Three weekends ago, I flew for the very first time.
Not to visit family members living in Vancouver. Not to go frolic on a beach in the Bahamas. Not to take a backpacking trip through Europe. Nah, I flew to Pasadena, Calif., for Power Morphicon, a bi-annual convention celebrating the children’s television show “Power Rangers.” And it was, to pull a phrase from the show’s lexicon, morphinominal.
For three days I perused vendor booths filled with classic toys, interacted with actors from my favorite seasons of the show and waited in many a line for a number of events. I even woke up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to begin waiting in line for a wristband which gave me the right to stand in another line later that day to meet the cast of “Dino Super Charge,” the iteration of the show that’s currently airing on Nickelodeon.
That kind of stuff is why I and thousands of other people flocked to the Pasadena Convention Center. By final boarding time on the way home, it barely crossed my mind.
My primary role at the Herald-Leader is to write about high school sports. As a sports fan, the only job that could be better is if I was on the field getting paid to play. It surprises most folks when I tell them I didn’t pay much mind to athletics as a child.
Like most kids coming up in my hometown of Lovely, I followed the Wildcats, but only passively. (My mother, as diehard as they come, often laments the fact that I wouldn’t watch games with her when I was younger. I wish I had.) It wasn’t until the summer preceding my junior year of high school that I became enthralled with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, and that fever begot a more serious devotion to UK and other sports fandom.
Before then, my heart was entrenched in “geeky” areas of interest: comic books, video games and of course, Power Rangers. When my family purchased its first computer in 1999, one of the first things I did was seek out websites devoted to the show. I discovered and joined an internet forum, then known as Power Rangers Central (it’s now called Rangerboard).
Sports fans’ spaces in which they can be themselves are abundant and apparent: backyards, living rooms, bars, restaurants, arenas, stadiums. A 9-year-old “Power Rangers” fan in Eastern Kentucky didn’t have quite that many options when it came to engaging with other like-minded folks, so PRC became a go-to place to keep up with news and theories about the show, as well as to “meet people” from the comfort of a holler. I never posted much but visiting every day made me feel part of a larger community that mattered, not unlike a herd of NFL fans packed into Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday afternoon.
In real life
Facebook and Twitter have somewhat eroded the need for dedicated fan sites, though they still thrive. It is on the latter where my direct participation in the “Power Rangers” fandom bloomed while in college, and where I “met” many of the folks whom I would meet in real life while in Pasadena. And they were, by far, the best part of the trip.
BurgundyRanger, a TV ratings guru within the fandom, responded to my call for interest in splitting a room while in Pasadena about a year before the convention. I never met Burgundy — “Steve” in real life — until he walked into the lobby of our hotel, where we shook hands and did the back-slap hug like we’d known each other for years. We immediately bonded not just over the show, but also our shared background in sports journalism.
I’d met trekkieb47 — Eric — at Lexington Comic Con, but never really hung out with him until we converged in Pasadena with a smattering of folks, among them Hassan Ahmed — a popular YouTuber in the fandom — and Kickback (Chris), a moderator of another popular Power Rangers forum. Between random encounters and haphazardly-planned dining trips, I met dozens of other folks I’d “known” forever. I also met plenty of people I hadn’t yet online, like Vince, Margot and Danielle.
Sure, we talked about Power Rangers over the course of the weekend, but we spoke even more about things you only do with real pals. Chris shared tales only a newly-minted father could; Margot and Danielle, partners, described details from their first date; Steve, a diehard D.C. sports fan, recounted what the area was like when the Washington Bullets won the 1978 NBA title. Jobs, family and love were brought up way more than Zords, special effects and rubber monsters.
It’s been three weeks since Power Morphicon ended but it feels like three years. Life flies much faster than the airbus that carried me to Pasadena.
Every day, I’m delighted and taunted by tweets and Facebook posts from people I may never see again. Scattered all over the U.S. are people who sought out community when their given surroundings didn’t offer an outlet for their passion. It didn’t matter that our relationships started on a computer screen or were developed over mutual interest in a TV show; we were no different than strangers on barstools bonding (or commiserating) over the Bengals. Like so many football fans do, we emptied our bank accounts to take in the “Power Rangers” equivalent of the Super Bowl together.
The camaraderie and conversations will last longer in our memories than the autographs and action figures. That’s truly morphinominal.