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Start training to be a great fan

On Sports

As we embark on a new year, it's time to lay down the law. You can be any kind of fan you want to be, but if you want my opinion - and that's why you're here - you'll obey some basic laws of fandom. Trust me, they're for your own good.

To wit:

• Be careful how you use the word 'we.' The players play, and you watch. If you're going to say 'we' won, be just as willing to say 'we' lost. And even 'we' lost, again and again.

• Bring all the signs you want to the game, as long as they contain no dirty words. But when there is action on the court, get them the heck out of the line of sight of those around you.

• If you're a little kid, it's kind of cute to wear the cap sideways or backward. But if you're over 15, wear the cap the right way around, with the bill in front and no tags hanging off it.

• If you're over 21, leave the replica jerseys to the kids. Honestly, even the throwbacks look weird on adults - particularly adults with potbellies.

• Boo if you want. You bought the ticket.

• Drink all the booze you want, short of getting sick. But don't drive, and don't act like a drunk. Some people act like drunks even when they aren't drinking. Arenas and stadiums can be pretty tight quarters - just respect the people around you, and everyone will have a good time.

• Wash that face paint off. Immediately. Only clowns wear face paint.

• Bring cash for the concession stand. It delays everyone when someone wants to use plastic to pay for a bag of peanuts.

• If you're going to yell at a referee, be close enough for him to hear you. Otherwise, you're just grandstanding for the people sitting around you.

• Yelling and waving at that little blimp flying around the building is really dumb. There is no miniature pilot trying to decide who to favor with prizes, so don't wave or shout at it.

• Hey, you just paid $100 for your seat, so going nuts over a cheap T-shirt is kind of stupid, isn't it? Especially when the shirt probably just has some corporation's ad on it. Leave it for the kids to fight over.

• Come early, and watch the players work out. You can learn a lot, and it helps you appreciate how difficult it is to be a professional athlete.

• Bring earplugs. Game operations people in today's world seem to equate loud noise with good times.

• Don't jump up to go to the concession stand or restroom during the action - it bothers people. There's plenty of time during the long timeouts to take care of those things, particularly during the tiresome 'entertainment' such as tricycle races, musical chairs, pizza-box relay races and trivia contests.

• Try staying off the emotional roller coaster. If you get too high about your team, it just makes the lows even lower. The hardest thing for a fan is to keep perspective. It's never as bad - or as good - as you think it is.

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