Day 330: Superfans!

originally published November 25, 2012

It’s Grey Cup Sunday.

For me, this means I’ll perform my traditional fall Sunday tradition of watching NFL games all day, then maybe check the internet tonight to see who won the Canadian Football League championship. But for millions of others across this great nation, it’s time to paint oneself in Stampeder-red or Argonaut-blue and tune in to the one-hundredth celebration of Canadian football’s finest – though, as I pointed out before, it was more an amateur championship for the first 50 years or so.

Whichever football league one prefers, it’s a great day for sports (sorry hockey fans – you are getting screwed over this year, I know). And few people love sports more than the nutjob sports superfans.

This is Fireman Ed. Slice him open and his blood will run as green as the New York Jets’ uniforms. He is an actual New York City fireman, not just some dork in a hat. Ed has integrity – when Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals offered to fly Ed to a Bengals-Jets playoff game in 2010 as a peace-offering after having mocked Ed in the media the week before, Ed declined. It wasn’t right to accept such an offer from the enemy.

Ed is passionate. He was charged with an assault after getting into a shoving match, and that was just a preseason game. Against the other New York team.

Sadly, Fireman Ed deactivated his Twitter account after this past Thursday’s severe 49-19 thwacking by the New England Patriots. Chin up Ed – the football gods will punish the Pats for driving up the scoreboard so often this season. Remember when the Jacksonville Jaguars cockily trounced the Dolphins 62-7 in the playoffs back in 1999? How crappy have the Jaguars been since then?

Robert Szasz (a.k.a. the Happy Heckler) took a more direct approach. Rather than cheer on his team (the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, despite his having spent his early years in Toronto), he selects a player on the opposing team and heckles the unholy crap out of him for the entire game. Not about their height / weight / mother’s sexual habits – no, Robert would pick at the player’s baseball ability, that’s all.

Once he was ragging on Seattle Mariners’ Bret Boone so ferociously, when Boone struck out he threw down his helmet and proceeded to scream into the stands at Robert, no doubt breaking the entire stadium into laughter. It’s a shame Robert’s financial difficulties meant he had to give up his season tickets.

Clipper Darrell, seen here posing with his Clipper-mobile, might be the only superfan in the history of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. He leads cheers, he dances, he yells out taunts at the opposing team, all while wearing that funky blue and red suit. His origin story is the stuff of superhero-dom – he was fired from his job as an electrician in 1984 and told he would never amount to anything. Right around that time, he heard the same thing uttered about the Clippers. He was thus reborn. He is the superfan the Los Angeles Clippers deserve, if not the one the Clippers need.

In February of this year, the Clippers accused Darrell of capitalizing on the Clippers’ name. Now he has to notify the team before he appears in public as Clipper Darrell. Seriously? This is a team that has finished above .500 in only eight of their 41 seasons in the league, and they’re worried about their name being tarnished? Unless Darrell was starring in Clipper-themed pornography, I say let Clipper Darrell be Clipper Darrell.

Crazy Ray started selling pennants to promote the Dallas Cowboys in 1962, two years after the franchise began operations. His personality was infectious, and before long he became a spectacle in the stands, galloping on a hobby horse and performing magic tricks for the crowd. He was never officially employed by the Cowboys organization, but they ended up granting him a special parking pass and an all-access pass for home games. The guy missed three games in his 46 seasons as a fan, before passing away in 2007.

Then there’s this guy:

I’ll be honest, I liked this story more when I had no idea who this guy was. The photo turned up as a meme, popping up on my computer without any explanation as to the context, and I’d laugh every time. The idea of making a giant cut-out of one’s own ludicrous facial expression, just to trip up the other team in a “what the hell” fit of confusion, is perhaps the most creative and original form of opposing-team heckling I’d ever seen.

The reality is, this is Jackson Blankenship, University of Alabama student and master of distraction. His internet fame led him to an appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, so congrats to Jackson for making the most of your well-deserved fifteen minutes. Well done.

This is Rainbow Man, known to his friends as Rollen Stewart, and to the rest of the sports-viewing world as “That John 3:16 Guy”. Starting with the 1977 NBA finals, Rollen took to showing up at games and flashing a large sign that states “John 3:16” in an effort to bring about some publicity for Christianity. He’d sit behind NFL goal posts, near Olympic medal stands, and show up at sporting events from the baseball All-Star Game to the Indianapolis 500 to the Augusta National Golf Club.

His message was simple – get curious, then look up the bible passage (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”). After that, drop your weekend plans and join the church.

Rollen wasn’t the only one to use this passage to sneak religion into people’s thoughts; In-N-Out Burger prints “JOHN 3:16” on the underside of their paper cups, Forever 21 prints it on all their shopping bags, and Tornado Fuel Saver prints it on the boxes of all their products.

Except Rollen wasn’t just about getting people to read the bible through crazy wigs and big signs.

He was jailed in 1980 at the Moscow Olympics for a series of stink bomb attacks. During the 1986 World Series, he allegedly tried to choke his wife for standing in the wrong spot with her “John 3:16” sign.

In 1992, convinced the rapture was just six days away, Rollen entered a vacant hotel room with two men he was trying to kidnap. They surprised a maid, who locked herself in the bathroom. Rollen filled the windows with “John 3:16” signs, then threatened to shoot down planes taking off from nearby LAX airport in Los Angeles. The police eventually got everyone out of there safely, and now Mr. Christianity is serving three consecutive life sentences for kidnapping.

Some people just need to relax and enjoy the game. Happy Grey Cup everyone. Go 49ers!

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