Whoa Nelly!

What is it about sports that turns some people into irrational, angry freaks? And I’m not talking about violence at ball games. I’m not touching that. It’s stupid. It’s wrong. The end. I’m talking about people who get all fired up and mad at other people, or other teams, over something as silly and relatively meaningless to life as a ball game.

I’m a big sports fan. I’ve always loved sports. If there’s no NFL football this season, I will be beside myself. I’ll watch college games, though; I’ve been a Penn State fan all my life, and by invoking a woman’s prerogative, I’ve allowed myself to also be an Ohio State fan even though they’re both Big Ten teams, because Penn State was an independent school until 1990 and I went to a tiny college in Ohio which had great academics, but craptastic sports teams, and therefore I had to adopt OSU if I wanted to maintain my sanity.

That is the only thing in sports for which I’ve invoked a woman’s prerogative, by the way.

I’ve been well-versed on IndyCar racing since 1985. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I watch the World Series and maybe a random game here and there before that. I don’t generally watch the NBA because I don’t care for that particular brand of showboating, but I’ll watch college hoops, and I do all the same grunting and shouting and throwing my arms up in the air that everyone else does during March Madness. I’ll even put a hockey game on, even though I really don’t understand hockey very well and can’t figure out why its season seems to be approximately 13 months long, nine months of which most people in the Lower 48 are unaware that the game is even being played, and the other four months of which appear to be playoffs.

On any given weekend afternoon, if the television is on, there will be a sport displayed on it. It’s part of the fabric of my life; I’d rather see a golf match on a Sunday afternoon than a bad Lifetime movie. And I don’t really like golf. I suppose, for me, it’s the shared experience and the fact that it’s a measure of actual skills, abilities and talents. It’s also that I grew up with a father who watched sports on the weekends, and that’s how I connected with him sometimes.

But there are a lot of things about sports fans that I just can’t abide. Irrational anger being one of them. How many of us know someone who we like just fine except when they’re watching their favorite team play? My college roommate’s boyfriend (now husband) threw plates at the television during Cavs games when we were in school. My plates. And my television.

I don’t understand people who want pitchers to bean batters with baseballs just to get even. Try winning, instead. I can’t be near someone who spends his or her time trying to shout someone else down or using completely irrelevant arguments roughly akin to “Oh yeah?! Well you’re ugly!” to try to make a point. Why do the successes or failings of a team of people you don’t know have such a profound effect on your feelings of self-worth that you have to pick a fight over them? I’m a loyal fan of Philadelphia teams, and I cannot tell you how often someone’s feelings of inadequacy over their own team results in them yelling at me because, in 1968, some Eagles fans booed Santa. “You booed SANTA!” they yell at me.

Well, actually, no, I didn’t. I wasn’t born until 1977. I don’t even know anybody who was there when that happened.

See, I don’t associate myself with entire throngs of people and/or entire teams of athletes who compete in a sport I don’t play. And you probably shouldn’t associate me with them, either. I’m an Eagles fan, a Phillies supporter, a backer of the Sixers and the Flyers (despite previous declarations of relative ambivalence toward their sports; I get the hometown pride thing, and I’ll never fault anyone for theirs). I’m pretty vocal. I’ll yell at the television. I’ll cheer. I’ll bang on the table or the couch (that’s pretty much just for Eagles games). But I do not play for the team, nor do I behave the exact same way as what in all reality is a very limited number of their fans.

And I don’t think you’re a loser if your favorite team loses. So stop trying to prove something to me with your fury. It’s juvenile.

Also, it makes your face look funny. There’s a vein in your forehead that sticks out when they screw up, and it scares me.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re allowed to have fun and be a goof when you want to lighten up and cheer on the team. Wear a foam finger. A hat that appears to be made out of cheese. A pig nose and a dress (though we’re already going to be at odds if you wear that, because it means you’re a Redskins fan, and I, as an Eagles fan, cannot possibly be your friend.)

But if you ever – and I mean ever – paint your chest and stand shirtless at a game where the temperature is somewhere in the vicinity of non-existent on a thermometer, we’re done.

But that’s sort of extreme, and most of the people in my life are at least old enough to know better at this point.

So those are the really freaky fans. Most people, I’ll admit, aren’t like that. When it comes to what is arguably the average sports fan, here’s what cracks me up, or makes me want to tear my hair out, depending on my mood:

-People who call in to radio sports talk shows and rant about one person – an owner, a manager, a coach, a player – being the entire reason for a whole team’s consistent failure. You’re delusional. Find a new point to make.

-People who don’t call in to radio sports talk shows, but still rant about one person – an owner, a manager, a coach, a player – being the entire reason for a whole team’s consistent failure. You’re delusional, too. But I’ll give you some credit for not being narcissistic enough to think an entire listening area should hear your ignorant opinion.

