What makes a truly great sports fan? Passion, certainly. Longevity, sure. Team loyalty, because rooting for laundry beats worshipping players who may not be around next season (or next week). Team apparel? Absolutely. Merchandise and memorabilia? Pile it on. Skipping your cousin’s wedding for a playoff game? Totally understandable.
ESPN is soliciting nominees for its inaugural Hall of Fans class. Ten finalists will be chosen later this month and ESPN voters will induct three into a hall whose purpose is to “discover, elevate, and celebrate greatness in sports fandom.” This “hall,” unlike baseball’s in Cooperstown, N.Y., or basketball’s in Springfield, will essentially live as a website along with an exhibit at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
Boston fans, of course, take a back (unobstructed) seat to no one in compiling hall of fame resumes. Some featured here are superfans you may know of, some are not. Applaud them all. Heck, nominate one or two for next year’s ESPN class. Just don’t call any of them around game time, OK?
Lynne Smith, 67
Favorite team: Red Sox
Favorite player(s): Every one of them, unequivocally
Games attended yearly: 60-plus, including road trips ( e.g. 2004 World Series in St. Louis, ’07 Series in Denver).
Game outfit: Customized jackets (World Series, Fenway Park 100th anniversary); Fenway hat with lit-up Citgo sign; uniform number of Sox starting pitcher in right earlobe.
TV sports viewing: Every Sox broadcast, most Celtics games
Ever miss a big family or personal event for a game: No, but when Smith’s nephew was married during an October playoff series, she found it “very annoying” to attend.
Stuff: Ted Williams autographed baseball; crystal-studded David Ortiz bat; framed Johnny Pesky baseball card; guitar signed by ’07 World Series championship team.
Fan’s notes: Smith has thrown out the first pitch at a Sox game; her daughter’s baby sitter was former Sox manager Ralph Houk’s daughter; her son held his bar mitzvah reception at Fenway’s 406 Club; and Smith herself once ran — unsuccessfully — for governor of Red Sox Nation. Mercy!
Mike Schuster , 50
Favorite team: Patriots
Favorite player(s): Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Steve Grogan
Games attended yearly: All home games; has been to three Super Bowls, London road game.
Game outfit: Facepaint; foam hat; Super Bowl XXXVIII hat; 14-carat gold Pats pendant; game day jersey; American flag pants with Pats patches; Pats socks, sneakers, and shoelaces; shaved head painted to look like a Pats helmet.
TV sports viewing: Pats road games, Olympics
Ever miss a big family or personal event for a game: No. His family knows not to schedule anything important on game day.
Stuff: Schuster’s house is a virtual Pats shrine: ceiling fan with helmet/football motif, silver blades with Pats bumper stickers; football coffee table; bobblehead dolls; bobblefoot (Adam Vinatieri) doll; glasses, mugs, beer steins, Grogan-autographed chip ’n dip bowl.
Fan’s notes: Growing up in Foxborough, he attended the first Pats game played there, in 1971. A diehard fan, he’s suffered through fumble-prone stretches like 1989-93 and thus knows the true meaning of loyalty.
Mike Penta , 39
Favorite team: Bruins
Favorite player(s): Bobby Orr, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara
Games attended yearly: 35-40, plus occasional road games.
Game outfit: Bruins shirt, cowboy hat with Bruins pins; goalie mask, face paint.
TV sports viewing: Every Bruins game, many Sox, Celtics, and Patriots games
Ever miss a big family or personal event for a game: Yes.
Stuff: Autographed sticks, pucks, jerseys; Bruins clock, glasses, action figures.
Fan’s notes: “Hockey is the type of sport that feeds off fans’ energy,” says Penta, one of many
hypervocal Gallery Gods seated in the Garden rafters for whom every Bruins game is “like a family reunion,” with forechecking.
Agnes Nobile , 60
Favorite team: Celtics
Favorite player: Paul Pierce
Games attended yearly: All home games; occasional road trips (Philadelphia, Orlando, Miami).
Game outfit: Lime-green leather suit; rhinestone-studded Paul Pierce tank top; green Chanel earrings and handbag; Celtics bracelet; basketball-colored hair.
TV sports viewing: Celtics, Pats, Bruins, Sox
Ever miss a big family or personal event for a game : Yes.
Stuff: Autographed basketballs (one by Red Auerbach); photographs, banners, programs; Marty Conlon sneakers (signed); NBA Barbie doll with Celts jersey.
Fan’s notes: Nobile, who hands out “Celtics Queen” business cards at the Garden, acquired her season ticket through an ex-boyfriend. He’s history, but The Truth has prevailed. Her pregame ritual includes exchanging “No. 1” signs with Pierce and a thumbs-up with coach Doc Rivers. Continued...