Monday, February 8, 2016

Interview with Justine Gubar - author of "Fanaticus"

After reviewing her book "Fanaticus", I had the pleasure of interviewing author and ESPN journalist Justine Gubar for her thoughts on the book and her experiences with the fans.

Given your experiences with fan behavior that you write about at the beginning of the book, what was your takeaway from your findings while researching for the book?  Were you surprised, was it what you expected or was it something else?

I was surprised to learn how rampant bad fan behavior is, be it fights in a parking lot, Internet shaming or nasty and offensive taunting. Once I started looking, I felt like there were examples everywhere.  The digital world certainly amplified incidents caught on video and that helps.  I was used to the inspiration and entertainment derived from watching sports, not so used to people getting hurt physically and psychologically.

Tell us about what you felt and experienced while you were in the midst of some of these examples of fan behavior, such as the University of Missouri student section at the men's basketball games. You wrote about what the other fans and people were doing and feeling - now it's your turn to express those same thoughts about yourself. 

I loved my time visiting the student sections. The energy was infectious and it took me back to my days as a college student.  As I recall, in college, we played the elitist card and relied on “safety school” as a top taunt. But the students I got to hang out with for Fanaticus were so much more creative and multidimensional than I ever was with the use of props, pranks and costumes.  Did you see Michael Phelps the other night dressed in nothing but a speedo and gold medals to cheer on the ASU basketball team and distract the opponent? Hilarious. The way student sections embrace popular culture in smart, unexpected and attention-grabbing ways is something I marvel at. I was certain I could never be as irreverent as the Antlers but I did figure I could be as loud as the Oregon Pit Crew.

Was the subject of the book something that you wanted to write about for a long time?  Have you wanted to write in addition to your work in broadcasting?

 I never thought I would write a book actually. I am used to telling stories through other people’s voices on TV. After being harassed by an online mob of angry fans and reflecting on the experience, I realized the range of fan emotion was ripe for exploration. One headline after another felt related to the topic and I just knew I was onto something that needed to be written about sooner rather than later.

While you discuss your exposure to sports briefly in the book (such as going to games with your father), tell us more about why you became an athlete and sports fan.  What is it about sports in general that makes you passionate for them? 

Sports are connective tissue, the fascia of so much of our world.  It’s so easy to bond with strangers over favorite teams and star players. Events are unscripted drama-- a spectacle surrounded by incredible pageantry. You go to a rock concert which is its own kind of spectacle but you pretty much know how it will end.  Maybe there’s  tension as to whether the band plays 2 or 3 encores  but that is nothing like the tension of whether the Warriors can keep the home win streak alive or the emotion of winning or  losing the Super Bowl.

Do you plan on writing any other books in the future?  If so, what would be the topic(s)?  Also, feel free to add anything else here that you wish to add.

Writing a book is all about having a great idea that can sustain your curiosity for—literally years.  I’m in search of the next great idea and welcome any suggestions…

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