Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fan Delusions Can Teach Lessons

Plain and simple, sports are full of delusional people, namely the fans.   These fanatics follow their respective sports all year round and have a team that they favor above all others.  Some of them obsess over stats.  Some of them watch endless highlights.  Some follow the players coming up through the systems.  By nature, sports fans are a passionate group of individuals.  They get fired up about things.  They make the biggest deal of even the smallest stories.  Sometimes they cry and sometimes they smile.   There is one peculiar trait that just about every single fan exhibits; all fans hate on other sports.
At some point in your life, you have probably asked someone which sports they like.  More likely than not, you have probably heard the response, “Well I like sport so-and-so, but I’m really just a huge sports fan in general.”  If you haven’t heard this, then you’re either living under a sports-free rock or an engineer (sorry it was only a matter of time before I took an ill-advised, unprovoked shots at engineers).   I would be willing to bet further that the all-encompassing sports fan you spoke to probably hates on more sports than not.

For example, say a guy likes baseball, basketball, football, and hockey, the four “major” sports.  Instead of naming all of them, he just says that he likes all sports.  After that, he’s heard bashing a sport like tennis or golf or soccer, and those are the bigger sports that he bashes.  Somebody he knows may like a sport in that category, immediately leading to some personal attack against the ‘offending’ party. 
This is where I wonder, why does it really matter what sports a person likes?  If somebody's personal big four sports are tennis, auto racing, synchronized swimming, and speed walking, then does that really make that person any less of a sports fan than you or I?  It really doesn’t, in fact; I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I respect those people more.  Not because they like sports that are underappreciated and not covered as much or at all by the mainstream media.  I’m not into that kind of us against the masses sentimental reasoning.  I respect them because they have to work much harder than the mainstream sports fans to follow their sports.  Information isn’t out there in the open for them like it is for the bigger sports.

Soccer fans in the US are a group of fans that I respect greatly.  The highest level of soccer competition is not in the United States, something that many American sports fans are not used to.  Furthermore, the top individual players aren’t American either; they are dispersed throughout the world.  This requires effort above and beyond the typical fan code because to watch games they have to find streams on the internet and so on.  Statistics are harder to come by and trying to pronounce some of those players’ names can be downright impossible. 
Nothing bothers me more than when people make ignorant over-generalizations about sports.  For example, if you don’t like golf you would say, “I hate golf because it’s slow and it’s boring and it’s so easy.  All you have to do is put the ball in the hole.”  Really?  Seriously?  You could make general statements like that about any sport.  Baseball is easy because all you do is hit the ball and run.  Soccer is easy because all you do is kick the ball into the net.  Basketball is easy because all you do is put the ball in the basket.  In my opinion, once somebody says that, their credibility is automatically gone.  Unless they are clearly joking around, I’m done listening. Nothing says “I really don’t know much about this sport” like a generalization of that magnitude.

(People over-generalize things all the time. Sports, music, movies, TV, you name it.  Music is a big one.  People always say well all of the songs by that band sound the same.  Well, typically bands stick to one genre, so good observation.  Also, if you really listen to the songs, you will probably notice that you’re wrong.  Unless you listen to Dave Matthews Band.  All of their songs sound the same.  Just kidding.  Maybe.  Seriously though, over-generalizing is a habit that people need to stop.  It makes people look extremely undereducated more often than not.)
I’m not preaching to people that if they say that they are a sports fan, then they have to like all sports.  It’s not expected that one person will like every single sport ever.  But what is so difficult with simply appreciating other sports for what they are?  I challenge you to sit down one day and watch a tennis match or watch golf.  If you can find less popular US sports on TV or on the computer like squash or cricket or a lumberjack competition, watch it.  But before you watch it, set aside all of your preconceived notions about the sport.  Watch the sport with the purpose of finding something good in it.  Challenge yourself to come out of it thinking something more advanced than “I hated it.”

Nothing needs to change with the sports that fans root for.  What does need to change is the average sports fan’s attitude toward sports that aren’t “theirs”.  Make a conscious effort to try to accept other sports.  Sports are essentially a microcosm of the world as a whole.  

Think about it.  You can compare sports to music.  I don't necessarily like country music, but I respect it (except for the song Honky Tonk Badonkadonk).  I don't go around belittling people who like country music.  Same goes for sports.  I don't necessarily like figure skating, but I'm not putting down people that do.  It is really nonsensical to do so.

More importantly, sports can teach you a lesson in acceptance on a wider level.  Sports bring people of all kinds together on a daily basis.  People say that racism is dead.  They couldn't be more wrong.  Maybe it is at a lower level than in the 1960s, but that's just the US.  Racism is beyond a United States issue.  How can people be so narrow-minded?  Racism is not the only issue.  The issue of the times is discrimination based on sexual orientation.  It is a national issue that has hit the sports world just as hard.  If you learn from sports, then you can learn acceptance on these hard-hitting issues.  

Look at a guy like Wade Davis.  Davis is a former defensive back and he played for the Tennessee Titans.  Davis is gay.  Did it hurt his playing career?  No.  What is the issue with his sexual orientation?  Why does it really matter?  Who are we, as people, to go around discriminating based on one small characteristic that makes "us" us.  (Check out Wade Davis in his interview with SB Nation's Amy K. Nelson below.  If you haven't seen this already, I highly recommend it.)

My point is that if you can accept in sports, then you can accept in the world.  If you can find good in sports, then you can find good in the world.  Maybe it is on a smaller level than the world as a whole, but big learning can be done on any level.  The quality of results that we get out of our lives, is directly proportional to the amount of effort we put in.  Why not put the effort in?  Do you not want to be a better person?  I challenge you to put the effort in and I challenge you to better yourself.  Sports is always regarded as a tremendous platform to make change on any level.  No matter what sport is "your" sport, let's all learn to be more accepting, whether it is in sports, in pop culture, or in the world we live in.  We always hear about the lessons that people can learn from sports.  Well, here’s one of those lessons.  


  1. good piece kev. enjoyed it. People sometimes completely forget that sports besides the main 4 exist...I enjoy watching cricket on WatchESPN sometimes && occassionally check espn cricinfo. You're right, it is much more difficult of a sport to follow along (in the US at least), I don't really any knowledge of the players, teams, history...just have fun watching it. && following cricket on twitter (this is the easiest way for me to get some info)

  2. I really enjoyed reading this and I think a big example of generalizing sports was with the US Open of Squash at Drexel. I thought going to a match was going to be boring and not fun but I really enjoyed watching the sport and will try to attend another match this year.