s an example she hopes others will follow.

“Find something you can be passionate about,” she urges. “Find the passion again. It’s never too late.”

Janet Morgan is living proof of all that.

She doesn’t have the most years under her belt or the most memorabilia. She’s not a season ticket holder. She’s never been to a game. She’s no less of a fan because the way she cares about the players matches up with the best of them.

In fact, she’s the fan for this time. Truly and irrevocably connected despite the distance and the isolation. She loves her Orioles against all the odds.

Alicia de Artola, FanSided Staff Writer

Part of being a fan is professing love for one’s team, a tradition many fans heed fervently. Fans find a multitude of ways to defend their franchise off the field, as seen on television, detailed in blog posts, and scribbled over social media.

But few ever defend football as poetically as Jeremy Kamps.

On the surface, Kamps may seem like a non-traditional football fan. He’s an NYU-educated New York City playwright who has traveled the world and found inspiration all over.

But for any who doubt Kamps’ authentic fandom need only look to the stage at Kamps’ original production, “Breitwisch Farm.”

While “Breitwisch Farm” is a creative retelling of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”, Kamps’ play sets the scene in his home state of Wisconsin. While the Packers aren’t the central focus of the play, the character’s arc is told over the course of the season. As it has in his own life, the Packers serve as an undercurrent to the characters’ stories.

“What I love about sports is the story,” Kamps said. “I could teach a whole course on playwriting and screenwriting using football and how that employs dramatic tension.”

Kamps offered insight into how he envisions football through a theatrical lens.

“The play-by-play piece to it is unique. Football is almost structured like a scene in a full-length play or a feature film. The quarters are like acts,” Kamps explained, lighting up at the question.

The clock signifies the time element necessary for dramatic tension. Unlike other sports, football relies on specialized players on offense, defense and special teams, which prevents quarterbacks from vindicating themselves after game-losing interceptions. The persistent notion of “any given Sunday” gives fans unlikely heroes as they fell formidable villains.

Kamps then circles back to a tenet of playwriting, noting that in any conversation between two characters, there is never a clearly moral “right” or “wrong” — otherwise, what would be the point of the scene?

“What makes [the scene] work is that it could be this, or it could be that, and I think that’s the quality of competition in the NFL,” Kamps said. “The stakes are always super high, which is what you want in dramatic writing.”

Although Kamps fused his Packer love into his off-Broadway production, if he could write a play focused on a moment in Packer history, it would be “the Favre fall from grace.”

In grad school, Kamps wrote a paper on tragic structure centered around Favre and the element of hubris.

“He could not stop playing, the same way a poet feels about their work and can’t stop seeing, ‘Who am I if I don’t write poetry?’ I can relate in that way.”

Kamps grew up in Wisconsin in the 1980s, a starkly different era for Packer fans than the contemporary cheeseheads spoiled by Aaron Rodgers’ playoff berths. Kamps’ mother was an English teacher and his father was an art teacher, which clarifies why Kamps was inspired to write plays.

But no one in Kamps’ household was a sports fan, a detail that mattered more in the era of single-television households. The Kamps children could only watch dinner after 7 p.m., and his teenage sisters dominated television time with “Facts of Life.” Kamps, whose first sports memory was at age 6 when the Milwaukee Brewers won the World Series, discovered the Packers and endeavored to watch them whenever he could. A young Kamps would throw tantrums if he didn’t get to watch the Packers play on Sunday afternoons that were also filled with church and family dinners.

Kamps’ childhood fandom was so intense, in fact, that he won a Fan of the Month Award — as a Milwaukee Bucks fan. He has a framed photo standing beside Sidney Moncrief hanging on a wall of family portraits.

“I wore a Packer jersey to my first day of school in kindergarten, first grade and second grade. I still have the jersey and am saving it for my two-year-old son,” Kamps wrote in his Fan of the Year testimony.

Kamps marked the moments in his life touched by Packer history.

“I forced my parents to drive three hours to Packer summer training in De Pere, WI and I got James Lofton’s autograph on a manila envelope which I framed and put on my wall,” he wrote. “I believed, at one point, that Randy Wright would turn the franchise around. Then, I believed that Don Majkowski was going to be the next Elway. I was at the pre-season game at Camp Randall stadium where Favre first took the field as a Packer. He ran out to be the holder for the extra point and then came running back to the sideline because he forgot to put his helmet on. I said, who is that guy?  And then…

“I watched every minute of all our losses to the Cowboys in the ’90s including the time Aikman was injured and backup Jason Garrett still torched us. I saw God heal Reggie White.”

