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"Fandom" Is Not Necessarily Defined As "Blind Faith"

As regular readers have no doubt seen, there's been an awful lot of debate at BRB the last few days about Brian Cushing. While the vehicle for the recent debate here has been Cushing, the argument is by no means limited to him. The issue is much larger. Namely, what does it mean to be a fan? Does criticizing a team or a player make someone less of a fan? Do "real fans" support every move their franchise or rooting interest makes? In my opinion, the answer to the two preceding questions is a resounding "NO."

Back on April 25th, I wrote this immediately after your Houston Texans made Brian Cushing the fifteenth player chosen in the 2009 NFL Draft:

Well, I hate this pick more than any other pick Smithiak has ever made. I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. I hate life.

Vent as you see fit. I'm going to be catatonic until the second round.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, I made no secret that I wasn't a fan of Brian Cushing becoming a Texan. Upon Smithiak having the audacity to ignore the opinion of yours truly--a fan who does not have access to a fraction of the resources a NFL franchise does--and selecting Brian Cushing, I reiterated my disappointment with the decision in my typically understated manner. As I type this, I still wish the Texans had gone in a different direction with their first-round pick, and I say that as someone who has been grudgingly impressed with the positive reports about Cushing's professionalism, performance, and demeanor since he was drafted by Houston.

Does that failure to jump on the Cushing Bandwagon make me less of a fan of the Texans than, say, someone who has loved the Cushing pick from the very beginning? Absolutely not. Because here's the thing: I WANT TO BE WRONG, AND I WANT THE TEXANS TO SUCCEED. I honestly would love nothing more than for Cushing to garner All-Pro honors while playing for the Texans. I want him to be an anchor at LB in Houston for the next decade. I want him to be an integral part of the Texans winning multiple Super Bowls. I want to be able to look back on what I said/typed and remark, "Man, was I out of line. Let's call that Reason #4,378,294 why I'm not a general manager or coach in the NFL." That's fandom, and fandom does not have to equate with immediately embracing every move made by the organization.

Make no mistake about it: I'm going to root for Brian Cushing. Because he's a Texan, and I root for the Texans. Given the choice between Cushing proving that I'm (more of) a moron and having some sort of satisfaction that my grossly amateur personnel evaluation was spot on, I'll take the dunce cap every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I am, however, going to bitch and moan if and/or when Cushing doesn't play well. This does not mean that I'm rooting for him to be a bust; I'm liable to bitch and moan about nearly every Texan not named Andre Johnson or Mario Williams at some point during a season.

Yet there appears to be a school of thought out there that says I shouldn't utter a derogatory word about any Texan. That as fans of the Houston Texans, it's our job to pump sunshine and good cheer about all players at all times. Why? Why would I forfeit my right to complain or criticize once a player becomes a Texan? For anyone out there who's thinking, "You forfeit that right as long as the player is wearing steel blue, liberty white, and battle red," I would ask if you followed that golden rule the entire time David Carr was under center for the Texans. I'm guessing very few people outside of Zoolander's immediate family can respond in the affirmative to that question.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. As a fan, you have the right to opine, even negatively, without it making you any less of a diehard. Because in the final analysis, we all want the same thing: For the Houston Texans to win as many games as possible.

Thoughts on the matter? Let it fly in the Comments below.