Team loyalty is mostly a matter of geography. That’s it. Sure, there may be an occasional exception, but it’s pretty much where you were born, where you’ve lived, or where you live now. In the case of my son’s it’s what they grew up with as a result of being military kids, and who I was a fan of. They like to jokingly (or maybe not?) blame me because they’re Browns fans. I have no problem with them blaming me. I have no problem passing it on to my father. Wasn’t my fault. It’s where I grew up.
If I’d have been born in Pittsburgh, I would’ve enjoyed a lot more Sundays in my life. It’s just a matter of chance. Where you live. Maybe you changed loyalty sometime when you moved, but my point is its pretty inconsequential in the big scheme of things. Teams are not chosen because one is morally better than another, or any other reasons of real consequence. No they’re not. Sports teams are not religions or inherently better or worse than another team. Just because you’re a Duke fan doesn’t mean that someone who roots for North Carolina is a bad person. Because I’ve come to realize this a long time ago, I generally just root for my team, and try avoid insulting fans of other teams. It’s just sports. My own personal experience and two recent incidents in the news tell me this attitude is not shared by all.
An incident at the Sugar bowl shows someone’s mother, an Alabama fan, launching herself into a crowd of Sooners fans, because she said they were taunting her son. You can read the story for yourself, I’ve linked some things below. There are two sides to every story, but the bottom line is, when you launch yourself into a crowd of people and start indiscriminately kicking, it’s pretty much on you. She said she’d only had “a couple of drinks” the people she attacked said she was “hammered.” I think the video speaks for itself. She has said since that “she’d do it again” which tells me she doesn’t have much sense to begin with. It’s a football game. You could always decide to just ignore them. You can argue this point, but I’m speaking from experience. There’s a decision involved, ignore them or engage them. I know that some rabid sports fans don’t feel that way.
As a Cleveland Browns fan, every time I’ve seen them play as an adult has been as a visitor. I’ve never been to a game that didn’t involve taking some taunting from the home team. When I saw them in Atlanta, when Vick played there, the taunting from some other fans was pretty brutal. Cleveland wound up winning in the last two minutes. Me, my son, and a few other Browns fans barked all the way to the car, which was our way of taunting back. It never occurred to me, even when I was getting the worst of it, that it would turn physical, on either side. With recent incidents, I guess I should reconsider what could happen.
They announced in Philadelphia that they were going to have some undercover cops show up at the game on Saturday wearing New Orleans Saints gear to try to insure that Eagles fans behaved themselves. Think about that. Sure, Eagles fans may be more notorious than most, but authorities are, in essence, communicating that they are at least somewhat concerned about the safety of fans from other teams. There are several incidents this year in which fans have been injured, and even killed. In Seattle they have done the same thing, have undercover cops go to the games in 49er’s gear to discourage fan violence.
Mike Duffy, a crime prevention officer in Philadelphia, tweeted this on Thursday:
From an article in the Times-Herald:
“We want people to have a good time, but to be mindful that the police will be there,” said Lt. John Stanford, the Commanding Officer of Public Affairs for the Philadelphia Police Department. “We will be there in uniform and plain clothes and some will be wearing Eagles jerseys and some will be wearing Saints jerseys. So, the person you are harassing could be a police officer.”
Stanford emphasized that this has been standard procedure at Eagles games throughout the season.
“We work very close with the Eagles organization to make sure we have enough police in place,” said Stanford. “We don’t want folks to feel like they can’t come to Philadelphia because they might be harassed or beat up by Eagles fans. (Reference)
Of course, in America, we’ve made sports a holy grail. Just look at the stadiums we build. I’ve occasionally taken sports too seriously myself, but I’ve long realized a couple of things. Whether my team wins or loses, my paycheck doesn’t go up or down. My life doesn’t change in any real way.
Fortunately we haven’t had the type of mob violence they’ve had in other countries with spectators of that non-American sport, soccer. It does seem we’re moving in that direction rather than away from it though. Thank heavens for big screens.
And if you’re going to the game, at least borrow a jersey from the home team in case you have to make an escape.