It dawned on me this morning that the worst season of the year has officially begun - the “Athletic Down Season.” The Hawks just won the Stanley Cup (to my Chicago friends, good for you guys), Golden State just beat the Cavs in yet another embarrassment for the Eastern Conference, and football season is still too far away to really be talking about anything other than who MIGHT make the team this year. Even though I’m what you would probably call a “casual” sports fan, I have great reverence for the power that athletic events have to draw people together, and to bring joy to everyone, both young and old.
However, to be honest, I think there are some people out there who take “sports” too far. I’m not talking about those of us who cheer passionately for our teams year-in and year-out, or even an unnamed friend of mine who locks herself in her room to be free of any distraction every time she watches her team play. I’m talking about what many might call “the haters.” The ones who ruin it for the rest of us. The ones who tweet about how LeBron James is a joke or a failure and refuse to objectively acknowledge the fact that he (whether you like him or not) is breaking just about every record the NBA keeps track of.
I’m talking about the drunken middle-aged man at a football game screaming “f*** the other team!” causing some poor dad to cover his young son’s ears three seats away. I’m talking about the fans who throw beers at, or start fights with, absolute strangers for nothing more than wearing a different jersey.
At what point did objective sportsmanship find it’s way out of professional (or college) athletics? Was there one day in history that every student at my alma mater decided a friendly and competitive annual game with our cross-state rival was suddenly an excuse to throw full cans of beer at the opposing teams cheerleaders? Maybe worst of all, when did it become commonplace to become a poor role model? When did we start to encourage being a poor sport?
I love to watch a variety of sports, for a number of reasons; the thrill of that ONE goal in the World Cup, or the anticipation of a last second hail mary in the Rose Bowl. But the one thing I hate to see, and it seems to happen throughout sports, are players storming off the field after a loss, refusing to shake hands with their competitor and respectfully acknowledge their efforts. When we’re young, we’re all taught to line up after whatever game it is that we’re playing, and shake the hand of every player and coach on the opposing team.
Do you know why our parents and teachers and coaches made us do that? It was to instill in us the
understanding that competition and rivalry are HEALTHY aspects of our life, but only when we’re capable of separating our personal emotions from the activity on the field. Many of us played in little league and high school teams against some of our best friends, probably some that we grew up with. How would you feel when that friend stormed off and refused to speak to you after a pick-up game? Surprised? Angry? Pitiful?
Why am I on this tangent? Because I love sports, and I would hate to see poor sportsmanship ruin it for the next generation. The same is true of fraternity. At an undergraduate level, we spend so much time bickering and arguing over personal grudges, that we lose focus of the purpose and goals of our chapter. I hate to break it to you, but you're not always going to like every single one of your chapter brothers, however, you do still have to work together. Sometimes we even cast judgement on other organizations just for wearing different letters on their chest. Why? All they did was make the exact same decision you did when they joined, they just happened to hold one or two different values. As alumni, we often forget that we were once young and made mistakes, and refuse to respect and acknowledge the efforts our undergraduates are usually making behind the scenes to get better. Even at the professional level, personal differences in opinion and experience between staff, alumni, and volunteers, often lead to stagnation and nothing actually getting done, generally because we don’t agree on insignificant details or wording.
We each wear a different jersey, whether that be undergraduate, alumni, volunteer, professioinal, or whatever. Let's not fall into the same mistake of causing riots just because our team colors don’t match. Our teams might have different faces and different goals, but at the end of the day we’re all playing in the same league. Let’s not forget to have the same respect for someone else’s team that we want them to have for ours.
So game on everyone, we're all playing to win. Just remember to keep the shots above the belt.