This past weekend the Chicago White Sox held a special Star Wars day at U.S. Cellular Field. People were encouraged to come to the game dressed as their favorite character to participate in an on-field parade. The 501st Midwest Garrison, the costuming group that is most often seen dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers, was invited. And Darth Vader even threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Oh yeah, the Force was strong with Star Wars geeks that day.
Now, the White Sox weren’t the only MLB team to hold such a day, and several minor league teams have also followed suit. Which got me to thinking about the lengths that sports teams go to attract Star Wars fans and, quite frankly, why Star Wars is better than sports.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a sports fan. I have a dysfunctional relationship with the Cubs. I believe that the Michael Jordan Bulls are the greatest Chicago sports team ever. (Yes, even greater than the ’85 Bears.) And even though they’ve won a Stanley Cup, I still rue the day the Blackhawks fired Mike Keenan. But of course I am a geek - I grew up with my friends calling me a "Star Wars freak" - so I’ll admit to a bias. And there are many similarities between the geek/nerd “culture” that exists in Star Wars fandom and the culture that exists in sports fandom. So, when I decided to break down what it’s like to be a fan of Star Wars as opposed to a fan of sports in general, I came up with the “Top 5 Reasons Why Star Wars is Better Than Sports“:
5. Star Wars has no season: All the major sports have seasons, designated times of the year in which they are played. This means that fans of baseball suffer through the winter waiting for the arrival of Spring Training. Football fans, in turn, will say that once the Super Bowl is over, they endure baseball season to get them to Training Camp. And basketball fans straddle both worlds. (I’m not even going to mention hockey. At this point, with the impending lockout, that sport is as fictional as “quidditch” to me.)
Meanwhile, if you are a fan of Star Wars, every day brings something new from the popular sci-fantasy series. The movies are readily available on Blu-Ray and DVD; there are countless books and comics being published each month; and television shows like Clone Wars and Detours are being produced to help Star Wars fans get their daily fix. So, while sports fans can only enjoy their favorite sports during certain times of the year, Star Wars fans can visit that “galaxy, far, far away” each and every day.
4. Star Wars comes with cooler stuff: Along with the aforementioned books and television shows, you have toys, video games and countless collectibles. Go to any toy aisle and you’ll find an entire section dedicated to stocking action figures, vehicles and props. For the older fan you have board games, artwork and limited edition statues. Add to that all the cool clothing items and accessories that let you be both geeky and fashionable, and you’ve got a lot of swag to enjoy.
As for sports, of course there are the jerseys, hats, shoes and video games, but they still haven’t come close to equaling Star Wars in the toys and games department. And have you ever tried re-enacting the Giants’ Super Bowl winning touchdown drive with an Eli Manning figure? That thing is stiffer than an Al Gore acceptance speech.
Yeah, there are a few sports toys and collectibles, but to date, Star Wars dwarfs all major sports combined when it comes to sheer quantity and diversity of fun licensed merchandise.
3. Star Wars fans have a better community: See, unlike in sports where the tribal nature of humanity is exacerbated by dividing people up to root for teams with interests based solely on geography, Star Wars fans are one big world-wide community. Heck, go to any convention and you’ll see that the guys and gals who dress up like Stormtroopers get along rather well with the folks who dress up like Jedi Knights. And I have never heard about a guy in a Jar Jar Binks costume getting beat up in the parking lot of a sci-fi convention by a bunch of Wookiees. But if you asked me to wear a Green Bay Packers jersey at Soldier Field? Yeah, I’m not that brave.
The point is that within the Star Wars community, everyone is encouraged to accept one another through the common bond of loving the movies, books, games, etc. In sports, people are compelled to compete against each other, and worse yet, have their self-worth all-invested in whether their team wins or loses. Nobody loses in Star Wars. That is, unless you’re Jar Jar Binks.