Allure of Intense Fandom Hard to Pin Down

Nick Wass; Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

We threw a birthday party for my wife at a wine bar in our neighborhood recently, on a night when there was an Important Football Game happening. While most of our guests chatted and enjoyed appetizers, a handful of men sat at the bar. At first I thought that they were just staying close to the font of booze, and so I went to join them. Then I realized that they were actually watching football.

"You watch the Broncos game earlier?" one of them asked me.

"I saw a little bit of it," I said. "Close one, huh?" I had watched about 30 seconds of the game while borrowing something from my next-door neighbor. I'm pretty sure that was the extent of my viewing of the 2012/2013 NFL season up to that point. My neighbor, a sports-obsessed gay guy, had similarly assumed that I...

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