My friend Steve is a passionate supporter of the Mets ; he lives and dies with them. When they are eliminated from the pennant race or the playoffs, he says ” Okay. Time for hockey and the Rangers.” With the Mets eliminated, he has no interest in the other teams and the baseball season is over for him. And that , it seems to me is the problem. There are Met fans and Jet fans and Ranger and Dodger fans and Cardinal fans ….. but very few sports fans.
Fans have become very parochial. True , this has created some intense rivalries ; Red Sox- Yankees, Giants- Eagles , Rangers – Devils and Lakers- Celtics to name a few. Unfortunately, these rivalries have turned very nasty. In the old days, after the game was over, rivals’ supporters forgot their differences and were friends again. Not today. In New York City, there are some bars which are Yankee bars, a few that are Red Sox bars and it would be a serious mistake to venture into the wrong one. I remember reading about one lady wearing a Red Sox cap who was about to enter a bar, not knowing that it was a Yankee hangout. She had barely set foot in the bar when she was challenged to a fight by a woman wearing a Yankee jacket. And these are just the female fans.
Such nastiness is also reflected in sports blogs and in the behavior of players and coaches. No wonder the NFL introduced penalties for taunting. But, while I can excuse some players for their actions in the heat of the moment, I think such fan reactions are reprehensible.
To be sure, there are fans who love the game . Those moments of beauty when a wide receiver goes high to snare a pass, when a hockey player rifles a shot past the despairing reach of the goalie or when a hitter sends a pitch soaring into the stands. Unfortunately, there seem to be more and more beer swilling , foul mouthed would-be jocks that come for the tailgate parties and the beer rather than the game .
Well, at least it’s not as bad as in India or Pakistan, where there is only one sport (cricket) to follow, where fans have been known to stone the houses of their defeated heroes and even commit suicide when their team loses. Here, we can at least close the book and move on to another sport.