Dear Sports Fan turns four

Four years ago today, I published the first two posts on Dear Sports Fan. One, written by my friend, pseudonymously known as Dean Russell Bell, answered the question, “Can you explain the popularity of NASCAR? How can people watch a four hour race?” The second, which I wrote, answered the quite reasonable query, “My friend’s favorite team is out, why is he still watching so much sports?” For the rest of the month, a grand total of 15 people read those posts. The next month, Bell and I were joined by John DeFilippis and Lisa Filipek. We wrote 20 posts that covered topics from the arbitrary nature of basketball fouls to what being offsides means to whether a new father should try to become a sports fan. It was a lot of fun and we were thrilled with the response, not just from our friends and family who followed us on Facebook and Twitter but also from people who went to their computers, wondering something about sports, and found our writing through Google or another search engine. That second month, we got 1,227 views.

Today, Dear Sports Fan is a close to full-time job for me. I publish between two and four posts every day, although I do take weekends. Over four years, the blog has been viewed over 120,000 times and it keeps growing. Last week was my biggest week yet, with over 3,200 views. The traffic is still 90% from search engines although I have a wonderful group of people who interact with me on Facebook, Twitter, and the sports-only social network, Fancred. So both non-sports fans and fans alike enjoy reading our posts. I am thrilled by this discover and am continuing to try to figure out where Dear Sports Fan’s sweet spot is in this diverse audience. One thing is for sure. My passion for sports and desire to make the sports world a friendly, understandable world for everyone who ventures into it remain strong. In just the past couple weeks, here are a few ways in which sports has intersected in my life that have reminded me that the goals of Dear Sports Fan are relevant and worthwhile.

  • As a new resident of Boston, I’ve been looking to make new friends and business connections. So, I’ve been going to some Meetup groups. One of them was an entrepreneurs group that met at a candlepin bowling alley. Within five minutes of getting there, I was helping people understand how the scoring worked. After a pleasant evening of networking and bowling, I went home and wrote about how candlepin bowling works. Playing sports can create and cement friendships.
  • This week, I am spending some time with a sick relative. She napped most of the day yesterday, and was generally a little bummed out and distracted until late afternoon when her head snapped back and her eyes lit up, “What time is the hockey game tonight?” Following sports can be a passion throughout life.
  • Of course, it’s not always smooth. Living with a sports fan, as my girlfriend does (although, to be fair, she is also a sports fan, just one who spends less time watching sports on TV) can be a challenge. And even someone who thinks and writes about how to best cohabitate in a mixed-sports-passion relationship, doesn’t always get it right. Sports can bring people together but it takes thought and care, just like other parts of a romantic, familial, or work-related relationship.

Four years may seem like a long time but I hope it’s just the start of the journey. There’s so much more to explore and explain. In the next few weeks, I’ll be working on hard on the upcoming Women’s Soccer World Cup. The World Cup is an ideal event for Dear Sports Fan. It’s an international event with competition at the very highest level. The U.S. team is a wonderful group of athletes on a mission to recapture the first World Cup Championship since 1999. To date, I’m about half-way through profiling each of the women on the U.S. team (I’m attempting the rare feat of profiling female athletes only as athletes, with no reference to gender or gendered stories). So far, these profiles have been a hit. One athlete, Shannon Boxx, even retweeted my profile of her! This was awesome, because it helped me connect with a group of passionate women’s soccer fans. You can find all of the profiles here. I’m also compiling the material I’ve written over the past four years and creating a series of soccer email courses: Soccer 101, 200 level courses on soccer culture, crime and punishment, events and leagues, and positions, and a 300 level course. Keep an eye out for those in the next couple weeks.

So, happy birthday to me, and thank you for reading, doing social networky things, and above all, asking questions!


Thanksgiving's Three Fs: Family, Food, and Football

As a companion to this post on why football is a special part of Thanksgiving for many sports fans, I’m going to explain some of the plot points of the three Thanksgiving day football games this year.

Game 1 — Packers at Lions, 12:30 on Fox
Game 2 — Raiders at Cowboys, 4:30 on CBS
Game 3 — Steelers at Ravens, 8:30 on NBC

I’m thankful to everyone who has read, commented, asked a question, or otherwise supported Dear Sports Fan this year.

Thanks and have a wonderful holiday,
Ezra Fischer

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s got everything you could want in a holiday: family, food, and football. All three of those F-related aspects of Thanksgiving can be the cause of great joy and the cause of much F-word inducing consternation as well. Of the three, the football has perhaps the lowest stakes, but for many of us, it’s an important part of the day. Tradition, inclusion, time, and snacks are a few of the reasons why.

