I recently went to a local sporting event (lacrosse) and had a revelation: There is very little difference between a sci-fi fan at a convention and a sports fan.
A few years ago, I went to a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. I love Star Trek. I have seen just about every episode of every series. I have been a fan for years. I went to the Star Trek convention with unbridled enthusiasm. I quickly learned that I am not a Star Trek fan. Compared to the people in attendance at the Star Trek convention, I only kind of like Star Trek. There were thousands of people at the convention in various costumes. This was not an unexpected development. To the uninitiated, it looks like a strange fantasy world. Those same uninitiated see nothing wrong when fans of sports teams paint themselves the team colors or wear a block of cheese on their heads.
I got in line for a trivia contest in order to win a prize. I was approximately number 3000 in line after 30 seconds. I decided to wait in line for a little bit, to see if I had a chance. The first question was something like, “Who was the script writer for [this episode]?” There was no mention of which series, no description of the episode, just an obscure question. I thought, “Wow, what kind of a fan is going to know that? I love Star Trek and I have no idea what series this is.” The reduction of nerd status occurred when the First Nerd in line answered the question without hesitation. I waited for another question, just to see if maybe I could answer the next one. Another obscure question came from the nerd presenter and the Second Nerd answered it in 0.68 seconds (for a nerd, that is an eternity). I realized that I would not be able to answer the questions. Heck, I might not even be able to identify the words in a row as a question. I listened in rapt attention as nerd after nerd answered questions. Eventually, I got bored and decided to walk around. I walked into a woman’s restroom because the sign was in an alien language and the picture had been covered up. I finally tried to look at the convention map. 90% of the rooms were labeled with names from Star Trek episodes. That didn’t help because I didn’t know what the “Darmok” room was for (possibly getting chained to an elderly man with a knife). That was when I realized I was not really a Star Trek fan.
I saw a lecture titled “Exploring the Present Day Universe with Star Trek Technology”. It was a class taught by an astrophysics professor on how modern day technology could be used to explore the universe and what may be used in the future. I walk in and I laugh. The room is full of various aliens, but that is not why I laugh. The physics professor is in costume. He has taped glasses, a plaid jacket with elbow patches, and his pant waist was pulled to such a height that the zipper probably caught in his chest hair. He started talking and the lecture was quite interesting. About 90% through the lecture, a woman painted green seated next to me asked a question. She asked, “Will the heads of universities allow funding for space exploration?” The astrophysics professor started to answer that universities always want to advance science and technology, but the green woman interrupted. She kept saying, “Get real, Get Real” over and over. I started laughing. There I was, sitting between a Klingon and a Ferengi and an Orion slave girl was asking a question of an astrophysics professor about theoretical methods of exploring space. I think “real” got off the bus a while back.
I decided to leave the lecture and I stopped to buy the professor’s book. I started laughing out loud and exhaled the sentence “It’s not a costume” loudly. I had looked at the book jacket photo and saw the exact same outfit on the professor, with the exception that the glasses in the photo were not taped. The professor was not in costume, that was how he dressed every day. He dressed every day like he was a key character in a “Revenge of the Nerds” movie. I challenge anyone to have that revelation and not giggle. Hmm, it may be easier for some people.
One of the most popular toys that was being sold were “tribbles” that made noise and vibrated. The first time I saw one, I thought it was adorable. After hearing thousands of them make their incessant cooing sound (google “tribble sound”), I started to dislike them. I continued walking around and the sound was everywhere. I hated tribbles. I went to the hotel store and bought a tribble. Right after I paid, I shook the thing and got the cooing noise, then with a primal scream I threw it to the ground and smashed it with my foot. The store clerk looked at me with a mix of shock and horror. I looked at him and said, “You want to get in on this?” That is why, when the store manager walked in three minutes later, I and four store clerks were screaming and stomping on a tribble, I explained that I had asked the people to stomp on my merchandise and showed him my receipt. I cannot describe how pleasant it felt to stomp on a tribble.
A few years after the Star Trek convention, I went to a gun show (no, not my pickup line of inviting women to see the gun show as I flex my arms, an actual gun show). The gun show was full of obsessed people as well. People would ask “What kind of firing pin do you have in your pistol?”. The answer “the kind that makes the bullets fly away from my body instead of towards” was not correct. Take the Star trek convention crowd, dress them in camo instead of alien outfits, keep the same social ineptitude, and change the obsession from science fiction to making bits of metal fly at high velocities. It is almost the exact same crowd. It is astounding.
At sporting events, the obsession changes slightly. The fans are louder (for the most part, excluding when William Shatner walked on stage). The opinions are more heated (being around a lot of guns tends to calm people down). The obsession is almost the same. It stems from a desire to connect. Nerds, Gun Nuts, and Jocks obsess because they want to connect, share, and enjoy the same things as others. Imagine watching a professional football game with one person in the crowd. It would be incredibly boring for the person and the players. The biggest difference between the rest of the groups and the sports fans is that the sports fans have less social problems. There will never really be a connection between the sports fans and the comic book/sci-fi crowd. Both crowds see the other as weird. That is because all humans are weird. Well, most anyway. I am not weird, but I am sure all of you are.