I have always loved writing. So a few months ago, I began to write a few short self-reflective essays based on things I've observed or experienced. My 4th and latest entry is on fandom and football. I love sharing and feedback, and I figured that BBV would be an awesome place do that considering that, yes, we're all fans.
On Football and Fandom
Sport. The word in itself looks funny. Sounds funny. Doesn't really roll off the tongue very easily, and seems more alien than English when you really look at it. A more specific sport, football, looks even funnier. The etymology of it is nonsense, as its simply two words mashed together. A fitting way to describe it, I suppose, as to the untrained eye, football is game of two sides mashing against each other anyway. Anyway, it seems a little coincidental, doesn't it, that a funny name like sport is used to describe an idea that is funny in its intrinsic value. A sport, in its very basic function, is entertainment. A means to keep one occupied in times of boredom. When I was a child, it was an effective means by which to determine who was "best"; to establish the playground hierarchy. Now I open my eyes and see that lives have literally been lost for this "sport," trillions of dollars have changed hands because of "sport," and these "sports" are responsible for the livelihoods of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. I, amongst many others, have been entrapped by sport, more specifically football.
On Pride and Fandom
Football has, and always be, war's most clichéd allegory. And easily with good reason. As fans, we already have established "good guys." The others, are simply, the enemy. On offense, we use a variety of tactics, strategies, and physical prowess to bulldoze our way past the defense (yes, even the terminology is similar between the two) and score, or rather, keep a palpable way of demonstrating dominance over the other squad.
The vast majority of football fans are male. That isn't a slight on women, nor is it saying anything about women in general, it is simply fact. As a male myself, I can only comment on a male perspective, and I think a large part of the popularity of football is the appeal to war and to traditionally male ideologies in general. The biggest of these ideologies is pride. All football fans have that inherent pride, whether realized or not, and that surfaces in their fandom. Indeed, it's interesting to note that many of our dreams are about this realized pride. I've always dreamed of catching that last gasp heave from Eli Manning in the corner of the endzone, with 0:00 left on the clock in the Superbowl to win it. We want to be proud, and for people to be proud of us. That's one of the ultimate emotional highs and a real reason why fandoms exist. War, for all its horrible truths and bloody consequences, is one of the most effective elicitors of pride known to mankind. We, in turn, take a team as our own. We invest our time and money in this team. We invest our love. We invest our anger. We invest our hope. We invest our despair. But the most fundamental and raw emotion of these that we impart on this team is pride.
Hell, excessive and unrealistic pride is the reason we have "homers." I have seen some incredible things done by fans in the name of pride. They will fight lost battles, manifest their anger, and drown out any sense of decency in the name of this. Inside, we all know, the most devastating feeling is to have that pride shaken. It makes us question our beliefs in whatever we were arguing. It is for this very reason that pride as an ideal is dangerous.
However, that is what makes football, and every other sport, so wonderful. It is what elevates the word "sport" into something more. We can transfer our pride into a vessel. Something that, despite the fact that we cannot control it, has a very important ability. Speaking only for true fans -that is, the ones that have truthfully placed their pride in their team, or sport, or whatever - I can say that though we may criticize our team, become embarrassed by it, disappointed by it, our pride in it (for whatever reason, be it recent success, history, or hope) will not be shaken. I have seen fans stick through a lifetime of disappointment in a team. Yet along with their anger, and to some extent, despair, comes hope. And these other emotions often buoy whatever pride they had originally invested in that team.
On Kinship, Rivalry, and Competition
Another ideology embodied by sport is competition. Rather, the entire crux of sport is competition. A desire to win, that in turn fuels hope to win, and if you're lucky, you have that realized pride in cheering for that team that wins. I've always found the idea of competition to be an amazing one. Probably one of the simplest of ideas - You are good. They are bad. You try and defeat bad.- but it manifests itself in such "colorful" ways. This segues quite nicely into the concepts of kinship and rivalry.
One such colorful manifestation of competition is kinship. There are very few ideas out there that bring together a bunch of people towards a common, united front. War and nationalism...certainly. Religion...sure. Social issues...yes. With such weighty ideas, it seems kind of crazy that the level of unity brought along by sport rivals these. Yet, here we are. Doesn't matter if it is blogging behind a computer, watching television with a group of people, going to a game itself...the raw emotions that are let through are one and the same. It is stunning to think that, at the exact same moment in time, I can understand what thousands of other people are feeling, and react to it. Just think about that for a second. We take this for granted, but seriously, how awesome is that? For a limited time, we are all a unified force, regardless of how our ideas and fandom have manifested themselves towards our teams.
On the opposite end of this, is the concept of rivalry. It's like a theory out of science class. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It's also amazing to think that there is a group of individuals, complete strangers, mind you, (don't know what is weirder, sharing the same sentiment with a group of strangers or this) that share a common hatred for you based on a simple, "trivial" decision you made when you were growing up. I, myself have friends that cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, probably the biggest rivals to my New York Giants when I was growing up. Our bond of friendship is strong through many other different bonds, whether it be through school, growing up, etc. Yet this bond (while still unbreakable), weakens to such a ridiculous degree during those 3 hours on game day, it really reflects the strength of football on emotion. After the end of the game, my friend is either the last person I'd like to see (indeed this was the case after that infamous "Nightmare at the Meadowlands"), or the first, so that I can effectively showboat my team's dominance over his. Funnily enough, this isn't nearly permanent, and it's interesting to note that this arrogance displayed by either one of us only serves to strengthen our friendship in the times after the game. I'd like to think that though he may be a fan of a rival team, through competition and rivalry, it's an intrinsic camaraderie based on the love of the game itself.
Final Words on Fandom
So I suppose, the whole point was to explore the profundity of football. Why exactly am I such a large fan of the game. Why invest so much time in something, that, on the surface will not affect my life. The answers to this upon self-reflection were pretty much evident. Just the raw emotion that the sport elicits, the camaraderie between both friend and foe, and, most importantly (to me, anyway), the intrinsic pride that it fulfills within us.