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A nerd’s nightmare – FanExpo Canada announces addition of Sports

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An opinion piece by Joey Proulx – Nerd North Media

To quote Yoda, “Begun, the nerd wars have”. This sums up this morning’s announcement from Hobbystar Marketing – FAN EXPO LAUNCHES FAN EXPO SPORTS, THE ULTIMATE SPORTS CELEBRITY EXPERIENCE.


Now before I go any further, let me just start off by saying I have no problem with sports or sports fans. Every fandom has its small share of ass-hats that try to ruin the fun for the majority of other fans so for us to generalize sports fans as “jock culture”, (as the many comments on FanExpo’s page suggest), is the same as us generalizing our own culture by saying we’re all basement-dwelling mouth-breathers with no social lives. With that being said, there really isn’t much difference between hardcore sports fans and us hardcore nerds. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular sports hobbies:

Fantasy football = D&D or other traditional RPG
Sports games = MMORPGS, adventure games or any other game
Sports cards = Magic The Gathering
Sports memorabilia = collectibles and action figures
Sports on tv = every comic book tv show/movie


The similarities are there, so why the sudden rage over this morning’s announcement?

“Sports are as much a part of pop culture as comics or science fiction,” says Steve Menzie, President of Hobby Star Marketing Inc. “There are many similarities in the celebrity experience, with everything from sports collectibles to equally devoted fans. We are creating an event that unites fans of entertainment — whether sporting or cultural. It’s a natural fit and will offer a winning combination for all Fan Expo fans.”

Well, from personal experience let me sum up the concerns from fans (and I also stress, this is merely a summary of opinions based on experiences):

Capacity issues

For the last two years, FanExpo has oversold their convention, stranding fans out in lines for hours upon hours and eventually turning some away. As a vendor at last year’s convention, I resisted walking around the main floor as it was simply way too cramped and uncomfortable. Even the majority of cosplayers preferred to stay in the lobby area rather than grace the convention floor for extended periods of time. Read the Toronto Star article on this here.

Being the 3rd largest convention of its kind in North America, FanExpo really needs to focus on making their con better rather than simply bigger. Rumors have it that this year they will be expanding to include both the North and South convention halls with the Sports area being completely separate, however experience shows that growing the con is merely going to cause even more disorganization which leads me to my next point…


This one pained me a lot as both a vendor and “partner”. I’ve been in the marketing business for over 12 years and never have I seen so much disorganization, miscommunication (or lack of communication) in all my years of working with conventions and events. I was a huge fan of FanExpo for doing what no other con could do in Canada at their scale – but once I started working with them I saw a very different side. From not communicating effectively to vendors, disorganization and mismanagement of tickets, media passes and line-ups, to ignoring and being condescending to us smaller companies altogether, it left a very bad taste in our mouths. I WANT to like them and WANT to work with them again, but after the way we were treated last year after throwing their official events for free (without even a thank you), I’m not sure I can put my staff through that again. We all understand that running a convention of that magnitude is a daunting task wrought with issues but things definitely need to change before adding this much growth and they definitely need to improve their vendor/partner relations. Toronto Star has more on the disorganization of last year’s event here.

Clashing Fandoms

Fundamentally, sports fans and geek fans are the same – both fandoms are extremely passionate about what they love and support, so theoretically this should work right? After speaking with many of our fans and reading through this mornings comments on the announcement, there are a lot of concerns over the crowds mixing – and for good reason.


Cons were our way of escape from the constant criticism and ridicule from many of those sports fans growing up. With geek culture now synonymous with pop culture thanks to Hollywood’s adoption of comic book franchises, there’s even in-fighting with fans within our own scene. Many of the hardcore, dare I say “elitist” nerds have taken to the internet forums en masse crying out against the “fake geeks” invading the scene and more specifically calling out the entire “geek girl” movement (I won’t divulge into that here). With this announcement there’s the big fear that these sports-minded “alpha-types”  will cause even more harassment to female cosplayers (not to mention belittling the male cosplayers as well), and that attending cons will no longer be the fun environment to meet, mingle and share with like-minded individuals without feeling judged. Let’s hope these fears don’t come into fruition.

Remember when our biggest conflict was between Star Wars and Star Trek fans? Perhaps adding sports into the mix will be the bridge that brings us together. It reminds me of the age-old premise that an alien invasion would unite the world (Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novel), or even George Takei’s attempt at uniting geeks with the Star Alliance against Twilight.


With all that being said, there’s always crossovers in fandom and there’s no rules out there that say if you’re a nerd you can’t like sports and vice-versa. Although many of us that grew up in the 70s, 80s and even 90s grew up being ostracized for our obsessive passion of comics and sci-fi, there are still many of us that continue to enjoy various fandoms together, regardless of how we were treated by fans from those areas in our youth.

