Thursday, March 23, 2023

Super fan goes to extremes to pump up the crowd

It’s playoff time, and the Argyle girls basketball team is playing Abilene Wylie in Aledo. In the stands sits Argyle super fan Clyde Fine, who, besides cheering for his team as loudly as possible, is quietly devising a plan to level the playing field.

On the court is a crotchety and by-the-book, gray-haired referee who, in Fine’s opinion, favors Abilene Wylie at every turn. Every foul call is against Argyle. Every whistle. Every free throw. Every stoppage in play. Every warning to the coaching staff — it’s all for Wylie’s benefit. And Argyle is struggling as a result.

Naturally, Fine isn’t having any of it.

Argyle super fan Clyde Fine rarely misses a game. (Photo by Lynn Seeden)

“Abilene Wylie’s colors are gold and purple, so I look around the stadium and see a kid with a yellow cap on,” Fine said with a devilish giggle. “I borrow the cap from him and then notice another kid with a purple windbreaker. So I borrow that, and I sit on the Wylie side right in front of that referee — and I start giving him all kinds of crap. Wouldn’t you know, that old man switched from picking on Argyle to picking on Abilene Wylie. And we ended up winning that darn game.

“I always try to keep it clean and have fun. But whatever I can do to help our kids, I’m going to do it.”

While Fine is fuzzy on the exact year of that game, he knows it was at least a good 15 years ago. And he’s managed to build a legendary list of escapades since then that arguably rival that.

Like the time he saw Argyle great Ian Sadler play for the first time as a freshman. As everyone knows, Sadler was a touchdown machine. Fine promptly walked up to Sadler’s parents after the game and said, ‘Don’t you ever move away from Argyle. That kid is special.” Sadler eventually led the Eagles to a Class 3A state title as a senior in 2013.

There was also last year’s football season when the Eagles traveled to their hated rival, Celina. Celina officials weren’t going to allow Fine and his decorating crew into the stadium early to put up flags and banners on their side of the bleachers — something that was a tradition and helped make the players feel at home no matter where they play. So Fine called Superintendent Telena Wright, who called Celina’s superintendent.

Needless to say, Fine got his way.

“We put our stuff up, and [the kids] commenced to kicking [Celina’s] butt,” he said.

While Fine, 62, is as rabid as it gets in terms of fandom and isn’t one to sit quietly, behind it all is a shy guy who simply loves cheering for kids and high school sports. A Coppell native, he moved to Argyle in 1984 with his two boys and never left. His youngest son, Nathan, was part of Argyle’s first graduating class in 2003. And since he began watching Argyle athletics in 2002, Fine has only missed three football games.

He is also at nearly every basketball, baseball, and softball game — among others. And it doesn’t matter where the game is at, either. He went to San Antonio seven years in a row to cheer on the girls basketball team at the state tournament. He was 170 miles away in Vernon to watch the boys basketball team this past school year and was also at state for them.

When softball season rolled around, he made it to Abilene to watch the softball team’s playoff run.

“I try not to ever miss a playoff game,” he said.

When it comes to football, he and Argyle supporters such as Dennis Gebhart, Shelby Durr, the late Michael Shandley, and others religiously team up every year to ensure the stadium is decorated before every game. Fine even adds in his own flair by passing out noisemakers ranging from countless milk jugs filled with odds and ends to loud cowbells.

Clyde Fine shows off two championship rings that bear his name (Photo by Lynn Seeden)

“It’s all about the kids. We have good kids, good parents, and good coaches, and I want them to remember high school,” Fine said. “Four years goes by fast — we all know that. I want them to remember Argyle and how much fun they had — even if they had this loud, crazy guy in the stands all the time. I love the kids; that’s all it comes down to.”

Argyle football coach and athletic director Todd Rodgers is entering his 19th season at the helm and led Argyle to its second state title this past January. In that time, he said there’s never been a time where Fine hasn’t strolled into his office to get the scoop on the upcoming season, an opponent, and the game plan.

“He’s very connected to the success of our kids, and unless he’s really sick or something bad happened, that boy don’t miss [a game],” Rodgers said. “He’s got his own hot sports opinions that he shares with me, and he travels everywhere to make sure our kids feel at home. He’s bound and determined to send a message that this is a big operation. He’s passionate, and he breeds positivity.”

Rodgers added, “He’s also very bias. And that’s a good thing.”

Rodgers is right — Fine’s bias is a good thing. He’s beloved by the Argyle faithful so much that several community members pitched in to give him two state title rings — one for the baseball team’s undefeated run in 2018 and the other for the Eagles’ latest football championship. Some even helped get him a new van after his car was totaled during a drive home from Abilene a few months ago.

But while he’s loved within the city of Argyle, Fine is viewed much differently by opposing teams and their fans — many of whom have gone so far as to ask security in disgust if “that Clyde Fine guy” is going to be there that night.

“I’ve been threatened by other schools’ parents and kids. Nothing ever happened; it was all talk. But I did have a police officer in Decatur tell me one time, ‘Clyde, you’re a legend. They know you here,’” Fine said with a laugh. “You will never hear me cuss or call out an opposing player by their name. But I’ll try to let the referee know who is fouling and who isn’t, and I’ll even do fake countdowns at basketball games and buzzer sounds. I come up with everything I can think of.”

It’s all to be a loyal fan. And Clyde Fine does it better than anyone.

“I was told that my enthusiasm is infectious. It’s fun for me. It’s my hobby,” Fine said.

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