Fanaticus Dramaticus: The Rage Page

November 23, 2015
Stadium Journey with Fanaticus

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Last month I was interviewed for the website Stadium Journey by the funny and knowledgeable Jon Hart. Here’s the Q and A we did.  Stadium Journey is a great resource for sports fans. Click here for the entire piece.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

What inspired you to write the book? How long was the entire process? How many places did you visit?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

I was inspired by some rabid fans from the Ohio State University who trolled me online when they didn’t appreciate a story I was reporting. The online insults, hateful messages and menacing threats got me wondering about what drives people to these depths. That happened in the spring of 2011, and the book came out in spring of 2015.

I went to a myriad of places and events, from the BCS National Championship Game to a 3rd grade girls basketball game where the focus was more on post-game snacks than anything else. I checked out MLS soccer in the Pacific Northwest, crazy Cubs fan at a favorite Chi-Town hang out, the University of Missouri and University of Oregon student sections. I reported from behind the scenes on game day at an Oakland Raiders game. I grabbed my passport and visited soccer hooligans in England, Belgium and France. But really, that’s my life, I am always on the road for ESPN for some sort of sports world adventure. Producing for ESPN has taken me to all 50 states and every continent but Antarctica. When I am not working, strangely enough, I find myself doing what I do for work: Traveling and going to sporting events.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

Were you inspired at all by the classic book, Among The Thugs? How has fandom evolved or devolved since the advent of the internet and social media?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

I read that book years ago as I recall for the book club I belonged to about 20 years ago and loved it. So I was thrilled that the author Bill Buford consented to an interview with me for Fanaticus. When I would tell people about the book I was working on, people uniformly responded with their love for Buford’s book. I knew then I was on to something with my topic.

We walk around now with incredible computing power in our hands that is only getting faster and faster. What that means is fans are privy to more real time information, personalized content delivery and souped-up storytelling at our finger tips than ever before which makes this a great time to be a fan. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, fans also can reach out and communicate directly with their favorite athletes. But there’s a bit of a dark side to all of this. Athletes and their families have been bombarded with vitriol and death threats on Twitter when they screw up a key play. Look at the fan reaction to the Michigan punter whose botched punt lead to Michigan State’s comeback and victory. One fan took to Twitter to suggest it was time for the punter to start chugging bleach. Bad fan behavior gets memorialized online. Outrageous acts like running onto the field, often egged on by the social media conversation make for good internet fodder. Fights at the stadium are YouTube and Vine staples. Those seeking attention can be rewarded with plenty of it thanks to the viral appeal of their acts.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

Which places had the worst fans? Who were the most repugnant? Scariest moment for you?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

My scariest and most repugnant moments were virtual. I’ve had a couple times where I’ve found myself wandering thru a stadium parking lot by myself during a game or post game and have felt vulnerable as there can be a menacing vibe. People are often drunk, emotions run raw once the game has ended and there’s not a lot of security around. I’ve found since Fanaticus came out, readers like to lobby me with their vote for the worst fans out there. Hint: Lots of votes for fans from a certain SEC school whose unofficial third color is hounds tooth.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

Were there any particularly pleasant fans? If so, which stand out?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

Most fans are fun loving, welcoming, clever as hell, and just want to talk your ear off about their team. I loved the Italian Ultras I met who not only wanted to share their fandom with me, they wanted to share their culture and heritage. It was all intertwined and by the end of their afternoon together, I felt as though I had made friends for life and would always have a home cooked Tuscan meal waiting for me whenever I was in town. Since Fanaticus’ release, several folks from Ohio have reached out to apologize on behalf of their fan base. I received a much more positive response than I had imagined from that neck of the woods.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

If you had to name two or three venues that a fan must visit, which would they be? Why?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

Partial to AT & T Park here in San Francisco because the location is stunning. Just bring a jacket. I’m a city girl, and I love heading to a ballpark, arena or stadium that is located in the heart of a downtown and not having to drive out to the suburbs. If I am feeling really energetic, I could walk to a Giants game from my house but usually I opt for public transportation. Lambeau Field because of the history and the cheesehead vibe -bring your thermals. Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud hens, love a good minor league ballpark experience. It’s fun, chill and wacky in ways that other sporting events are not. Full disclosure: I’m doing a book event there on Monday November 9th.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

Did any venues stand out as having particularly fine food and beverage?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

When I first got to the Bay Area, I was thrilled to find veggie dogs and burgers at both ballparks. But by now, most ballparks have gotten on the veg bandwagon. When I am working at a venue, I try to bring my own healthy food. One of my cameramen consistently teases me about my rabbit food. Press box food is never a great option, and there’s never time to sample the more gourmet choices available on the concourse. When I am attending as a fan, most good microbrew ales make me happy.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

You grew up in New York City, which teams did you root for? How intense is fandom in NYC as compared to the rest of the country?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

Lets go Mets! It’s so exciting to be a relevant team once again. Giants, Rangers, Knicks. No one would ever label New Yorkers as mellow about anything much less sports. With so many teams to choose from and so much media coverage, passions percolate deeply. Now that I live on the West Coast, often the last thing I do before I go to bed is check the back page headlines of the New York tabs.

STADIUM JOURNEY:

What’s next for you? More writing, another book?

JUSTINE GUBAR:

I’m still producing for ESPN with a number of big investigative stories in the hopper. Since Fanaticus came out, people from all over reach out to me with their own experiences of fandom and I’m collecting some great anecdotes for a potential Fanaticus Part 2. I also have an idea for a pretty great non-sports book.