My Monday: I got home from work and indulged in an hour of fighting Dark Spawn with my level 20 Rogue before turning on the leafs game. During the intermission i continued my quest to find the Urn of Sacred ashes before returning to thoroughly enjoy watching men fight to put a rubber disk into a net. After the game I reviewed the advanced stats for the game before watching 4 hours of Dr.Who. Then I had some sex. After sex I went to bed and watched 4 episodes of sliders. I’M ALEX

On the flipside, what many hardcore geek culture fans see as an absolute atrocious addition to their once-beloved con, sports fans are seeing this as opportunity to explore other areas of fandom. Even many sports celebs are self-proclaimed geeks. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey calls his bat “Ocrist the Goblin Cleaver” and you’ll recognize his walk-up music as the Game of Thrones theme. Even Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh has taken up coding lessons and is a spokesperson for the recent launch of Perhaps it’s these kinds of sports celebrities that can help merge the two opposing cultures together and ease this transition.

“I see this in a different light…I’ve always been mildly interested in attending Fan Expo, but not being very deep into the comic/gamer/sci fi worlds figured I would be out of place in about 2.5 seconds…now with sports celebrities being added i will attend for sure and will now have a good excuse to check out the “other side” of fandom.” – Al Davis

In the end, both sets of fans will continue to be divided on the issue, some for and some against this merging of fandoms. I see what Hobbystar are trying to do – but with their track record, I think they should keep their cons smaller, more focused and more manageable. They’d be far more successful and regain fans’ trust if they could focus on bettering the experience instead of adding more bang for the buck while alienating some of the fans they worked so hard over the years to gain.

If all else fails, we can always start our own Nerd North con right? For the fans by the fans. Who’s with me?

What are your thoughts on this announcement?

14 Comments on A nerd’s nightmare – FanExpo Canada announces addition of Sports

  1. CZ3RO

    I hope this is just a jumping off point for FanExpo: Sports Edition – hopefully the sports aspect is so wildly successful that it warrants it’s own separate con next year. If you dig deep enough, you can find crossover in almost anything – I just don’t think there’s enough in common between traditional geekdom and sports enthusiasts to justify shoe-horning them together under one roof. It’s not the terrible end-of-the-world scenario some are making it out to be – I’m sure 99% of ‘nerds’ and ‘jocks’ can play nice together (despite what a decade of eighties movies might lead us to believe); but mashing two sub- and/or pop-cultures together and telling us they’re “a natural fit” and that it’s “a winning combination for all Fan Expo fans” seems ultimately disingenuous and even a little greedy. I know Hobby Star is business, and businesses exist to make money, and without them we wouldn’t have FanExpo, but I can’t help but feel like the only real winner here is Hobby Star’s pocketbook – at our expense. Let’s hope they can keep the ensuing chaos under control so we can all continue to enjoy what we love.

  2. JamesH

    I have to agree. The last thing Hobbystar should be doing is doubling the size of Fan Expo when they can’t even effectively run the con at its current size. I really wish I could boycott their shows and attend Wizard World instead, but Hobbystar has run them out of town and screwed over the fans once again.

  3. Agreed. Wizard World reached out to us last year to help with their events and they were an absolute pleasure to work with! I was really looking forward to working with them this year. ~Joey

  4. I agree, it’s not the end of the world, but can be wrought with disaster if it isn’t organized properly with proper security measures in place. Fandoms like this can definitely get along so long as they all treat each other with respect. I think that’s my main concern really. Respecting each other. It’s something our own scene struggles with so I’m hoping this brings us closer rather than further apart.

  5. sev

    There WAS a convention in Toronto for the fans, by the fans; for years it was called Toronto Trek, then TT, then Polaris. But the fans used their dollars to go to Fan Expo instead…

  6. It’s unfortunate, but we really have nobody to blame but ourselves for this. We fed the dragon to bring peace to our village, and then complained it got too fat to care about us any more.

  7. I think cosplayers especially female cosplayers could suffer lots of abuse from sports fans that don’t ‘get’ cosplay and this could make a lot of cosplayers not want to go now.

  8. I wish that Polaris could come back instead and crush this POS ‘convention’, or that people would stop going to Fan Excrement and stick with similar fan-run conventions like Ad Astra Anime North and ConBravo! instead. These events give you better back for your buck than Fan Expectorate does, and this sports bullshit confirms it.

  9. Loganus

    I’d be more inclined to want to allow Sports if it’s separate Sports in one venue Geek culture in the other. If you want to do both pay a price less than both combined. Don’t up the price for everyone because you want to expand beyond your means.

    On the plus side Richard Dean Anderson can help MacGuyver the doors when people get locked out this year.

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