I don’t want to see any more grown men screaming at the referees at children’s soccer games. In fact, I don’t want to see any more grown men screaming at anyone in any sporting event, whether it’s the kids game, the local college, or pro sports. The intense nature of sports, whether as a particpant or a spectator, sometimes turns perfectly mild-mannered men into raving lunatics.
The fascination with sports, as a spectator, is hard to fathom. The fans are, as often as not, middle aged, middle class white men, with no particular background in the sport of choice, and no particular interest in athletics as participants. In fact, many of the most avid fans have never played sports at any level. They root for teams often composed of very large, rich black men in their twenties or early thirties, usually not even born in the geographic area, sometimes not the country, they now represent on the field of play. Yet the fans pay enormous amounts of money, and go to great trouble, to view the games in person, rather than from the comfort of their living rooms. The owners of the major league teams are often billionaires with nothing in common with either their fans or players, other than an interest, both personal and professional, in the sport.
While it’s hard to understand exactly what drives rabid fandom, it’s easy to explain how they should behave. First of all, it’s a game, far less important than other things to which far less attention is given; world affairs, technology, representational art, medical innovation, just to name a few. So treat it as a game; one can be intense, as either a spectator or participant, but under no circumstances is is reasonable to start talking about a sports contest as if it was war. You don’t have to have served at the front to realize that it’s ludicrous to compare football or basketball players with soldiers under fire, and a torn ACL is hardly comparable to shrapnel wound. If your sport of choice is rodeo riding, surfing on the Great Barrier Reef, climbing Everest, or bull fighting, you’ll be forgiven for military analogies.
In general, most men spend far too much time watching sports, and too little time playing them. In sports, as in life in general, it’s far better to be a participant than a spectator, both for your mnd and your body. But at the end of the day, or on the occasional weekend, every guy needs to be able to find something to do to relax, and for some, this is watching sports.
If you attend the event in person, a few things to remember: someone rooting for the other team is just a fan with a different preference, not an enemy. As in all other aspects of life, profanity is to be avoided, with the forgivable exceptions in the event of last minute interceptions, fumbles or other game losing guffaws. If a player from the opposing team is injured, one applauds when they get up and appear to be fine. (Yes, even if the player’s absence could have real implications for your team.) Making noise is fine – that’s what people do at sports events – but not so in a way that it impedes the pleasure of other fans sitting nearby.
But what to do if some other fan, shockingly bereft of the advice contained within these pages, starts to diminish your enjoyment of the game, perhaps by obscene, alcohol fueled rants? If possible, ignore it; this is often counterintuitive in our self absorbed, sensitivity heightened society, but conflict resolution in a crowded sports venue is tough, so, if possible, just let it go, and keep this incident on mental file when making your next TV vs being there decision. If the other fan is too loud to ignore, say something politely; not likely this will work, but it’s the next step in the escalation. Failing successful resolution, and assuming the situation has the potential to get not only nasty but violent, find an usher, security personnel, or cop, hopefully nearby. Calmly explain the situation, and leave it to them to respond appropriately; after all, that’s their job. If even this doesn’t work, and the situation is intolerable, you should leave. Sports venues are crowded and noisy, and are not well designed for the kind of rational, deliberate conflict resolution which an enlightened gentleman prefers. This applies even if the miscreant in questions accidentally spills beer on you, your kids, or your woman. On the other hand, if he spills beer intentionally, it’s okay to deck him. Reasonable behavior has its limits.