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A fan, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something, such as a band, a sports team, a book or entertainer. Collectively, fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fanbase or fandom. They may show their enthusiasm by being members of a fan club, holding or participating in fan conventions, creating fanzines, writing fan mail, promoting the object of their interest and attention, or drawing fan art.
The Dickson Baseball Dictionary cites William Henry Nugent's work asserting that it was derived from the fancy, a term from England referring to the fans of a specific hobby or sport from the early 18th Century to the 19th, especially to the followers of boxing. According to that theory, it was originally shortened to fance then just to the homonym fans. Merriam-Webster, the Oxford dictionary and other sources define it as a shortened version of the word fanatic. The word first become popular in reference to baseball enthusiasts. (Fanatic itself, introduced into English around 1550, means "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion". It comes from the Modern Latin fanaticus, meaning "insanely but divinely inspired". The word originally pertained to a temple or sacred place [Latin fanum, poetic English fane]. The modern sense of "extremely zealous" dates from around 1647; the use of fanatic as a noun dates from 1650.) However, the term "fancy" for an intense liking of something, while being of a different etymology, coincidentally carries a less intense but somewhat similar connotation to "fanatic". The word emerged as an Americanism around 1889.
Supporter is a synonym to "fan" that predates the latter term and as such is still commonly used in British English, especially to denote fans of sports teams. However, the term "fan" has become popular throughout the English-speaking world, including the United Kingdom. The term supporter is also used in a political sense in the United States, to a fan of a politician, a political party, and a controversial issue.
Fans usually have a strong enough interest that some changes in their lifestyles are made to accommodate devotion to the focal object. Fans have a desire for external involvement – they are motivated to demonstrate their involvement with the area of interest through certain behaviors (attending conventions, posting online, displaying team banners outside their homes, etc.). Fans often have a "wish to acquire" material objects related to the area of interest, such as a baseball hit by a famous slugger or a used guitar pick from their musical hero. As well, some fans have a desire for social interaction with other fans. This again may take many forms, from casual conversation, e-mail, chat rooms, and electronic mailing lists to regular face-to-face meetings such as fan club meetings and organized conventions.
There are several groups of fans that can be differentiated by the intensity level of their level of involvement or interest in the hobby (level of fanaticism) The likelihood for a subject of interest to be elevated to the level of fandom appears to be dictated by its complexity. Complexity allows further involvement of fans for a longer period of time because of the time needed to work the subject of interest 'out.' It also contributes to a greater sense of belonging because of the mental effort invested in the subject.
These fans will often hold a crush on a major film or TV star, singer, athlete or celebrity (see teen idol). The groupie is an example, a fan of a particular band or musician, who will follow them on concert tours. The degree of devotion to celebrities can range from a simple crush to the deluded belief that they have a special relationship with the star which does not exist. In extreme cases, this can lead to celebrity worship syndrome, stalking behavior. This can easily switch to hatred of the previously loved celebrity, and result in attempts at violent attacks, one notable incident being the death of Rebecca Schaeffer by a stalking fan in 1989.
This is somewhat related to the concept of parasocial interaction where audiences develop one-sided relationships with media characters and celebrities.
Music fans can differ somewhat from fans of particular musicians, in that they may focus on a genre of music. Many of the trade journals around music, such as Rolling Stone, were created by music fans. A notable music fan was groupie Cynthia Plaster Caster, famous for making numerous plaster casts of rock musician penises. Another was Pamela Des Barres, author of the book I'm With The Band. Fans who are not groupies prefer the term supporter.
Popular musicals have their own particular sets of fans. Rent has boasted a sizable number of 'Rentheads' since its Broadway debut, and likewise those devoted to The Phantom of the Opera dub themselves 'Phans.' ('Phan' is not to be confused with a fangirl term revolving around a particular relationship).
In Japan, where the term otaku originates, it is applied to fans of almost any topic, including anime/manga, the military, trains, etc. The term in Japan is derogatory (at least to those outside the otaku subculture), but with such works as the popular Densha Otoko, this may be changing. In English, the term otaku has been adopted almost exclusively to refer to fans of anime, manga and related materials. It also lacks the derogatory overtones it has in Japan.
Even though they are not collectively called "fans", more often the term supporter is used for people who often approve of what certain politicians do, or to a political party. Even though there is far less devotion to politicians, due to the controversial nature of politics, it is not uncommon to find heavy devotion to a politician. For example, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan has an unofficial devoted "fan club" on the Internet. Often heavy enthusiasm or praise for politicians are from a personality cult, which are usually found in dictatorships. However, a large fanbase for a politician does not in any way make them a dictator; this is determined by an entirely different set of standards.
