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The image is a black-and-white, lithographic crayon drawing, and it resides in Harvard’s Fogg Museum of American Art, an image of three men in various stages of dress in what appears to be the corner of a wooden shed or perhaps a barn. In the right background, seated in a darkened corner of the shed is a man, wearing only a shirt, leaning forward and pulling on his left sock. Even more shadowy and obscured are three men on the left of the drawing — one standing and apparently toweling off his face; another, nude and seated on the planked floor with his back to the painter; and a third, a baronial older man in derby and jacket, seated on the bench in the hazy background. You would likely not recognize it as an image of small-town, turn-of-the-century baseball but for its title: Sweeney, the Idol of the Fans, Had Hit a Home Run. More… “George Bellows: America’s Artist on the National Pastime”

Jay Thomas, Ed.D., is a professor of education at Aurora University in Aurora, IL, where he teaches courses on learning, motivation, and research methods. His publications include books and articles on assessment and gifted education, but he is equally proud of his baseball writing, which has appeared in Elysian Fields Quarterly and The National Pastime.

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What is a super-fan? I think immediately of the Beatles. There’s that scene in A Hard Day’s Night in which adoring fans chase the band. The guys are smiling — John and Paul and George and Ringo — but there is a note of hysteria. Madness has been unleashed, some special category of desire that has made physical contact with a Beatle more important than anything else in the universe.

 

I remember watching old footage of young girls screaming their brains out and then collapsing in a heap as The Beatles performed. I asked my parents what was wrong. It scared me. It seemed that something terrible was happening. These people were having an experience that was too much for them. They were willing to do anything, in my eyes: throw themselves from cliffs, rend flesh, erase their… More…