Although I have had my attention elsewhere during the past few days (and for the next few days as well) , today there were at least two incidents related to sports that I feel it necessary to comment on. As someone who is concerned with sports, who plays some sports (particularly volleyball) and who is a student of various aspects of sports despite having considerable ambivalence about them, I tend to find the fandom of sports to be an area of great interest. As for myself, there are generally two reliable ways for me to to support a team consistently–the first is teams related to my birthplace (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), as I view sports fandom as a tribal matter, and I tend to be loyal to the tribe of my birth, despite the fact that my early childhood was harrowing and the fact that I seldom visit the area because almost all that is left there are the graves of most of my paternal relatives. The second is for me to have been a part of the particular institution that I am cheering (this applies most often to college teams). As for the rest, I am a casual fan of local teams wherever I happen to reside unless I find those teams particularly abhorrent.
This week the Dallas Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks in a game that is not likely to be remembered when the Cowboys are sitting at home while Seattle is winning home playoff games. One would not know this by the rude and crass and arrogant posts that exploded all over my Facebook news feed, though. I was reminded anew as to why I loathe the Dallas Cowboys so much. I have nothing against Jerry Jones–I praise the fact that he poured his own money into a state-of-the-art stadium rather than fleecing the local taxpayers like the Miami Marlins (and so many other professional franchises) have done. I don’t hate the players for Dallas; I even feel a great deal of sympathy for the hostility that Tony Romo has as a result of his inability to bring a Super Bowl ring to Dallas the way that Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger and the Manning brothers and others have done, or even to win a playoff game at all. The reason I loathe the Dallas Cowboys so much is because their fans are such jerks.
Dallas is not alone in having this problem. This same week there was an incident where the fans of the Oakland Raiders pelted the team bus of the San Diego Chargers with eggs. For good measure, the Chargers beat the Raiders to keep them winless. There is a line that Oakland fans cross in trying to be the “twelfth man” to try to encourage their team to victory and being a bunch of classless thugs. It is good that Oakland, a team that hasn’t had any winning seasons in more than a decade or so, has some passionate fans, but those fans do more harm than good in allowing the team to be better liked outside of its narrow ghetto. However one feels about the San Diego Chargers, these are men (and women, if one includes those who are not players) who are doing their jobs and doing it well. They don’t deserve that sort of mistreatment, treatment that leads everyone to hate your team, and that if taken too much further could lead to punishments like having teams lose home games or play their home games in empty stadiums like those teams punished because of hooligan fans in soccer leagues in Europe.
Ultimately, sports is a game. It is not a bad thing to cheer on one’s home team or one’s favorite team, or one’s bandwagon team. Cheering on the success of one’s team is something that almost everyone will accept, even if they cheer on a different team. That said, do not be the reason why everyone hates your team because they associate that team with a bunch of louts. This has relevance outside of sports; in many areas of life (including our walk as Christians) the reputation of our team depends in large part upon our conduct. To the extent that our behavior is reasonable and just, other people (even those who may not like our teams and groups very much) may grudgingly respect us for the class by which we live ourselves. If we are rude and arrogant and nasty, though, those people who have to endure such treatment will generally be very quick to make fun in turn when the beloved team of those fans inevitably struggles. Perhaps we might not associate sports fandom with moral character and the development of restraint and gracious behavior towards others, but it is time we start, since ultimately there are no areas of life which can be compartmentalized and segmented from everywhere else in life. Perhaps it is time we start behaving towards others with at least a touch of class, if not more.
 See, for example: