I was excited three weeks ago. We'd finally have a playoff in college football and Oregon was apart of it. I was also very much looking forward to learning more about the Florida State fanbase and getting to know what made it tick. The whole #FSUTwitter thing seemed way overblown at the time and I was sure a few crab legs jokes or serious discussions about rape would come up but there would be common ground and we'd be all the better for it.
My wife and I have gone to all the UO bowl games since 2009 and meeting/making friends from other fanbases has been something we look forward to each year. We're active on the blog and twitter of course, try to catch as much college football on Saturdays as we can and poke our noses into the Advanced (Mystical) Stats posts every now and then (but try to avoid them because it tends to suck the fun out of the games).
Our interactions with other fanbases has generally gone like two kids meeting up for their first day of school at Kindergarten. "Do you like blocks?", "Yes! I love blocks! Do you like Legos?, "I'm ok with Legos but what I really like are ninja turtles!" and so on and so on. Auburn, Texas, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, even Ohio State to some degree have all been in this same vein... general curiosity about customs and trying to learn from each other.
In Florida State, I saw an opportunity. Here was a team from across the country that had a lot of recent success. I discarded what I perceived to be rumors around #FSUTwitter, took a typical tactic of self-deprecation and dove in to try and meet the other side. After all, it's only football.
Frankly, it was a shock. Not because people were mean or ruthless, but because of how aggressive the fans were in interactions. Very early on, I was introduced to the concept of "re-education", a process where FSU fans will seek to "correct the record" of any perceived injustice or opinion that may not be favorable to their viewpoint. This was quickly followed with some not-so subtle reminders that their blogs are better than Oregon blogs, that we weren't even doing blogs properly with our posts, some tips on how to operate a blog when it comes to trolls, and that at least we'd appreciate the traffic that the FSU fans would generate for us.
This is the first stage of "All Fans are Noles Fans". Let them know you're here and that we are knowledgeable on everything we're going to care about.
While not your typical friendly greeting, it was easy to look past as perhaps just a rough start. I was sure things were going to get better. After all, some people think that when you are part of a community, all other communities operate and behave just like yours. Let's give it another chance.
This brings me to the second stage of "AFANF". Sway as many discussions as possible so that we're "talking about the Noles".
Someone brings up Jameis Winston in passing? Launch into a tirade about media bias. Talking about offensive and defensive lines? Time to bring up F+ statistics and have a discussion about the Florida State running game during the season. How does Oregon compare overall in F+/FEI? Talk about how the eye test of Florida State discounts those rankings. Discussing random topics? Should throw in a Florida State picture in there somewhere.
When you combine the aggressive nature of comments with attempts to sway all conversations towards Florida State analysis, it's easy to see why "Talking about the Noles" is a common meme that get tossed around. The only thing is that it isn't because opposing fanbases like to do it, they are just being subjected to Stage 2 of AFANF.
That brings us to the third and final stage of AFANF. It's what I like to call "Why are you hurting us?". This one is one of my favorites. After Stage 2, the frustration level of any opposing fanbase will have reached a fever pitch, one that is causing outbursts not just towards Florida State fans, but also amongst themselves. For fans that aren't accustomed to these stages, this can bring out the worst in people. Trolling, insults, going to bed angry without reading your favorite book, and so on. It appears that all anyone on your favorite team's blog will talk about is Florida State. All the while, Florida State fans are correcting "differing opinions" and swaying conversations back that might be moving off towards non FSU-related topics. Combine that with the "quit being so sensitive! We're not trolling!" brand of insults and this is enough to drive anyone to deep depression and issuing tongue lashings on the stupidest of topics.
When you do strike back, even with what you think is a well-oiled machine of troll-fighting power satire or super fact, you get called the magical of all words.... classless. No one wants to be called classless, especially by people that were just being classless to you through stages 1 and 2. What can you do but apologize, turn inwards on your fellow fan to start advising them to be classy and so completes your transition.
To Recap the "All Fans are Noles Fans" stages:
- Stage 1: Let them know you're here and that we are knowledgeable on everything we're going to care about.
- Stage 2: Sway as many discussions as possible so that we're "talking about the Noles".
- Stage 3: Why are you hurting us?
How do we solve this problem? We have to actually admit our issues and learn to recognize the behaviors when we see them. We need to remind ourselves that Florida State is lucky to be playing Oregon. There is a reason we're favored, that advanced stats show us to be an elite team, and that we have the 2014 Heisman winner at QB. Oregon is a premiere program nationally and has a chance at winning the freaking National Championship.
We have our own culture, in state, in team, and in blog and we need to stand up for that, even if others decide that it's just not worth their time to discover. We can do the right thing by advising them to go home, and let them know they're drunk.