The Sports Division


Today, while sitting on the airplane, I noticed a guy sitting across the aisle from me, who I hated. It was a decision that I made in the blink (shout out to M. Gladwell) of an eye, without him ever talking, looking, or really even acknowledging me in any way. I knew I hated him before I consciously could describe anything about him. After two seconds of trying to make sense of this seemingly baseless hatred, it came to me. He was wearing an Ohio State University hat.

At first I tried to simply laugh it off. “Well in my defense, he probably sucks,” I thought to myself. But in my typical routine of over analyzation, I really tried to justify this feeling of hostility.  I imagined this person as the same drunken, Ohio State fan who would come to Camp Randall, initiate a pre-game, in-game, and post-game fight with a group of drunken Wisconsin folk, and then drag the brawl out with a new group  at the bar.  In my very warped perspective, that is what Ohio State fans do.

That is, of course, preposterous.  Is it prepostererous that an Ohio State fan would act excessively belligerent?  No.  But there are enough bad apples (aka stupid people) in each teams’ barrel for someone to form a completely illogical stereotype of a person sporting their alma mater’s logo on their cap.  Granted, some teams might have more belligerent apples than others, but I’d be willing to go out on the limb and say this guy sitting across from me on the plane was more likely than not a good person (despite not being a good badger).

I don’t want to seem like that 65 year old, brittle, single, salty, 4rd grade teacher who hates all things fun (except cats) and makes their best attempt to instill their perspective upon everyone else (everyone had at least one of these).  I think a playful rivalry is a good thing.  Lighthearted banter consists of 79% of my communication. The problem is, testosterone won’t let it stop there.

Sometimes throwing a punch really isn’t enough to drive the point home that your team is superior to your opponent’s.  In that instance, poisoning the other team’s fans is the obvious next step.

When we first started participating in sports as kids, when our fragile minds were the most impressionable, we were taught the value of “team”.  The things you would do for your teammate would require unconditional, protective instincts.  Protect the quarterback like he was your baby cub.  I guess this is why I never considered high school football a passion of mine.  There was a good chance that I disliked the person lined up next to me as much, if not more than the person lined up across from me.  I didn’t inherit the battle mentality for my “fellow soldiers”.  I let rationality get in the way.

I know some of you reading that last sentence will start to fill with confusion, if not flat-out rage.

The problem for me is the concept of “team” is dependent on forming a knee jerk hatred for the people wearing the wrong color jersey.  The same mentality which creates unity with your teammates, divides you from your opposition.  On the field, court, rink, etc., this is a necessary mentality.  It is less crucial on common public grounds. Put a Yankees fan next to someone from Boston on the subway, and the risk of someone’s mother being insulted reaches a boiling point.  If they were wearing neutral colors, (assuming communication were prompted) these same strangers would more likely than not try to find a common ground.

As indicated in the opening of this post, I am not entirely independent of this illogical groupthink.  But most people cannot restrict this mindset.

I spent this past weekend in Boulder, Colorado.  The Buffaloes just so happened to be playing their biggest rival, Nebraska (some might say it’s CSU, but most of those people go/went to CSU). CU did what they do best lately- lose.  Nebraska was in town, they won, and it was a late afternoon game – all the familiar conditions for a perfect storm.  Not to be let down, the very first bar I went to that night, a group of four Cornhusker fans were in the midst of getting escorted from the bar when a, blood smeared across the floor, girls getting thrown into the guys bathroom, caliber fight broke out.

This can directly be traced back to the letters on their hat.

However, placing the blame on sports is missing the point.  This is not exclusive to events where a score is kept.  We see this same sort of “us versus them” mentality with gender, race, sexual preference, nationality, religion, and even hair color (I got out of school just in time).  If I felt I had the time/energy to go into proper depth about the faults of undue prejudice, I could create a 40,000 word thesis.  I don’t.  For the sake of your time and mine, I will end my argument here:

Next time you see a fan of your team acting like a Godzilla turd, have the clarity of mind to ostracize him (or her, but probably him).  And if that doesn’t work, an uppercut to the nose should do.