Sports: Where it’s OK to be a Fanatic

To love and admire anything outside of yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin; though we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God. — CS Lewis

The level of devotion we have for sports here in the United States is pretty high. I’m not immune for I follow my alma mater’s football team, the Texas Longhorns. It is unnecessary to offer up comparisons such as “well at least I don’t paint my face and go to every game” or other such truck.

Devoting 3 hours of one’s life to sitting in front of a TV watching a boy’s game rates said devotion as high. I do try to catch the ‘Horns when they make it onto broadcast television, which is often given the fact that the program is high profile.

Of course, after UT players graduate I follow those that go into the NFL, most notably one Vincent Young. The fact that he delivered Texas’ first national title since the late 60s has “immortalized” him in the minds of the Texas’ fans (this one included).

So much the better that VY and his Titans got over on the Houston Texans, again, earlier today. I understand that me rooting for VY and the Titans is anathema since I live in Houston but my sports loyalties lie to former Longhorns first.

It is amazing to me how devoted we can be to such things yet leave our devotion to God behind. Even more surprising is when the athletes we enshrine and idolize bask in the spotlight and the public reaction is to call them selfish and not ‘team players’. Perhaps that they enjoy their celebrity status a bit too much.

While waiting to get a haircut today I picked up a Sports Illustrated and read an article about England’s fallen national team (if you have ask which sport…). The fan base, which is pretty loyal and well, critical thinks their national heroes have taken this celebrity thing a bit too far (Beckham is the poster child while Terrell Owens seems to be the poster child in American sports).

This quote from the article made me think of our role, as fans, in creating these personas then getting upset when these athletes start believing the hype we create,

It is hypocritical to criticize athletes who love the spotlight we shine on them

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Sports fan, you’re not part of the team

chris-rock.jpg

“What did we win?”

Chris Rock (above) said this in response to the black community’s reaction to the O.J. verdict. He couldn’t understand why many within that community were celebrating one man’s justification in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. He pointed out that the verdict did nothing for the people celebrating it, the verdict only helped Orenthal James Simpson.

Rock’s words rattle around inside my head every time I hear a sports fan refer to his favorite team as “we”. This phenomenon is endemic (and I would say fuels) to sports talk radio shows, as callers give their $0.02 as to how their team can improve. They’ll say something to the effect of,

We could win more games if only we had drafted Vince Young or if we had a better offensive line.

Admittedly in the past I have done this in conversations (and sometimes still catch myself doing it, old habits die hard) without much thought.

Had a good friend in college who consistently pointed out that there is no “we” as long as we are not part of the actual team. We all thought he was crazy, but it seems that he is right. It is strange to hear people, who are not part of a team, much less the organization, refer to that team as “we.”

This point became very obvious to me after the University of Texas (my alma mater) foot ball team won the 2006 National Championship. Did I enjoy the outcome? Immensely.

In fact, I ended up hugging a grown man in celebration. The experience was special and I wasn’t even at the game. Yet Rock’s words help to put things in perspective,

What did we win?

Absolutely nothing save some moments of euphoria and so-called bragging rights, is there anything more fleeting?