The NBA and NHL allow only 16 teams into their playoffs. It’s an exclusive club.
But not as exclusive as the club of playoff fans. There are only nine kinds of playoff fans. Here they are.
The Freak-Out Fan
Every twist and turn of a playoff series propels this fan on an emotional roller coaster.
Lose a game? “[Head coach] should be FIRED after this season! And the roster needs a major overhaul! Trade them all! What a bunch of chokers. They can’t win when it matters! I’m so sick of this team!”
Win the very next game? “There is no team that can beat this team when they’re playing at their best! No one! This is going to be the year they win it all! I love these guys!”
The Freak-Out Fan’s mood is dictated by his team’s fortunes for the entirety of its playoff stay, whether it lasts one week or two months. A win has the Freak-Out Fan acting jovially with friends and family and productive at work. He believes the world is full of possibilities! A loss will see him turn surly and depressed, snapping at anyone who annoys him (which will be everyone).
Pity the Freak-Out Fan’s dog. During bad games it hides, fearful of a sudden and unprovoked kick to the ribs. Good games aren’t much better, as the dog’s naps are frequently interrupted by its owner’s shrieking screams of joy. One day the floor is strewn with pieces of a broken glass or vase that was hurled at the wall; the next, the house is tidy with everything in its place, fresh flowers on the table. The Freak-Out Fan’s dog thinks its owner is insane.
In a different life, the Freak-Out Fan would be a terrible head coach whose emotional swings would destabilize his team. In yet another life, he would be the highest-rated sports talk radio show host in the city.
The Overly Positive Problem Denier
As volatile as the Freak-Out Fan is, the Overly Positive Problem Denier is that calm. Nothing causes this fan to worry.
Get crushed in two games on the road? “Nothing to worry about. A playoff series doesn’t start until you lose a game at home.”
Star player injured? “They’ll be fine. Someone just has to step up. This is how the playoffs work.”
The team fights in the locker room? “I love that they’re showing passion. They just want to win.”
Swept in humiliating fashion in four games? “They will be better next year because of this. This was a learning experience. It was for the best. Next year I think they will be the team to beat.”
Cut the Overly Positive Problem Denier and pure sunshine pours out of his veins.
“Remember, it’s an accomplishment just to make the playoffs!” he can be heard exclaiming right after his team is eliminated, and just before he is punched by the Freak-Out Fan.
The Always Negative Buzzkill Fan
He’s the yin to the Overly Positive Problem Denier’s yang. Nothing makes this fan happy.
Crush the opponent in two games at home? “Nothing to get excited about. Blowout wins are worth as much as one-point wins, and it means zero if they don’t win a game on the road.”
Win a series and advance? “I’m not sure the better team even won. If they don’t play a lot better in the next round, they’re going to get killed.”
Win the championship? “Good for them, but truly great teams are measured by winning back-to-back titles. And this team is getting older and has a lot of free agents. Enjoy this, because next year is going to be ugly.”
The Always Negative Buzzkill Fan has few friends and a basement stocked with canned goods for the impending apocalypse.
The “I Told You” Fan
This fan claims he predicted any and every playoff outcome.
“Remember how I said that [champion] was going to be good back in November? Nailed it.”
“Remember how I said that [loser] was overrated? You have to admit I called that one.”
And maybe he did call it. Who knows. Everyone stopped paying attention to this guy years ago. When you throw the amount of crap at the wall that he does, some of it will stick. It doesn’t change the fact that his house is full of crap.
The Conspiracy Theory Fan
The Conspiracy Theory Fan knows there is a vast, leaguewide plot to make his team lose. And it goes all the way to the top!
Did his team get blown out and have countless turnovers and mental mistakes? Yes, but to the Conspiracy Theory Fan, the whole game turned on that questionable no-call 38 seconds into the game.
The referees hate his team. The commissioner hates his team. Even the broadcasters hate his team. And everyone who denies it is in on the conspiracy! No one can know how far this thing goes!
And don’t try to argue with the Conspiracy Theory Fan using facts.
“The stat sheet says you actually got more calls in that game.”
“Yeah. That’s exactly what someone running a conspiracy would do: make it seem like it was fair. They knew I was onto them.”
The Hater Fan
The Hater Fan watches the playoffs simply to root against teams, athletes, coaches and cities he dislikes. The more he watches, the more he grows to dislike those he was impartial to at the beginning.
“I didn’t know much about these guys before, but now that I see them play, they’re a bunch of whiners. I hope they lose.”
Much to his chagrin, the championship round always features two teams he wants to see lose. “Just my luck,” thinks the Hater Fan, not realizing it’s because he hates everything.
The Playoffs Parachute Expert
This fan hardly watched any of the regular season, but he’s dropped in for the playoffs and, after seeing a game or two, he’s fairly certain he’s an expert.
Did he ever hear of Klay Thompson before last week? No, he did not. But that won’t stop him from opining on why the Warriors need to get him the ball more. Did he know Tomas Vokoun was on the Penguins before Thursday? Nope. But ask him why Vokoun should start in goal for the remainder of the playoffs. He’s got a whole list of reasons.
The Playoffs Parachute Expert is an annoying poseur, but the sad thing is that his opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s, because the playoffs rarely make any sense.
The Derrick Rose is one of the best players in his sport, but he doesn’t feel mentally ready to play. So he sits in a nice suit in the best seat in the whole arena. The Derrick Rose is talked about and written about more than any other fan. The Derrick Rose is Derrick Rose.
The Unencumbered Fan
The Unencumbered Fan watches playoff games simply because he enjoys sports. If he’s tired and doesn’t feel like staying up to watch every game to its conclusion, he goes to bed. If he has other plans or wants to go outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather, he may miss an entire night of playoff games.
He is happy. Rested. Free.
He is not prone to the crushing neurosis affecting the fans of playoff teams, because his favorite team didn’t make the playoffs.
Pity the poor Unencumbered Fan.