Fan loyalty goes too far

“Egyptian soccer riots kill 79 and injure 900.”

After reading this headline, I found myself wondering how something as unimportant as a soccer game could lead to such disastrous results.

Do you recall the Vancouver, B.C., hockey riots after the Canucks lost to the Bruins?

The famous photo of that couple kissing on the pavement as the city rioted around them is nothing short of a miraculous image.

Most recently, I watched my Patriots lose by two points to those pesky Giants — again.

I was more frustrated, disappointed and upset with Super Bowl XLVI than any of the others within my lifetime. But, of course, I didn’t want to kill anyone. The Patriots have still won three of five under Belichick and Brady, and even if they hadn’t, it’s just a game.

Sports, however, continue to have a profound effect on culture, economics, foreign affairs and even politics.

But, why?

Well, for starters, when you become a fan of a particular team, you become a part of that team. Players always seem to say that they “play for you!” The NFL even ran a commercial this year that preached this message by capturing images of players thanking ordinary, everyday fans of their respective teams for their dedication.

This newfound sense of acceptance ultimately leads to a loyalty which many possess that is greater than, or in some cases, equal to the nationalism that these same individuals hold for their own country.

My freshman year of college I was roommates with an extremely loyal Chicago Cubs fan.

The Cubs are a perfect example of a struggling team that, despite not winning the World Series in a long time, have one of the most consistent, dedicated and engaged fan bases in all of professional sports.

After Chicago fan Steve Bartman allegedly contributed to the Cubs downfall in 2003, he received death threats, insults, and was a moving target for concession stand food as he made his way toward the exit of Wrigley Field.

Bartman caught a foul ball that may or may not have affected the outcome of the game if Cubs outfielder Moises Alou had caught it, and in the eyes of the loyal, he became Satan in a baseball cap.

This is the kind of elevated loyalty of sports fans. After a last minute call that cost the Cleveland Browns a win over Jacksonville, out-of-control and irate Browns fans once threw thousands of beer bottles and other debris down onto the field.  As nationalism is on the decline, “sportsionalism,” as I call it, elevates.

This is important because sports and athletic competition often transcend national boundaries such as in the Olympics.

All it takes to fight off the “sportsionalism” that captures unsuspecting fans is a little common sense, a shred of passiveness, and a better state of mind.

After all, there’s always next year, sports fans.

 

Reach this columnist at spmccaul@asu.edu.

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