Putting the fan in fanatic

Hockey season is upon us, and this season is going to be quite different than previous years — we have the Jets back! With our city’s NHL team playing again, fandom in Winnipeg is stronger than ever. Each team or sports city has that guy or girl — the type of person who will stand shirtless at games in frosty weather, with slogans painted on their bodies to show everyone how much they love their team. Often they become local celebrities, with Facebook groups dedicated to them and YouYube videos being posted of them. Listed below are five examples of sports fanatics whom I think have stood out in memorable ways.

Dancing Gabe (Gabe Langlois) supports all Winnipeg sport teams with equal enthusiasm and consistency. When I say “all our teams,” I mean all our teams: Goldeyes, Bombers, Bison Football, the Moose and both versions of the Jets. Even with a small crowd around, Gabe is our local celebrity fan who always gives it his all. And people love him for it. Most people respect displays of genuine passion and enthusiasm, and it’s clear Gabe definitely cares about Winnipeg sports. Winnipeg sporting events wouldn’t be the same without him.

The Force and Sully make up a mischievous duo known as “The Vancouver Greenmen.” As die-hard Canucks fans, they borrowed the full body fan-suit concept popularized in the TV show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and started a sports fan revolution. Popping out of the crowd, like a crooked nose on a face, whenever a player from the other team is sent to the penalty box, the two bright-green men will stand behind the surrounding glass and mock them, do handstands, rub on the glass, hold cut-outs — anything to annoy the player and “get into their head.” Taking such a simple idea and running with it has resulted in the two becoming Vancouver heroes, while making it onto sports highlight packages across North America.

Fireman Ed (Ed Anzalone) — who is an actual firefighter — rally’s New York Jets fans to collectively chant “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets” at games. Ed is probably the least surprising standout fan on this list. Since 9/11, New York firefighters in particular have been revered and looked up to as role models. Seeing a red-faced firefighter chanting “Jets” would get any New Yorker riled up with emotion — unless you’re a Giants fan. I have seen forum talk bashing Fireman Ed over various issues, but even the detractors must acknowledge Ed’s knack for getting a stadium crowd organized and chanting in unison.

The Hogettes consists of 12 men who dress up in women’s dresses, put on pig snouts and cheer on their favourite football team, the Washington Redskins. They have been around for over three decades and have raised over US$100 million for charity. These guys are in their own league. Sports are fun and all, but when you use something silly to help others, you are using the popularity you gain for good. These guys are fantastic for doing this for so long.

Dressed in a rainbow coloured afro- wig, Rainbow Man, real name Rollen Stewart, became well known for his persona during the televised 1977 NBA finals. From that game on, he would try to strategically get into sports television broadcasts by any means possible. Unfortunately, Rainbow Man’s antics led him to start setting off stink bombs in public. He finally took his bizarre stunts too far when he held a maid hostage in a California hotel.

Rainbow Man was under the impression that the rapture was going to begin and wanted the world to take notice. For his (originally) fun persona and descent into madness Rainbow Man deserves a spot on this list . . . but not in the good way.