As I read a lot of the sports discussions that go on, it's become clear to me that a lot of people don't know the first thing about being a real, knowledgeable fan. I'm here to remedy that with a simple set of rules that everyone should follow if he or she wants to be a "real" fan. Please note that these rules can be amended at any time:
1. You don't own the damn team. What this means is it's not "your" team. That's probably a good thing, too. If you actually did own the team, they probably would suck and no one would come see your games. It is never okay to refer to the team just as "your" team unless you actually own them. Note, however, that it is acceptable to describe a team as "our" team and add in an adjective such as "beloved", "unstoppable", "awesome", or "sucky" to describe them:
"Our unstoppable Patriots win yet again."
"When will our beloved Browns make the playoffs?"
"Some day, our sucky Dolphins will hopefully not look quite so sucky."
Still, such terms should be used sparingly, lest you look like a douchebag.
2. You're not on the team. They scored, not you. In fact, you will never be on the team. You're too small, weak, probably fat, and not athletic enough to make the team, otherwise you would actually be on the team. "We" did not score. They scored. Acting like you're on the team just makes you look stupid.
Note, that there is exactly one exception to this rule: if a player or team specifically dedicates a game or their season to you, you are on their team. Examples include the terminally ill child Braylon Edwards dedicated his games to (who, unfortunately, has since passed away) in a previous season, or Sean Taylor's family. In this instance, and this instance only, it is perfectly acceptable to say things such as "we scored", "we won", or "we lost".
3. You may only be a fan of the teams in your city or state with the following exceptions:
A. You lived in a particular location for a minimum of five (5) years,
B. Your parents were legitimate fans of another team (let's face it, children are gullible and stupid),
C. You personally attended that school or university (in the case of college teams) for a minimum of one (1) year,
D. You played sports for a minimum of one (1) season on the team in question,
E. The city or team personally insults you or its city in some grave way (such as by moving away, or when Cal Ripken refused to sign an autograph for me as a child. Had I been living in Maryland, this would have been a legitimate cause for changing fan loyalty)
F. An immediate family member or an extended family member of no further relation than first cousin plays for the team in question (for instance, my cousin played quarterback for Northern Illinois)
G. Should there be no suitable teams for a particular league in your state, and you can make no other claims to a team as illustrated above, you may select a suitable team from a state that borders yours. Should there be no team that fits the criteria, you are then free to select any team you choose.
4. Bringing up dominance of your city's teams in other sports just to rub in a victory is a douchebag tactic. In such a case, retribution should be considered both expected and justified. A classic example is the entire city of Boston.
5. You may not be a fan of more than one team in each league in each sport at a time. If you root for more than one NFL team, you are not a fan of either. Rooting for your city's NFL, MLB, and NBA teams is, of course, strongly encouraged.
6. If one team is doing poorly but the other teams you are a fan of have won championships within the last five (5) years, you are not, under any circumstances, allowed to bitch. For example, if the Patriots do not win the Super Bowl, Boston fans are not allowed to bitch about it because the Celtics won the NBA title this past season. Such a win will keep for the full five (5) years, at which point Boston fans are again allowed to bitch about the supposed "misfortune" of one of the teams they root for if no one else wins a championship during that time.
7. You must have at least a passing knowledge of the teams of which you are a fan. Such knowledge should include, at a minimum, the knowledge of the names and general ability of at least half of the starters on the team in question (in the case of football, offensive linemen are exempt from this). Such knowledge should also include any great or particularly memorable moments or people in the history of the team in question. For example, any Cleveland fan should, at the minimum, have a passing knowledge of the following: Jim Brown, Art Modell, Rocky Colavito, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Catch, The Error, and The Sweep.
8. You must make every legitimate attempt to watch or at least listen to at least half of any team's games of which you are a fan. For example, if you are at work while a game is going on, you should make every attempt to find a way to watch or listen to any part of the game you can, or at least question others as to the current status of the game. If for some reason you are in a position where you cannot obtain any information about a game while it goes on, you must make every legitimate attempt to obtain information about the game as soon as you can. Such examples could include asking a friend, watching Sportscenter, looking up the outcome of the game on the Internet, or consulting your local newspaper the following day.
9. If you are watching a game, whether it be on TV or in person, for more than one hour, you must eat and drink at least one edible item each over the course of the game.
10. Witholding promises or favors owed to another person (especially sex) due to the outcome of a game is not acceptable.
11. Turning off the television or leaving a game because the outcome is apparently decided is not permitted. Emergencies are, of course, acceptable.
12. Trash talk between fans of rival teams is encouraged, so long as all trash talk is both:
A. Solely about the team in question, and
B. Factual and/or extremely comical.
Consequences for Breaking Rules:
Rule 1 or Rule 2: You lose all rights as a human being for three (3) days in the case of a first offense, seven (7) days in the case of a second offense, and thirty (30) days for each subsequent offense. Such common punishments include taking the offender's money, house, or wife, to use as you see fit.
Rule 3, Rule 7, Rule 8, Rule 9 or Rule 11: You are no longer considered a fan until you can make a legitimate claim to being a fan of a team.
Rule 4, Rule 6, Rule 10 or Rule 12: Anything from personal insults, to stealing one (1) prized possession, to hand-to-hand combat is acceptable here.
Rule 5: You are no longer considered a fan of any of the teams in question until you make a legitimate claim to being a fan of only one team.
Any violation of the above rules while one is not actually a fan of any team is punishable as a Rule 1 or Rule 2 violation.