We Are All Sports Fans

We are all sport fans. Being a sports fan allows us to enjoy life, have fun, and connect with friends and community. Being a sports fan means more than just donning your favorite team's jersey or singing your university's fight song. We become a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that can be positive and uplifting. Sports fans help make sports come alive. And this love of sport is a two-way street. You see, athletes need and love sports fans just like sports fans need and love their athletes.

How and why are you a sports fan? A highlight of being a sports fan is the chance to dress up, dance, cheer and go wild in the stands, at a sports bar, or at home in your living room. Sports fandom is open to everyone and does not discriminate. This comes across loud and clear when looking at the diversity of humanity reflected in sports fans. When looking around sports facilities today is seems absolutely incomprehensible that at one point in US history stadium seating areas were designated as Whites Only. Today fans from all walks of life cheer together, sharing celebratory "high-fives" and hugs when their teams score.

Sports fans often do the wave in stadiums, arenas, fields and parks around the United States and around the world. The wave is an amazing unifying experience that lasts for minutes but stays with us throughout our lives. Sports fans are defined as "enthusiastic devotees," "ardent admirers," "enthusiasts," and yes, even "fanatics" at times. These words can surely describe all of us.

Although sports fans may develop early connections to sports, teams and athletes, there is always an opportunity for fans to learn about and become supporters of new and different sports. With a wide variety of sports on their programs, the Olympic and Paralympic Games create possibilities for the realization that we can all be sports fans. The right combination of hype, energy and visibility opens our eyes to a wide range of sports and activities. We can readily see the potential for a fan-base that wants to engage with women's sports or adaptive sports on a more regular basis.

With the Rio Paralympic Games starting on September 7, sports fans eager to watch elite athletes compete and still riding the wave of the Olympic Games cannot wait to see, hear and follow Paralympic sports and athletes from around the world. During the London 2012 Summer Paralympic Games over 3 billion (yes that is 3 billion with a "B") fans worldwide tuned in to digital coverage during the 12 days of competitions and ceremonies. The Games trended on Twitter in ways never seen before for adaptive sport. Why? Exciting athletes, compelling stories, national pride - the same reasons people tuned in to watch the Olympic Games.

As an athlete, nothing matches feeling supported and followed by fans when chasing your dreams. Fan support is important to athletes both with and without a disability. A fan of basketball can be a fan of wheelchair basketball, a volleyball fan can thoroughly enjoy sitting volleyball, and rugby is rugby, whether it's men's, women's or quad rugby, which is often referred to by the intriguing name Murderball. And if you love soccer then you are definitely going to love 5-a-side blind soccer. The most important thing about sports fans is that they stay fans. After 12 days of the Rio Paralympic Games, the fan base must continue to follow and rally for all of the athletes.

Want to show your support for Paralympic athletes and share your experience as a fan of adaptive sports? Join the MPower Sports social media campaign and use #WeAreAllSportsFans to show support for your favorite Paralympic athlete, sport, or national team. Share how you are a sports fan and why you think we are all sports fans!