Thanksgiving is about tradition and so is football

Every holiday is about tradition: the way your family decorates the Christmas tree, the references to childhood that only your family would understand, your mother’s baked ziti. Thanksgiving is perhaps the most purely tradition oriented holiday because it doesn’t have any religious underpinning. The NFL has been playing football on Thanksgiving since 1920. It’s a tradition that’s remained a predictable part of Thanksgiving for many households since 1953 when it was first televised. Other sports lay claim to holidays. The NBA plays marquee games on Christmas day. New Year’s day was traditionally a day for college football until the NHL began televising their outdoor “winter classic” that day. Only the NFL doubles down on tradition by having the same two teams host games every year. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys always host games on Thanksgiving. A few years ago the league added a third game at night with a rotating cast but the day games remain a constant. There’s real comfort in consistency, particularly when it comes to family. From generation to generation, through births, deaths, marriages, divorces, estrangements, and reconciliation, when Thanksgiving rolls around, you can count on seeing the Lions and the Cowboys play football.

Football on Thanksgiving makes me feel like I belong

I’m proud to be different. I used to revel in switching between Hot 97’s hip-hop and NPR when I commuted to work by car. I love that in past years my family has cooked quesadillas, Chinese food, and corned beef and cabbage[1] for Thanksgiving dinner. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world[2] but I am also drawn to feeling like I belong. On a holiday that is about the shared history of all Americans, (whether your family immigrated by land strait thousands of years ago or by air a few days ago,) I want to feel like I am unified in some way with the rest of the country. Unity through football is a funny concept and has a few meanings. There’s the literal unity — I’m guessing more people in the United States will be watching the football games than any other single shared experience excepting, perhaps, the Macy’s Day Parade and arguing with your family. There’s also an amorphous unity — football fans come in all shapes, genders, socio-economic statuses, sizes, language preferences, sexual preferences, colors, and intensities. Watching football on Thanksgiving, as odd as it may seem, makes me feel like I belong in this country, and I like it.

Sports are a marker of time

One thing that people who aren’t sports fans often marvel at is the way that some sports fans can remember the most minute details of sporting events that happened years ago. I am not one of those fans but I use sports as a marker of time in my life. Sometimes it’s a remarkable game that, like a popular song, gets lodged in my head and becomes evocative of that time in my life. I’ll always remember watching game six of the Lakers v. Kings NBA playoff series on a television resting on the floor of my first apartment in 2002 or stumbling out of a bar (from bewildered excitement, not drink) mid-afternoon after the United States’ miraculous injury-time goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup. Sometimes the games aren’t memorable but they help me remember important times in my life, like the death of my Uncle Pete (it was first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, not that I watched it, but I remember that the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0).

Football on Thanksgiving marks time in a different way by staying the same while other things change. Football wasn’t a big part of my experience of Thanksgiving but I remember being a kid and rooting for famous and somewhat mythical Lions running back Barry Sanders to score every time he touched the ball. Later on, I remember ducking into a girlfriend’s living room to enjoy the oasis of watching football with her grandfather. And I have fond memories of being at my own grandparents house for our big annual get-together on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and hoping there was an hockey game between the Islanders and the Rangers so I could enjoy the way my cousin Jared rooted for his beloved Rangers in what was definitely an Islanders household.


I know, I know, there’s turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and pie. But don’t you want some potato chips and pretzels? I do! If any of this has opened you up to enjoying some of the Thanksgiving football this year, tune in tomorrow for plot summaries of the games.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  (CB&C as we call it)
  2. Okay, maybe some of the conversations my brother and father have about music theory or advanced mathematics do get a little dry for me, but…

Why You Shouldn't Spend All Day Watching Football

One of the joys of working on this website is that the WordPress software I run the site with tracks many of the search terms people have entered that lead them to Dear Sports Fan. Yesterday someone viewed the site after searching google for “why men shouldn’t watch NFL football every Sunday.” This is pretty exciting because it means that our core audience (non-sports fans who have important sports fans in their lives) exist and that they are curious or frustrated enough to take their questions to the internet and that once there, Dear Sports Fan’s content is relevant enough to pop up in searches and to be read! So, in honor of you, whoever you are, here are some thoughts about spending all day watching football and some tips on negotiating the topic with your favorite football fan.