Fans of professional wrestling can be divided into two groups and eras; marks and smarks. Derived from the same term for the prey of conmen, a mark is a fan of professional wrestling who believes that everything associated with pro wrestling is real, rather than recognizing the existence of kayfabe (that is, it is a work). A mark can also refer to a devoted fan, either of a particular wrestler, wrestling company, or the sport itself. A mark is also someone who believes everything about a certain wrestling organization is good. This type of mark tends to overlook bad decisions that the organization makes (or to cast said decisions in a positive light) and overreact to the good ones. A smark ("smart mark") is a wrestling fan who understands that the outcome of a professional wrestling match is pre-determined, is privy to the behind-the-scenes operations, and enjoys following the on-screen product as well as the off-screen, backstage affairs. "Smark" is abbreviated professional wrestling slang for "smart mark". Many smarks are part of the "IWC" (the Internet Wrestling Community), a general term for wrestling fans who use the Internet as their means of fan-to-fan communication. Smarks define themselves by embracing the "workrate", or talent level, of wrestlers. They typically overlook those whom they see as wielding too much power backstage and support underdogs who they feel have been overlooked by management.
Since the 1920s, an increasingly elaborate sub-culture of organized science fiction fandom has arisen, initially among correspondents to the letter columns of science fiction magazines. This non-centralized movement has given birth to science fiction fanzines (and amateur press associations), science fiction conventions, the Hugo Awards (and various imitators/derivatives), filk music, "fan funds" such as the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund, and a variety of other institutions, jargon and customs. It has nurtured writers and artists such as Ray Bradbury, Roger Ebert, Lenny Kaye, Michael Moorcock and Trina Robbins; and has generated such spin-offs as comic book fandom, media fandom, the Society for Creative Anachronism, gaming fandom, and furry fandom, sometimes collectively referred to as "fringe fandoms".
Science fiction fandom developed its own salng, known as fanspeak after the "Newspeak" of the novel Nineteen Eighty-four. Fanspeak is made up of acronyms, blended words, obscure in-jokes, puns, coinages from science fiction novels or films, and archaic or standard English words used in specific ways relevant or amusing to the science fiction community. Some fanspeak terms, like fanzine have become standard English. Some fanspeak terms relate to fans themselves:
- An Actifan is a fan involved in "fanac" (fan activity), such as producing a fanzine or running a convention. The opposite is a Passifan, who enjoys the subject of the fandom and is not directly involved in the fandom.
- A Big Name Fan (BNF) is a fan who has become well-known within a fandom for their contributions of various sorts, such as heading of a major blog or contributing to the franchise itself.
- Fanne was used in early fandom as a feminine equivalent to "fan".
- Fen was used within fandom as the plural of the word "fan", by analogy with "men" as the plural of "man". This extended to other fanspeak terms, resulting in actifen, passifen, trufen, and so forth.
- A Trufan is a very active and dedicated fan.
Specific sub-groups of science fiction fandom are often known by a collection term. For example:
- Trekkies are fans focused on the Star Trek science fiction franchise. Arising out of science fiction fandom they, to some extent, have served as a template for other organized fandoms in the science fiction television and film genres. Some "Trekkies" prefer to be referred to as "Trekkers" as they feel the term "Trekkies" was used in the past as a derogatory name for them and they hope to avoid the traditional stigma sometimes associated with being known as a "Trekkie". Many "old school" fans of the Star Trek universe defiantly, and proudly, refer to themselves, and other Star Trek fans, as "Trekkies" rather than the kinder, gentler "Trekkers" name used by many of the newer generations of Star Trek fans.
- Whovians are fans of the longest running science fiction television show in the world, Doctor Who.
A sports fan can be an enthusiast for a particular athlete, team, sport, or all of organized sports as a whole. Sports fans often attend sporting events or watch them on television, and follow news through newspapers and Internet websites. The mentality of the sports fan is often such that they will experience a game, or event while living vicariously through players or teams whom the fan favors[original research?]. This behavior manifests itself in a number of different ways, depending on the venue. At a stadium or arena, sports fans will voice their pleasure with a particular incident, player, or team by cheering, which consists of clapping, fist-pumping, or shouting positive exclamations toward the field of play and ultimately, the favorable object. Likewise, displeasure toward a particular incident, player, or team may be met by fans with booing, shouting of expletives, and sometimes throwing of objects onto the field. This violent type of fan reaction is often called hooliganism.
Lighter, more harmless objects are also occasionally thrown onto certain fields of play as a form of celebration of a favorable sports feat. This is most common when a member of the home team scores a hat trick in hockey. Other, more mild forms of displeasure shown by sports fans at sporting events involve simple groans of disappointment, and silence. These actions often denote that the favored home team is being outperformed by, or has lost to the much less-favored road team.
