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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

"We" and "They," and Being Fans

From Erik Cassano's Weblog
Copyright © 2012 by Ralph F. Couey

In all my travels through the 28 countries I’ve had the privilege to visit, I’ve spoken to people of many lands, cultures, and races.  In those interactions, I’ve learned a lot about them and the lives they lead.  They, in turn have taught me much about how Americans are perceived.  But the one word that surfaced most often which they felt characterized us best was “competitive.”
Yes, we are competitive.  There lies within us an irrepressible urge to be the best; to be Number One.  That, in part, explains our fixation with sports.  
We can be totally fixated on sports, semi-pro, pro, and college, to the exclusion of almost everything else.  One company recently ran an ad about a couple who had attended every home game of their college alma mater for several decades.  Nothing got in the way of their attendance.  When their daughter thoughtlessly planned her wedding for one of those October Saturdays…well, as the ad put it, “they really enjoyed the reception.”
We develop a strong emotional tie to particular teams. Some college teams because we went there.  Other teams because we live in the same city.  For some teams and some fans, that adoration approaches the religious.
Close to the end of the 2006 AFC Championship game, the Pittsburgh Steelers were driving for a touchdown that would salt the game away and send them once again into the Super Bowl.  Running back Jerome Bettis took the handoff and blasted into the line.  But the ball was stripped and the Colts’ Nick Harper grabbed it and sprinted towards the other end zone.  At a sports bar in the Pittsburgh metro, Steeler fan Terry O’Neill keeled over from a heart attack.  
This was a good ending though.  The Steelers, thanks to Ben Roethlisberger’s saving tackle, hung on for a 21-18 win, and the 50-year-old O’Neill survived.  
Still, a full-blown M.I. brought on by a fumble?  That’s some serious devotion.
But we’re all like that.  We all live and die a little with our team’s fortunes.  What is interesting is how we express that devotion.
I’ve been a life-long fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.  I have reveled in the good years and suffered through the bad ones.  And I have to tell you, I’m really suffering right now, as are many others.  
But one of the things I’ve noticed about we fans is how we take ownership of our teams.  During the good times, anyway.
These have not been good times.  We are suffering through a truly tough economy, many of us have lost jobs, homes, and even our families.  So our riveted attention to sports helps us to forget the trouble of our own lives and live, if vicariously, through the success of our team. But when that success is not there, we lose that sense of victory. 
And when a person can only see failure around them, despair sets in.
In the past, there were occasional interviews with regular fans in the media, but now with comment sections appended to the back end of newspaper stories online, fans are freer now to express themselves.  What’s interesting is when our team is winning and things are going well, you read comments like “Our defense was stellar today!” or “If we win next week, we’re a lock for the playoffs!”
Conversely, when thing aren’t going well, when the team is losing consistently (and in the Chief’s case, doing so in the most excruciatingly embarrassing manner) all of a sudden, it’s not “we” anymore.  You read comments like, “They really sucked today” or “They couldn’t stop the run at all.”  Suddenly those same players who were our favored sons have now become the proverbial red-headed stepchildren.
None of us went to training camp, at least as participants.  None of us were in the trenches resisting the bull rush of 350 pounds of highly motivated nose tackle, or trying to plug the hole through which 240 pounds of sculpted running back was flying.  None of us were out there in September when the temperature on the field was high enough to cook moonshine, or there in December skating about on the “frozen tundra.”  None of us played through chronic rib, back, or leg injuries.  But we still talk like we’ve been there all along, sharing pain, discomfort, and the special intimacy of the locker room, while having to do our jobs in front of 70,000 of some of the most judgmental people to be found anywhere.
Look, I understand we foot most of the bills for pro sports teams, and thus we have the right to express ourselves.  But wouldn’t it be a true sign of devotion and ownership if we say “We” in both good times and bad?
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