Less is More

There’s different modes of football watching and one that is extremely enjoyable is the viewing of a single, important game. Watching football all day sometimes means you never really focus in on one game and enjoy it’s drama, it’s plot twists, it’s ups and downs as fully as you could. If the fan in your life has a favorite team, why not make it into a special occasion for him or her? Expressing the desire to watch with that person is likely enough to make it special but it wouldn’t hurt to add some props to the equation. Throw on some color coded clothing to support a team. Clear away distractions half an hour early. Get involved by cooking or ordering appropriate food. Football team names are often fun to play with in a themed event kind of way. When I was in college, my friends and I would throw a themed super bowl party. When the Buccaneers played the Raiders it was PIRATE BOWL. There’s no reason why you can’t steal this idea on a normal Sunday. Cook some gumbo for a Saints game, make some wings for a Bills game, or cook a corned beef (but start early) for a Patriots game. Making an occasion out of a game is a good way to make a single game the occasion.

Take a Bye Week

If the sports fan in your life has a favorite team there is at least one, probably two or three weeks during the football season where the negotiation for a football free or football light weekend will be significantly easier than others. In the NFL, every team plays 16 games over 17 weeks. The one week a team does not play is called their bye week. This is a great week to suggest that your favorite fan take a bye week too! Go away for the weekend or get some yard work done! Every team also has at least one prime-time game on Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night. These weeks are also good bets to suggest a Sunday day activity.

Plan Ahead

One of the under-appreciated elements of the sports business is how effectively is markets itself. Most of the time sporting events are generally unremarkable. Once in a while they’re drama and unpredictability make them transendent experiences for sports fans. ESPN, NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS, and the sports leagues themselves do a great job of promoting upcoming games to convince sports fans that despite all probabalistic evidence to the contrary, this game is going to defy logic and has a 100% chance of being transendent. Think of the way big food companies market desserts and then double it. By the day of the game most sports fans have been looking forward to watching particular games for days. If you want to do something else with them, talk to them about it before they’ve bought the hype.

Lose the Battle, Win the War

Sometimes, it is great to watch football all day. As bizarre as it may sound if you are not a fan, planting your butt on a couch and watching football all day is an experience many of us prize. It’s an indulgence like spending the day at a spa or an amusement park or in a casino. And like all indulgences, it’s only really enjoyable if you feel good about doing it! So give the football fan in your life the gift of support some Sundays and make them feel good about indulging themselves. Tell them you understand how they enjoy a full day of football and that you want them to choose some Sundays to have that and some Sundays to share the day with you. I’ll leave it to you and your sports fan to figure out exactly what the right ratio is.

Good luck and happy negotiating.


Is There a Good, Cheap Stationary Bike?

Dear Sports Fan,

Is there a good, cheap stationary bike? Do I have to spend a ton for quality?  I just want to ride it 30 minutes a day in my basement.  I’m not trying to beat Lance or anything.

Michelle P


Dear Michelle,

Thanks for your question! Since no one on our staff is an expert on exercise equipment we’ve decided to answer you in the form of a dialogue. After all 0 + 0 = at least a little bit more than zero, right?


Ezra: A quick Google search reveals a ton of those weird recumbent bicycles which are said to be better for you. Then again, it’s also said that the western style toilet is terrible for you over the long-run, but I don’t see to many people running out to buy holes in the floor to squat over.

Dean Russell Bell: I have great rowing machine recommendations. Now, I don’t know if you have a significant other or not and, if so, how that significant other feels about you having huge lats. But if that would be something they might be interested in, allow me to recommend the Stamina Body Trac Glider. Best thing about it: once you reach the inevitable phase when you stop exercising, it folds up so tight you can disappear it into a corner, where it won’t guilt you ever again.

Ezra: I’m not entirely sure what a lat is… but it doesn’t sound like something you’d want to have huge of. As far as exercise bikes go, the Stamina 5325 is the pick of for best budget upright. It looks like… an exercise bike to me. In what might be a meaningful omission the more well respected doesn’t review exercise bikes, instead focusing on elliptical machines and treadmills. There is something comforting and old-school about the exercise bike though — it feels like something you legitimately could just sit on and pedal as you watch some serious television.

Dean Russell Bell: Talking about old-school, if you really want to beat Lance Armstrong you might be better served allocating your money towards some serious EPO and blood doping equipment…

Ezra: Hold it right there Dean! We’ve already had a question about the Tour de France and we’ll be covering it in separate entries starting when the race begins on July 2. Michelle, we apologize for our total lack of useful information on this subject, but we hope we have, at least, been entertaining.

Thanks for the question, Dean Russell Bell and Ezra Fischer