When does our passion for a sport cross the line? And why do we feel so connected to the team that we root for? How many times when describing the game you are watching do you throw in the words “we” or “us” when referring to the team as if we are a part of it?
I grew up in north Jersey until I was about 9 years old and my dad took me to my first football game. It was the New York Giants Vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. My dad got these great tickets through work that placed us on the 50 yard line only a few rows off the field. It was from there that I was hooked, and I officially became a New York Giants fan. It was also during these years that I went to my first baseball game, which was the New York Yankees including players like Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Thurman Munsen, and Ron “Louisiana Lightning” Guidry. Needless to say I became a Yankees fan because of it. It wasn’t until years later after moving to Pennsylvania that I became a hockey fan. Naturally, I became a Flyers fan because they were the home team. So that was it, my loyalties were set. These were the teams I would cheer for, go to the games, and buy all the merchandise, etc. I would say for the majority of us this is how we determine who our teams are, usually by location when we started liking a particular sport.
I think many of us, including me, get too involved in a particular sport and our moods, temperament, and actions are dictated by the outcomes of the games. I have broken remotes (flyers, game 7 after being up 3-0 in the series Vs. Devils) punched walls, and said things I regretted from my team losing. I believe we the fans need to put professional sports into perspective and remember it is just a game. We are not on the team, we are not getting paid and win or lose our lives are not changing; we still get up the next morning and go to work.
A friend of mine, who grew up in New Jersey playing hockey consequently became a New York Rangers fan. He was a volunteer fireman, an EMT and a Marine who recently became a police officer. He is also a recipient of a purple heart that he received because he was shot by a sniper while serving our country over in Iraq. He recently went to a hockey game with tickets his wife got him for Christmas. After attending the game he decided to get some food at a nearby cheese steak restaurant with his friend. This is when 3 men jumped him and proceeded to knock him to the ground, then kick him while he was down and when he tried to get up, they punched him in the face and knocked him down again. He received a concussion, a broken orbital bone, and he needed stitches. Why would someone do this to another human being you ask? Because he was wearing a jersey from the visiting team of course. So because he grew up in a different location then the team he went to see, that gives one the right to beat him up? You can read the full story here if you want to know more about him.
We need to incorporate a bigger world view than local sports determining how we treat our fellow man. I am reminded of the golden rule in Luke 6:32 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you,” and Galations 5:14 “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These are simple rules to follow in treating others whether they root for the same team you do or not. This, in my opinion, is when we cross the line in sports- when we are not able to follow these simple rules. If you cannot achieve this or don’t want to because you hate the other fans who root for other teams is when your passion for sports have become too great in your life.