Sports fandom is rarely depicted in the movies, but whenever it is it’s usually portrayed as the domain of obsessive, stunted, sociopathic creeps. This is a shame because sports fandom is actually a rich repository of irrational devotion for otherwise perfectly normal folk. The fact is that most American sports fans aren’t Travis Bickle–esque stalkers who go postal when let down by their favorite athletes (Bill Simmons recently wrote a terrific article about how fandom in the U.S. is on a far milder level than that of most other nations), but regular Joes who seek communion with something outside their immediate control in lieu of the less exciting transcendence offered by organized religion.
The Onion Movie and The Wrestler screenwriter Robert Siegel’s directorial debut, Big Fan, is yet another hackneyed take on the sports-fan subgenre. Whereas something like Frederick Exley’s quasi-memoir A Fan’s Notes—perhaps the best explication ever committed to print about what it means to be a fan—places the author’s mania for the New York Giants on the same level as all of life’s excessive ridiculousness, Big Fan raises its protagonist’s love of the same football team to the far reaches of childishness and insanity, the point where we no longer relate to that love and instead look down on him for being a disturbed sad-sack. The nuanced moods of the average fan are thus once again disappointingly overlooked in favor of the idiocies of an anomalous case study.