-People whose allegiance to a team extends only so far as when the team wins. I’ll give you a pass if your team’s suckitude forces you to endure more than ten losing seasons in a row.

-People who start altercations in bars over games (and, by association, people for whom alcohol is a catalyst for argumentativeness).

-People who seem to believe they actually play on the team. These folks turn up on those sports radio talk shows fairly often. “We need to improve the right outside linebacker position.” “We need more depth at center.” “We need better pitching.” Who is “we?” Are you on the roster and nobody knows? Are you 117th in the depth chart?

-People who feel the need to dress head-to-toe in their favorite team’s gear on game day.

-People who feel the need to dress head-to-toe in their favorite team’s gear on a day on which a game is not being played (that’s worse than the game day one).

These last two points have become particularly interesting to me. Jack, who works around sports types, finds it demeaning to wear a jersey with another man’s name on his back. He thinks that people who do so are insecure to some degree, and feel better about themselves via the association to some random person who happens to be talented enough to go pro. He thinks that’s kind of pathetic.

Jack’s kind of a deep thinker sometimes.

But he has a point, and frankly, not only have I come to see it; I’ve come to agree with it. Don’t be offended if you own a jersey with some player’s name on the back. I wouldn’t refuse to associate with you or anything, unless you’re a freak fan, but I think it’s an interesting topic for sociological study. Why do we think that professional athletes or celebrities are better than us? That their signatures mean more than ours? That they have outpaced us in accomplishments or live better lives?

Other than the fact that they’re rich. That’s a given.

My theory is that whatever it is that makes some fans think that those athletes are better people is the same thing that makes those fans irate at the smallest error in a game, or makes them lash out at a fan from an opposing team. Insecurity and immaturity. Napoleon Syndrome, in a metaphysical way.

Enjoy the game. But I’m going to sit waaaay over here, ‘kay?

———
Featured image from nydailynews.com

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10 thoughts on “Whoa Nelly!

  1. Well. That’s a lotta stuff. I am a “we” fan when it comes to three teams … USC Football (I am sort of we, I went there, though I didn’t play football) … UConn basketball (ditto) … and the Lakers (no explanations except that I’ve been following them for YEARS. Even when I lived in Celtics territory (I also rooted for the Packers when I lived in Giants territory. I was a contrarian sports fan in my youth. I hate it when my teams lose … sometimes I only watch games on Tivo because then I can only watch if they win. But I don’t go beyond a team T-shirt or hat … no face paint, costumes, or foam fingers. I don’t like it that I get so involved but if I watch, I do. I enjoy good-natured kidding with friends who root for opposing teams but avoid on line message boards. If you want to see the real crazies, look there. I love any kind of basketball, soccer (I used to coach) and like to nap to golf. I’m glad you enjoy sports … I find that attractive in woman 🙂

    Philadelphia, huh? Spent a little time there when I was doing work for the Navy. It’s funny that you were born in 1977. When I was in DC, I was talking to a young attorney about a paper written in 1967 and he had a “that’s really old look” in his eye. I said, “You weren’t even thinking about being born when this was written, were you?” He was born in 1977. Must be a plot.

    • I don’t apply my “we” issue to college sports; I think it’s entirely acceptable to be a “we” in college because most of the time our allegiances are to the teams from our own alma maters (except mine, because they were Division III and sucked). I will not excuse your Lakers thing. I’m sorry. I have to stand firm. Good-natured kidding is perfectly acceptable, but no trash-talking. (As a Philly fan, I find that my teams invariably possess an astounding ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and therfore I have learned to keep my trash-talking down to mum until after the game.) And, for the record, I appreciate many things written in 1967.Like “Lovely Rita” and “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” and “Mrs. Robinson” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” I apologize on behalf of all people born in 1977 for the lawyer who made you feel old.

  2. Sports are for people without anything real to care about, or an excape from it. Since the age of 12 or so, the only time I cared about which team won was when I personally knew people on one of the teams.

    It’s part of that “mindless entertainment” segment of our culture, along with soap operas. No distinction should be made between “sports” and other entertainment. The competition angle gives rise to nastiness that’s hard for the uninvolved to believe. See: http://www.ocweekly.com/2011-07-07/columns/ask-a-mexican-soccer/

    • You know, I don’t know that I entirely agree with the first sentence in your comment, but I definitely see the reasoning behind it. I rant about “reality” shows… arguably, sports are no different – particularly the professional variety. Thanks for making me think!

  3. Best line? “Wear a foam finger.” The next time I hear someone on a sports rant, I’m going to act like I give a shit, say, “You know what you should do about that?” and when they say, “No, what?” I’ll say, “Wear a foam finger.” And walk away, hoping their escalated fury causes them to implode.

  4. My husband and I are both UConn alums, so we are big college hoops fans, but we’re not fanatics. I like the NCAA ad campaign during March Madness that shows the college athletes doing something other than playing sports and reminds us that most of them will go on to careers outside of sports.

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