This past weekend, I stayed in New York and my mom went on the road. Actually, I stayed in NY because my mom went on the road … she flew up here for a visit. While we were watching the UF-Auburn game at a bar with some friends (and again later at the Giants-Eagles game), I got to thinking about sports rivalries.
After the first round of beers was drained, I sat quietly, listening to the arguments blooming around me. Sports (UF vs. Tennessee vs. FSU) … politics (Hillary vs. Obama vs. Thompson) … religion (who’s right? … who’s too right?). The sports debates were doubtless the most heated, and the comments the most nasty. But when a high-pitch political debate broke out, it was quickly stymied: “I don’t talk politics or religion when I’m out watching sports,” one of my friends said. “It only leads to fighting.” Why, then, was it okay to bash someone’s sports beliefs but not their politics or religion? Easy: it’s not.
I am a dedicated sports fan. Some would say ultra dedicated. I am loyal to my teams win or lose and when it comes to sports, I love a good debate. That ends, however, when debate turns into argument turns into fighting. I have no desire to turn every person I meet into a fan of the teams I’ve grown up cheering for, nor do I feel the need to denigrate a person for not being a fan of my team. (For the record, I have few friends whose sports allegiances align with mine, and I like it that way.)
If I did put down a person’s team in anything but a non-joking-around manner, I would not be surprised if that person hauled off and socked me in the nose. In fact, I’d deserve it. People’s sports loyalties are as ingrained into their personalities, into their person, as their race and religion. And, as we all know, those are beliefs worth fighting for.
If you were to walk into a place of worship (or, heck, even a sports bar) and begin yelling, “Hey Muslims … you suck!” or “B-U-D-D … H-I-S-T … what’s that spell? Loser!” I think you should expect retaliation. Wars have started over little more than hate-filled words. So why, then, do folks not expect retaliation when putting down the sports teams someone has been brought up to love and believe in, in the same way they are brought up to believe in their faith?
Example: I was born in Pittsburgh, went to the University of Florida and in fifth grade decided baseball didn’t get any better than Gary Carter (I was a catcher) and Darryl Strawberry (I just loved to watch him run down a fly ball). So if you follow stick-and-ball sports, you can figure out pretty quickly that a) I had a terrible weekend … loss, loss, season over and b) I am a Steelers, Gators and Mets fan. A HUGE Steelers, Gators and Mets fan. (Today, a sad Steelers, Gators and Mets fan.)
I was also born in a teeny-tiny town to white, Democrat parents who took me to a Methodist church for Sunday school every weekend as a kid. But had I been born to Muslim Republican parents in San Diego and attended the University of Tennessee, I would have completely different allegiances, both in regards to my sports teams and my religion/political views. I have always been aware of this fact, and aware of the fact that were everyone a Christian/Decmocrat/Gator/Steelers/Mets fan, the world would be a pretty damn dull place. And for the same reason I would never attempt to convince every person to fall in line with my political or religious beliefs, I would never attempt to turn everyone I meet into a Gator fan or hate on folks for loving their Seminoles or Hurricanes. Why is this such a difficult concept for most people to grasp?
I thought about this, especially, while we were at the Giants game. This is the second game I’ve brought my mom to at the Meadowlands, and each time she has witnessed several too-close-for-comfort fan fights. On Sunday night, I was actually afraid to leave my mom (who, by the way, is fully capable of taking care of herself) to return to the press box after the half.
Each fight began something like this …
“Hey you … in the McNabb jersey … go f**k yourself! Your team sucks. You suck! Your city sucks! … E-A-G xxx L-E-S xxx F**k Off!”
I do not remember learning any of these at cheerleading camp. What ever happened to cheering FOR your team? How about a “Let’s go, Giants!” every once in a while?
Also, I feel compelled to point out the hypocrazy (err … hypocracy) of these folks. The same ultra-dedicated fans who were so willing to fight/namecall for the love of their Giants, bailed at the end of the third quarter. Excuse: “The traffic is horrible!”
Next time, take the bus.