The satirical newspaper The Onion sells a t-shirt on its web site that says, “The sports team from my area is superior to the sports team from your area.”
This irrational support that many people have for professional sports teams is something that I have always been baffled by, and this slogan makes a great commentary on it. Die-hard fans who have no family or personal ties to a team other than geographical location will get their body tattooed with the team’s mascot or riot after a big game, but why?
I grew up playing many different sports, just like many young American children, but I have always considered myself more of a player than a fan. I truly enjoy a sport for the skill and strategy it takes. This is why I like watching a game where I don’t really care one way or the other who wins, but where there are skilled people playing at a level that is interesting to watch.
I am from the Chicago area and have grown up cheering for the Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears and other local teams. I also get enjoyment out of giving my friends here in Michigan a hard time when the Blackhawks play the Redwings, but we know it is just in good fun.
There is something to be said for geographical convenience. It is obvious that somebody will go to see their local team and cheer for that team when itching to see professionals play a sport; fans do often cross that line, though, of enjoying a sporting event when it turns into a regional rivalry that can escalate into rioting.
I have to admit, the U.S. seems to be toned down compared to other countries. Soccer, the most popular sport across the globe, means much more to people than just the aesthetics of the sport, it is a sense of national pride. The movie “Miracle” comes to mind about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team where the statement is made that “this is much more than a hockey game to a lot of people.”
When it comes to situations like this, yes, it is more than a game. The 1980 Olympics had more to do with the Cold War and tensions with the Russians than it did with a sporting event.
On a more local level, though, fans get riled up for nothing more than a team that is close to them geographically. As I said, I grew up as a Chicago Cubs fan. I came from a family of Cubs fans, so naturally I rooted for them. None of us, though, are very anti-White Sox. It is just a fun activity to be able to take a side on things.
A sport should be enjoyed for the competitiveness and skill that is exhibited on the court, ice or field. It should not be taken too seriously. It should be relaxing and a time to take one’s mind off of the other stresses in life, not add stress.
As the old saying goes, “It’s just a game.”