Sports fans: Extreme cosplayers

The term cosplay was coined in 1984 in Japan. Cosplay is a performance art in which the participants, referred to as cosplayers, wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character. There is a broader term that is more often used. Cosplay often applies to any costumed role-playing; some of the most popular sources to use are from anime, cartoons, manga, television series, fantasy books, and video games.

There has been a massive growth in the number of people cosplaying as a hobby since the 1990s. It has made the phenomenon a significant aspect of popular culture in Japan and some parts of Asia and the Western world. One of the most mainstream forms of Cosplaying is the San Diego Comic-Con, which is a multi-genre and comic book convention that is held annually in San Diego, California. This event has a lot of celebrity backing as there are panels for many shows there along with a meet and greet and an array of other activities that are on in the four days.

Is Cosplay for ‘Nerds’?

This is something that comes up quite often. As it is people dressing up as a character from something they love, it is automatically viewed as ‘different’; this difference is put down to being ‘nerdy’. The definition of a nerd is someone that is seen as intellectual, obsessive, introverted or lacking social skills. A person that is considered a nerd may spend an inordinate amount of time on little known or non-mainstream activities. This sounds like the perfect fit for Cosplaying right? Well, not really. There are many forms of Cosplaying that people wouldn’t consider cosplay. The biggest version of mainstream cosplay has to be football fans.

Why is being a sports fan mainstream?

Now that we know what cosplay is and how it is seen in mainstream media, you can see why sports fans would not want to be associated with this term yet if you look deeper into the culture of what a sports fan is, it starts to look a lot like the cosplayer culture with a touch more toxic masculinity thrown in.

A Sports fan is defined as someone enthusiastic about sports. The word fan is a broader term that encompasses all different types of media. With that definition, you could compare a sports fan and a cosplayer to fall under the same heading. Why is being a sports fan more socially acceptable than any other type of fan?

Well, a lot of it has to do with media exposure. If you turn on the news the three main topics are News, Sports, and weather. You can get into college on a sports scholarship; footballers are paid thousands to kick a ball around.

If you take a step back and just think about sports, it is a weird activity to be watching. You are essentially watching strangers compete for something that you do not benefit from in any way, yet there are still millions of euro invested yearly into it. There is research that shows that there are similarities between a fan’s identification with a team and with how people identify with their gender, nationality, and ethnicity, meaning being a sports fan becomes part of their identity.

Sports fans feel a sense of belonging with others who support the same team as them. Being part of a team and going to their games gives them the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves and knowing that, win or lose, they have other fans there going through the same sense of loss or win.

Sports fans, extreme cosplayers?

This leads us to the main question. Sports fans, are they just a form of extreme cosplaying? Go to any type of professional sports game and you will find at minimum, the fans wearing the teams’ jersey. Some will paint the team colours on their face, others might even be wearing a particular teammates number. Going further than that you will find that outside of the games you have people wearing the brands they endorse, getting their hair cut to replicate a particular teammate or even getting the full kit out to where they play the sports themselves. It stands to reason that they could be considered extreme cosplayers in their own right.

Does that make it wrong? No, every person should have their freedom of expression and if that makes them happy and isn’t harming anyone then it shouldn’t matter.

The main issue with this is that it is so widely accepted in society but other forms of fandom are frowned upon or looked at as ‘strange’. This all just boils down to what is popular and what is not. Sports is considered an acceptable thing to like whereas anime or other non-mainstream media is not. This is unlikely to change anytime soon but cosplay, in general, is growing and becoming more mainstream each day, so much that it won’t be long for others to realise that sports fans might just be another version of cosplaying.

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Katie Boland

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