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being a fanatic

January 14th, 2004 · No Comments

Yesterday I described how ice dancer Naomi Lang, injured and discouraged, was so moved by a fan web site that she changed her mind and decided to compete again. Like Enoch said – I thought it was cool to see “technology bring us a little closer together ” – first the fan web site surprising and encouraging her. Then I smiled to think about Lang IMing her partner, telling him she wanted to skate again.

What I also liked about this story was how powerful her fans were, what a large part their affection played in convincing Lang to return to the ice. Her partner said that no one seemed to be able to change her mind. But this fan-written web site (wish I knew where it was!), the hypertext and the hearts behind it, got through to her somehow, more than anyone’s discussions or persuasions.

It seems Naomi Lang was not aware of the impact she had on people and how much they wanted her to keep skating. She didn’t know how much she was appreciated and liked. The judges scores frustrated her, but the fans’ praises freed her to skate again.

We have our own little fans in this house. Abigail and Michaela the past couple days have been “skating “around the house. “I’m Sasha Cohen,” says the older one. “And I’m Michelle Kwan,” says Michaela. “Tomorrow I’ll be Michael Weiss.” And the two spin about the house, sliding across the hardwood floor, turning on the carpet. “Triple lutz” they yell as they leap into the air.

They certainly know the names of quite a few skaters. And they know the ones they like already. On Sunday Michaela was impatient to see Sasha Cohen skate in the exhibition program. When she finally came on the ice, for her Romeo and Juliet piece, Michaela looked at her and said, “That’s not Sasha Cohen!” It seems our daughter has seen Sasha many times this season, but each time she was skating to Swan Lake, which is a different outfit from her exhibition one.

Ted asked, “Were you hoping to see Sasha because you liked the bird on her outfit?”
“Uh huh” replied Michaela.
So are the affections of children…fair – or is it fowl? – weather fans 🙂

It’s fun to see how easily children become fans. (Imagine what else they might be doing if we allowed them to see any other TV?!) This fanaticism must be something we have inherently as human beings. The word fan comes from fanatic: in Latin fanaticus means inspired by a god, related to the word meaning “temple”. I think people want to find some kind of deity to adore, even if it is simply another human being who appears to be better than ourselves. Our culture right now is centered on creating celebrities, with myriad reality shows devoted to this pursuit. Something in us wants to worship. We want to be a fan.

I’ve been a fan and written my own share of fan letters, I confess. I even put perfume on one once, many years ago, when I was a girl…I’ve written a few authors, artists and one TV celebrity, that I remember. A few have written me back and thanked me. One fan letter I wrote started a correspondence, a letter relationship that has lasted ten years. I am grateful for her letters to me, and it seems, from what she writes, that this artist is grateful for my letters too.

What I’ve learned from my own experience with fan letters, and what is clear from Naomi Lang’s story is that celebrities, people on TV and radio, need encouragement too. It’s tempting to think that these “gods” must be so content or perfect; look at how much talent and success they have. They get put on pedestals and appear perfect and in need of nothing. Yet writing a letter or writing a web site can help and give hope, bringing much-needed blessings.

Being a fan is sometimes disparaged. I see this a little in the dictionary definitions of fan: an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator Also too the picture that comes to mind with the word “fan”, the immediate association is that adolescent infatuation, the fantasy world of complete immersion and devotion. The walls are covered with posters and the mind filled with all kinds of dreams, such as vicariously visualizing oneself as the young Courtney Cox getting chosen from the crowd to dance with Bruce Springsteen on the stage (yeah, I liked that video a lot – but I never wrote Springsteen a letter…) That kind of fan is sadly another form of consumption, consuming a person, creating celebrity instead.

But what I think being a fan means, is simply encouraging those whom you admire. If it is in my power to say something kind or do something good for someone, I want to try: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people..” and “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. ” are two verses I try to live. I worship God, not people, but I see pieces of Him in people, and I think it can encourage others to know what hope and joy I find in them, what goodness I find in their gifts from God. I like to write, so if I can, I try to write a letter, if I feel someone has impacted my life and helped me a lot. Technology is only making it easier to be such a fan, with abundant ways to communicate, including web sites, weblogs, message boards, discussion groups, IM and emails.

And the best way to be a fan, is to be a fanatic for those around you. To praise and encourage people every day in every day life. Sure, if I have time, I might scribble a letter to a writer or singer. Maybe even a skater… But more than that, I want to be cheering on my husband, children, family and friends. Or at least I try. I don’t always do it well. But I want to be their fans. To support and strengthen them. To help them get back up on their feet – or on the ice – or, more likely for our girls right now – back on the balance beam. To help them find what they need. Most of all, I want to be a fanatic for my family. And my friends too….Got to go write some fan mails – oh emails, that is….

Tags: journal