This Is My Toy Box, Keep Your Hate Out Of It

Why is fandom so important to some and why do they let their favorite team be the most important thing in defining who they are?

There is a difference, however slight, between being a fan of a team who cheers for all the wins and mourns their losses and being a fan whose whole emotional wellbeing is tied to whether the team wins or loses.

I don’t understand how an adult can create the type of emotional investment usually reserved for close friends and family for players on their favorite team.  I can understand it a little better for college fans.  Universities and colleges usually represent something a little more emotionally resonant for people then do professional teams.  However, even there people lose the perspective of why the university exists.  It isn’t so you can have a football or basketball team to cheer for on the weekends.  It is to educate the children of the state in which it resides.  Sometimes the fandom for a university is more akin to be a fan of the tail rather than a fan of the dog.

The older I get the more I cringe when rivalries particularly college rivalries are described with the word hate.  Really.  Hate.  Back here in the real world, there are truly very few reasons to actually hate someone.  None of those reasons include attending a different university then you are playing for a rival team.  (I also want to crawl through my television and strangle any announcer who calls the athletes on the field or court warriors or soldiers especially at a time when our military is actively fighting wars.  Yet, I digress.)

These emotional ties are particularly stupid in professional sports.  If you are a Yankee fan you may hate a certain Red Sox player today, but you are then forced to turn around and love the same player when he signs a free agent contract with the Yankees tomorrow.  In that sense, you are truly only cheering for laundry.

Maybe that is why college sports rivalries have the resonance they do.  Once you wear Carolina blue, State red, Alabama crimson, or Auburn orange you are tied to the lore of those places forever.  The history of college sports is what makes it special.  Those ties of the past to the present are what set it apart from the corporate slickness of professional athletics.  Each game in a collegiate rivalry is another link in a never ending chain of history.

These games engender passion.  These games engender emotion.  If you are seven years old you should be emotionally devastated that your team lost to its most hated rival.  It should eat at you as the most important thing to happen to you ever, because you are seven.  At that age, you should not have the emotional traumas that put sports in a different, less emotionally important perspective.

As an adult it should be different.  I understand being emotionally spent and devastated in the moment of the game ending, if your team loses. I understand wanting to avoid certain friends and or websites to not relive the loss.  However, as an adult, you should be able to put that to one side and remember that it is just a game and move on with your day.  We may have pumped these games up past their actually true importance with the approximately 100 television channels dedicated to sports, but they are just games.

The central question of this post has been a reoccurring theme on this blog for me.  “Am I as big a fan of sports as I was when I was younger?”  I think I follow sports just as much as I did when I was younger, and maybe even a touch more.  I do think I am a less emotional fan than I was.

Life has layered emotional experiences on me both good and bad.  These things and moments have placed sports in a different place in my life.  Not a less important place, but a different one.  It is the toy box.  It is where I try to go to get away from all the big important pains of the day.  I don’t want to spoil my refuge with hate and anger.

This is why the hypocrisy of the NCAA (and their network partners and the NFL/NBA) annoys me so much.  This is why I keep looking at all the information gathering from concussion and brain trauma research and feel a growing nausea at what we are doing to our athletes.  These are real world things spoiling my sanctuary.

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