In North America, extremely enthusiastic fans are often called "superfans": fans who dress up in outrageous and ostentatious costumes or outfits showing their devotion. Fanbases well known for their tenacious love and undying support are called rabid fans. These fans often congregate hours before kickoff in what is known as a tailgation.
At sports bars, sports fans will gather together, often while consuming food and alcoholic beverages, with the purpose of following a particular sporting event on television as a group. Sports bars often advertise in hopes of drawing fans of a particular player or team to watch together to increase bonds between fans and prevent fights. This can create the sense of unity in a sports bar as all cheers and boos will appear to be synchronized due to similar feelings and reactions by nearly all fans at the fortunes and misfortunes of the favored team or athlete. Due to the level of devotion and intensity of feeling towards the favored team or athlete by sports bar patrons, as well as partially due to the alcohol being served, behavior that would be seen as unruly or fanatical outside a sports bar is generally more common inside of one. The intensity of cheering and jeering at a sports bar by sports fans can often range from equal to stronger than that of fans actually at the sporting event for particularly significant games and matches.
At home, sports fans may have few fellow fans but also more freedom. This is sometimes where the most intense cheering or jeering will take place. In the fan's own home, unbridled and lengthy screaming, crying, acts of destruction to household objects, and other manifestations of joy or anguish, are perhaps seen as most acceptable in comparison to the sports bar or sporting venue simply because such acts taken to such an extreme can be seen as disruptive to a large number of fellow fans even if they share the same sentiment if it is of less intensity. The greatest variables of the reaction of a sports fan in their own home are the intensity of the fan's desire to see their team win or perform well, and the presence of another: often a wife, children, or friends who may be significantly less ardent sports fans or not sports fans at all, which may significantly temper the fan's reaction to a highly positive or negative moment due to the fear of causing a scene or scaring those close to the fan, or alienating themselves from said others. Often sports fans will invite other fans of relatively similar rooting intensity over to their house to experience a sporting event together so that all involved can voice pleasure or displeasure to their heart's content and increase shared bonds in the process. It is becoming common for this type of bonding to take place over sports-related social networks like eFans.
The drivers that make people fans, and in particular sports fans, have been studied by psychologists, such as Dan Wann at Murray State University. They attribute people becoming fans to the following factors: One element is entertainment, because sports spectatorship is a form of leisure. Sports is also a form of escapism, and being a fan gives one an excuse to yell at something, an activity that may be constrained in other areas of one's life. Fan activities give participants a combination of euphoria and stress (about the potential for their team to lose) for which they coin the name "eustress". Fans experience euphoria during moments when play is going well for their team, and stress when play is going against their team. This tension between the two emotions generates an unusual sense of pleasure or heightened sensations.
Aesthetics are another draw for some fans, who appreciate the precision or skill of play, or of the coordinated movement of the players during a pre-planned "play". Family bonding is a reason for some fan activities. Some families go to sports games every month as a family outing to watch a sports event and form a psychological bond with one another as a family. Going to sports events can create a borrowed sense of self-esteem if fans identify with their teams to the extent that they consider themselves to be successful when their teams have been successful (e.g., as seen in the phrase "we have won"). If a fan identifies strongly with a favorite team, they will respond to the performance of the team as if team success were a personal success and team failure a personal failure. 
Fan loyalty is the loyalty felt and expressed by a fan towards the object of his/her fanaticism. Allegiances can be strong or weak. The loyalties of sports fans have been studied by psychologists and have often been reviewed.
- Douglas Harper. "Fan (n.2)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
- Thorne, Scott; Bruner, Gordon C. (2006). "An exploratory investigation of the characteristics of consumer fanaticism". Qualitative Market Research: an International Journal 9 (1): 51–72. doi:10.1108/13522750610640558.
- Fanpop, Inc. "Ronald Reagan Fan Club | Fansite with photos, videos, and more". Fanpop.com. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
- Mark Conrad (2006). "What Makes Sports a Unique Business?". The Business of Sports: A Primer for Journalists. Routledge. xxx–xxxi. ISBN 0-8058-5044-9.
- Lynn R. Kahle, Angeline G. Close (2011). Consumer Behavior Knowledge for Effective Sports and Event Marketing. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-87358-1.
- Daniel L. Wann, Merrill J. Melnick, Gordon W. Russell, and Dale G. Pease (2001). SportFans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92463-4.
- Tucker, Bob. The Neo-Fan's Guide To Science Fiction Fandom. 8th Edition, 1996. KaCSFFS Press. No ISBN listed.