An Open Letter To Sports Enthusiasts
I love college football. I can watch practically any college football game at any time. I love the traditions that are on display on any given Saturday during college football season. I love the representation college football has on the institutions each team battles for. I love the fact that on any given Saturday a team from nowhere can beat a team from somewhere. That happens on multiple occassions every season. I love the genuine, healthy passion fans possess that surrounds the sport. That passion within us can stem from our allegiance to the institutions because we acquired a degree there, or it can simply stem from our locale and proximity to our team of choice. Other reasons may be that we like the style of play, the coaches, the players. I haven’t told you anything you don’t already know. But, if you’ve read this far, chances are we’re on the same page.
But, problems are brewing. Problems that place the expectation of success on a higher pedestal than the actual game itself. Problems that have already contributed to the decline of the Golden Rule throughout our society. The media perpetuates these problems and social media accelerates them at warp speed. We watch high profile media people, former and current athletes, battle each other on mediums like Twitter daily. We contribute facelessly to these battles ourselves because there is no immediate consequence of doing so. We see that anyone can start a blog, develop a following, and post daily contributions that scathe the athletes, the coaches, the institutions, and fellow fans alike. The bloggers like the hits, so they focus more on sarcastic humor, mostly at the expense of someone else because they have to find something to retain and grow readership when the team they detail is losing. Tweeters stretch their own personal integrity by posting something with shock value and the favorites and retweets becomes their drug. Alarmingly, it is those people who gain the largest pool of followers and the shock value becomes the newly accepted normal.
But, back to those expectations that we set for our team or that have been set for us by the countless talking heads that continuously invade the pixels on our glorious HD TV. This is where it’s spiraling out of control, and it is the wettest, fastest snowball rolling down the steepest of mountains accumulating all the dirty snow in its path. We begin to listen to what “should” happen in the Spring and watch in angst throughout the fall as our team loses to teams we should beat every week. Meanwhile, the next week, that team loses to someone they should’ve beaten and we compare and contrast at the water cooler ignoring our own deficit in productivity. We are told how easy our schedule will be, or how difficult it will be, where we will finish in our conference, how dreadful impact will be when we lose our star quarterback in fall camp, and what will constitue a “quality win”. This happens to the point where one should wonder if we should even play the games. We are bombarded by countless wannabes, has-beens, and who-is-thats who measure and rank our recruiting classes and provide us with their certain expert analysis. I tend to believe these wannabes only think fans read their spew, because would we write such things if we thought the actual athletes read the evaluations they never asked for? By the time Labor Day rolls around our won-loss record is a certain-to-be 12–0, because remember that easy schedule? Anything else will be a disaster. And then the heads better roll because surely someone else is better equipped who can make this team what it was supposed to have been.
We’ve all become experts, especially when we can justify this expertise with how much merchandise we’ve purchased, how many games we go to, how much money we’ve donated to the program, etc. It doesn’t really matter if we’ve ever thrown a football beyond our backyard fence — we’re invested! And then when we find out just exactly how much money that coach is making, well, of course, we are still more invested than he is. We know what should happen. We know what players should be used. That kid came here with a 4-star ranking! It doesn’t matter that he’s never played a college football game before. Are you kidding? That is ludicrous. He should get more snaps because his hometown sports editor said so! I mean, did you see his recruiting video? Every single play he was in on that video was awesome, baby!
The only logical explanation to the failure to meet expectations is this: Coach, you suck! Never mind what you’ve done before, if anything, because we can’t really agree if you did anything substantial then anyway — barring a conference or national championship, of course. But if you can’t string those together like every year then, like we said Coach: You suck! And, we’re going to tweet about you, and blog about you, and do #podcasts in your honor because you are a failure and we know what should have happened long before you took the field.
If it’s not obvious, I did use a dose of sarcasm to try to illustrate a few points. But, I did so at no one else’s expense other than perhaps my own as I put on display slightly above average grammar for the interwebs to see; or yours if you, all the sudden, feel like I’m speaking directly to you.
So, what is the point of all this? It’s simple, really. I see your angst. It’s not a secret. You put it out there in technicolor. You’re routinely disappointed. Even when your team wins, it is not by a large enough margin of victory. All you see is problems. You’ve become immune to the enjoyment of the sport at the expense of someone else. You shouldn’t be happy with mediocrity, but is it really that way? The players are students of the game. They’re learning their craft and spend countless hours sweating it out, transforming their boyish frames into machine-like weapons, risking their brains just so you can have a day out. Coaches are molding and shaping boys into men and the best ones do it with no crises in tow. Be thankful when your team’s coach displays an ounce of integrity — it’s becoming less common. Let’s get back to the basics before we had all this 24/7 opinionated garbage that we allow to suffocate us. Temper your enthusiasm unless you love disappointment. If you choose to go to a game, expect to get out of it what you put into it. If your team doesn’t perform to your expectations, re-evaluate them with actual knowledge and if you have none, admit it. Let’s get back to respecting others like we would also expect from others. We are all human, here for a purpose, mistakes and all. No one is perfect. Everyone wants to win, but there can only be one. Chances are, no one is as good as you think they are. If you think like that, your expectations will be exceeded almost every time.
I welcome your constructive commentary. Most of all, enjoy the game!