I am a self proclaimed Hawkeye fan. Actually, I am a fan of sport in general. But, my passion for sport is football and, like many of you, I can watch practically any football game. I can’t say that about every sport. In fact, I bailed out completely on Iowa basketball for a time because it just simply did not provide me any enjoyment during the latter half of the Steve Alford era and all of the Todd Lickliter era. If you’ve stuck with the program through all of that, I wholeheartedly applaud you. I didn’t, so you can certainly question my own self proclamation that I am a “fan”. I like to think of it as though I made a choice. But, because I thoroughly enjoy the style of play Fran McCaffrey brought with him to Iowa City, I’ve made a choice to become a fan again. I do agree with the team’s slogan “rising”. It’s obvious that the program is indeed rising. This team has the talent to compete every game and can probably win against any team on any given night. But I also have gone to great restraint to temper my enthusiasm. We can also lose to any team, BUT THATS WHY THE GAMES ARE PLAYED!
“Fan” comes from the word fanatic. The word fanatic probably can foster many connotations. If you are fanatic about something it probably means you live and breath that what you are fanatically passionate about. As we wake up today in the midst of the Hawkeyes loss to Wisconsin yesterday, I can’t help but think that the word “man” must be derived from the word “maniac”. In my opinion, that is what being a fan has become to many – fanatically maniacal. This age where a person can lob a bomb via social media directly to an athlete. This age where too many people think it is OK to call into the coach’s radio show and rip a particular player or the coach himself. Sure, we live in the land of the free. You won’t get arrested for saying something to anyone. But, what we’ve lost is the Golden Rule. The rule that assumes each one of us wants to be treated with respect so that we should always treat others the same way. Has that assumption gone the way of the granny shot? Who has hidden the golden rule? Where has it gone? Where have our compassionate hearts gone? If you are a fan of a team that has lost a key game shouldn’t you hurt WITH them as opposed to finding opportunities to HURT them? Remember, we were created to love, not to hate.
I think our collective problem is that we struggle so much with discontent. From the standpoint of sport, I wonder why we even play the games. I mean, polls come out and tell us all just how good our teams should be. Then, when the team fails to live up to that ranking or expectation, the only logical outlet is that “we suck”. I’m being sarcastic, of course, but hopefully you see my point.
I think another problem that plagues us is that we generally look up to satire. We have available to us so much satirical content because there is so much satirical content being written. Satire becomes our way of dealing with loss. It becomes our way of dealing with criticism from national media. We read so much of it that it then becomes our nature to dish it out ourselves. It’s a fact that the more we surround ourselves with wrong, the more wrong becomes tolerable. Then it becomes tempting to throw that whole ball of wrong into the face of, say, Zach McCabe. And if you think for a minute that you are not guilty of doing what many did yesterday, by directly attacking Zach on Twitter and on Facebook, think again. You have. I have. We all have. Maybe not tagging that athlete in a social media application, but yelling obscenities at him or them or criticizing their abilities to a coworker isn’t any different. Yes, you live in the land of the free, but think about being in their shoes before you do it. They are putting themselves in a position where they are able to display their talents for the world to see, but that doesn’t have to mean they are putting themselves at risk of ridicule. It’s supposed to be for their enjoyment and yours. Enjoyment, people. Win or lose.
I mentioned above that I had made a choice before. I used to get so frustrated about losing that it literally ruined the rest of my day. When things got so bad that the team I was supporting was losing more than winning, I realized how much time I was wasting and more than anything how much fun I wasn’t to be around! I’d encourage everyone to evaluate their level of investment in being a fan. You may say, “Hey, I’m paying money to see this team, that gives me the right to say whatever I want to whomever I want, however I want”. No, it doesn’t. Not as a human being wrought with just as many faults and much less skills than the players you are “rooting” for. Take a time out, brother. Grab a blow. Go outside and go for a walk. Find something else to do if you need to. Go look for that golden rule. It’s out there, isn’t it?
Like many of you, I have enjoyed the movies based on the Hunger Games novels. Essentially, the plot is an Olympic-like setting where players are chosen by their peers to compete against one another to their eventual death. Those novels and movies are supposed to be non-fiction, but at this rate in our society, that plot may be closer to reality than we think.
Go on, be a fanatic. Just stop well short of being a maniac.