After the Royals won the American League pennant, movie star Paul Rudd told a Kansas City TV station that he was having a big party at his mom's house. This surprised a lot of people—including, presumably, his mother. Even Rudd's fans may not have known he is from Overland Park, Kans., or that one of his best friends, actor Jon Hamm, is a Cardinals fan. For three decades, while Hamm's Cardinals were making regular playoff appearances and winning World Series, Rudd was a successful man cheering for an unsuccessful baseball team.
Rudd is not alone, though he may have felt that way while the Royals kept losing. Celebrity fans are part of the modern sports landscape; you can't win a championship without a famous person walking into the locker room, beer in hand, like Kid Rock used to do with his hometown Pistons. When the National League champion Giants urge the crowd to sing along to Journey's "Lights," the band's former front man, Steve Perry, sometimes joins in.
We love celebrity fans because we love celebrities, and we love knowing that deep down, the most famous people in the world are slobbering fools just like the rest of us. You know an actor is successful when he must use back stairs and freight elevators to hide from fans, then sits down in a luxury suite and becomes one.
Celebrity fans, like celebrity faces, can be real or fake. We know Kevin Durant is a serious fan of Washington's NFL team because teammate Russell Westbrook teases him about it. Billy Crystal loved the Yankees of the 1960s so much, he made a movie about them called 61*. Snoop Dogg did not just attend USC football games in the Pete Carroll era; he actually seemed to enjoy watching practice, which might be a pretty strong argument against the legalization of marijuana. Pearl Jam's original name was Mookie Blaylock, after the NBA point guard, and its breakthrough album, Ten, was named for Blaylock's jersey number. This may be the only reason anybody remembers Mookie Blaylock's jersey number.
Charlie Sheen once bought Babe Ruth's 1927 World Series ring and the contract that sold Ruth to the Yankees, perhaps because he can't buy what he really wants: a championship for his beloved Reds. Sheen also bought 2,615 outfield seats to an Angels game so he could catch a home run ball. Unfortunately no home runs were hit his way. We can only hope Sheen left the ballpark with his boyish innocence intact.
Jack Nicholson seems to care more about the Lakers than some of their players, and for good reason: When the players are gone, he will still be there, sitting next to the opponent's bench and complaining about foul calls. Then there is Justin Bieber, who once showed up at a Heat game wearing an oversized Heat cap, sunglasses and a face that even a mother would punch.
Yes, Nicholson wears sunglasses indoors too. But he's allowed to do that. He is Jack Nicholson.
The Lakers attract so many celebrity fans that they have been known to parade them through a hallway to do quickie halftime interviews. It would only be fair if we reversed the scenario and had athletes answer questions when they walk out of a movie theater.
Sports franchises confirm what supermarket tabloids have known for years: Famous people are more important than the rest of us. Many clubs happily give prime seats to famous athletes from other teams in town to add sizzle to their proceedings. The Knicks have tried to bring every imaginable celebrity to their games—including some former bold-faced names who took the court in the starting lineup.
Our games mean nothing unless somebody cares; when somebody famous cares, they seem to mean more. When Jay Z raps about "sittin' courtside, Knicks and Nets give me high fives," he is merely reporting the facts. He is the kind of fan that players appreciate the most.
The ultimate celebrity-fan moment will come when L.A. finally gets an NFL franchise again, that team wins and some celebrity claims to have suffered alongside a nonexistent team for 20 years. You are free to roll your eyes if that happens. I suspect Rudd will too.
We love celebrity fans because we love knowing that deep down, the world's most famous people are slobbering fools like the rest of us.
Who's your favorite famous fan?
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