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Why Metal Fans Are Really Sports Fans


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Stories of metalheads fighting jocks in high school are legion. They are an accepted part of coming-of-age lore dating back to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (substitute “hesher” for “greaser”). Plenty of young metalheads remember a schoolyard fight or parking lot pounding courtesy of the football team. Even now, a test of when a metal band started to suck is when “jocks showed up at the show.”

But are we really that different? Kerry King and Scott Kelly wear Oakland Raiders jerseys on stage. Relief pitchers walk to the mound to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Decibel runs football and baseball articles.

Look closely and there’s almost no difference between the accountant collecting every San Francisco Giants bobblehead and the nihilist stockpiling rare black metal vinyl. You could swap a metalhead and a sports fanatic’s brain and the behavior patterns would remain the same. Here are the reasons why metalheads and sports fanatics are separated only by the object of their affection.

Root For The Home Team: Regional attachments define both sports and metal. If you are from New York chances are you will have a strong affection for the Yankees or Mets. If you grew up in New York you’ll probably have a soft spot for Agnostic Front or the Cro-Mags. When Paul Speckmann of Master returns to Chicago from Eastern Europe he can still pack a club. He’s a hometown boy. Gary Holt of Exodus could run for Oakland City Council and probably win a seat. The only exception to this rule is Los Angeles, which produced Lightning Swords of Death but also birthed Ratt and Poison.

Staying With Our Tribe: You can’t go to dinner with your consulting firm colleagues and say, “Man, I was listening to the new Vrolok album, and I got so despondent I almost stuck my head in the oven.” Sports fans are no different. Can you imagine a Yankees fan spending time with a Red Sox fan and arguing that A. Rod is the greatest player ever? Fists would fly. Blood would be shed. Like baboons or lemurs we stick together and prefer the scent of our own shit.

Gossip: There are striking similarities between ESPN’s website and Blabbermouth. Both talk incessantly about band or team departures, why someone got shit-canned or if someone’s skills (whether athletic or musical) are waning. Fans line up in the comment section to eviscerate fallen heroes. Both can turn an obituary into a gossipfest.

Prone to Irrational Depression: I wasn’t surprised when Celtic Frost broke up in 2008, but I was kind of bummed out. Why? I own the albums, I’ve seen them live, their music will never go away. Yet I still was depressed. Tom hasn’t invited me to hang in his Zurich bunker so why fret? Sports fans are the same way. They take it personally when Brett Favre joins the Vikings or Peyton Manning gets shelved for a year.

Statistics and Errata: If you compile useless knowledge in metal or sports fellow fans see you as an oracle. One-upmanship rules. There’s no better way to prove you are a die-hard sports fan than to produce an ERA from a pitcher who played one inning in 1966 and was permanently demoted. In metal, you earn scene cred by remembering the session guitarist from some never released Entombed b-side.

Alcohol Consumption: Self-explanatory.

Emotion Trumps Reason: Metal fans attach to bands or teams regardless of reason or logic. Eagles fans probably think they will win the Super Bowl in 2012 despite their terrible start. Some metal fans think the original Black Sabbath could still make a good record.

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Canadian Fans Think Everything Canadian Is Better: When it comes to hockey and metal Canadians are fierce nationalists. Despite the fact that the Boston Bruins beat Vancouver for the Stanley Cup, most Canadians would argue Vancouver is the better team. Or, they’d argue that all NHL players are Canadian. Metal is no different. If a band is Canadian, their country will usually support them without fail.

Muscle Fixation: Many metal and sports fans decry anything effeminate yet revel in clichés of uber-masculinity. Manowar album covers look like the start of a gay S&M porno set in a POW bunker. MMA magazines are packed with images of half-naked men wrestling.

Technology Fetish: Metal and sports fans love gadgets that enable their addiction. Sports fans have more iPhone apps than Steve Jobs. Metal fans pledge undying allegiance to vinyl, but own tricked out MP3 players that let them carry Darkthrone’s entire oeuvre in their pocket.

Collectibles: This is our greatest similarity: our need to build Babylonian-style nerd shrines that take precious years off our sex lives and drain pocketbooks. Do I really need a copy of Gallery of Suicide signed by Alex Webster in front of a bus in 1999? What good is the Franco Sesa autograph doing in my garage? Can I show my family my vinyl version of Autopsy’s Awakened By Gore?

The same is true for sports fans that collect turf from shuttered ballparks, stadium tchotchkes and rare cards. The only difference is sports collectibles usually don’t highlight mangled bodies and are a better financial investment. Both sports fans and metalheads add meaning to their lives by accumulating things that validate their passions.

Some lines will likely never be crossed. I’ve seen a dude in a Pantera shirt at a baseball game and a Raiders hat at a metal show. But I’ve never seen a Napalm Death No Fucking Slave tee-shirt at a football game or a golf jersey in the mosh pit.

— Justin M. Norton

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Photos taken by Dana (distortion) Yavin at the Big 4 concert at Yankee Stadium.
See more of her photos at http://www.distortionfilms.com

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