Around the time Brett Favre transformed the franchise, Kamps moved to New York City to pursue his dream of playwriting. In a time before the Internet was as widespread, New York City was unique in offering hole-in-the-wall havens for Midwestern ex-pats longing for home.

For football fans, that meant finding a sports bar dedicated to your team.

Kamps stumbled across a Packer bar called Kettle of Fish, a Greenwich Village spot that “welcomes all, from Beat poets to Packer fans.” Kamps and two dozen other Packers would celebrate scores with Polka and chanting “Bears Still Suck.” Cheese and sausage was served on paper plates, the same way it was back home.

In 2010, Kamps made a deal with God, asking for a Super Bowl Championship. When he saw Favre play for the Vikings, he sat at the bar and ordered a cup of Spite, not Sprite. God answered his prayers, giving Kamps two Super Bowls to enjoy over his lifetime.

In the religion of sports, the ultimate test of devotion is the ability to convert non-believers to join you in faith. Kamps has successfully converted his wife and mother into full-fledged Packers fans. His wife Trixie is now “a crazed fan who treats the second quarter of Week Two as if it’s the final play of a tied Super Bowl,” Kamps said. “We’re so in love.”

The woman who once made Kamps wait for football until after Sunday dinner now can’t wait for the next game, a transformation Kamps never expected from his mother. He believes that after all these years, the woman who saw life through the language arts now sees what Kamps has seen his whole life.

The tormented, delirious, joyful drama that is watching American football.

Aryanna Prasad, FanSided Associate Editor

Annette Keeter will tell you she was “born this way.”

For a brief moment, you might think she’s using an idiom until you realize she’s telling the truth. From her earliest moments, Keeter has bled red and gold as a true lifelong member of Chiefs Kingdom.

“When I say that, it literally is true,” says Keeter. “My grandparents had season tickets, but if it was an away game, they would watch me, because even as a toddler, as a Chiefs fan, they could sit me on the ground and I would literally sit there for two-and-a-half or three hours and watch the game. If they changed it, I would throw a fit. Even if it was a different football game, I would throw a fit.”

In elementary school, her fandom made her a Little Chiefette — a sort of team mini-cheerleader that meant donning a “Chiefette” jacket she still has to this day. These days, she’s added considerable attire to her game-day get-up and she says getting ready is an entire process steeped in her pregame superstitions (which also includes drinking from the same cup, sitting in the same seats at home during road games, and more) .

“I get dressed the exact same way, and I wear the exact same thing to every game,” says Keeter. “My right shoe is always red. My left shoe is yellow. My earrings, the left one has a harder back to put on so that’s in my left ear. My socks have a left and right on them, which is weird because they’re socks, but I had them on the wrong feet, so now they’re always on the wrong feet — which is the right feet!”

For years, Keeter, who works as Associate Director of Operations for Concentra, an occupational health care provider in Kansas City, was forced to travel for her job but in 2019 that changed. Given her ability to be present all season long at Arrowhead Stadium, she bought season tickets for the first time. That year, of course, featured the first Chiefs championship in 50 years.

“I think Kansas City is the heart of America. I feel like we’ve always had great fans. I feel like lately some of that hasn’t always been in the limelight, and it’s my duty to at least make sure people understand that Arrowhead’s a great place and Kansas City is a great place and thefts are amazing. If it starts with a couple sharing that all the time, then that’s what we need to do. “

This Chiefs’ season hasn’t started out so well, but Keeter is keeping the faith. She’s been a fan through the difficult times, so she knows a thing or two about keeping her head up while watching a frustrating team. “I’ve never given up on them,” she says. “I’ve been a fan for 46 years. The first 43 of my life were, to be honest, not the best. You’d get to that first playoff game and then you’re done. Our favorite saying for years was, ‘There’s always next year.’”

If that means drinking from the same cup (she does), sitting in the same seat (that, too), or getting to the parking lot at the same time each week (you’d better believe it), Keeter is doing anything she can to rally Chiefs Kingdom. She’s an unofficial welcome wagon outside the stadium, and you can often see her in the aisles trying to get fans fired up. She’s even sticking with the same unwashed Patrick Mahomes jersey that’s never been washed (although she does “Febreze it”)..

“I’m still doing my part this year,” says Keeter. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s not my fault. It is not me. It is someone else.”

— Matt Conner, Arrowhead Addict Editor

Source: FanSided

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