By: Will Stevenson
So there’s a group of people upset at how they are viewed because of one person’s actions. You mean to tell me that one person’s actions can have a negative view on an entire group of people who look like that person, therefore causing others to generalize that group of people based off that one person’s actions?
Nope, I’ve never heard of such a thing. I couldn’t possibly imagine how someone could be generalized off the actions of another that may or may not even be in your sub-group. I mean, in a country like this, racism and bigotry are things of the past right?
Sports are a beautiful disease. The sports we know today were born out of evil. Wrestling, fighting, enslavement, penance, sentences of death, and entertainment for the high status. Every day we witness the buying, selling, holding, and exposure of players. We watch players by in to this concept. We watch ourselves buy in to the concept as well. Out of evil we get grace, athleticism, community, hope, joy, and time to take a break from the monotony of life. We get wonderful stories from youth sports, awesome coaches, teams that inspire communities or the country, and bragging rights for us fans. We also like to believe that the melanin in our skin doesn’t matter with sports. Unfortunately, it’s there. It’s always there, just below the surface.
Spare me the “there’s black people who love Boston” and “there’s non-racist white people in Boston”. I say spare me those notions because I’m not the talking heads. I didn’t receive a memo on what I can and cannot talk about. I don’t have a primitive view on racism and bigotry. I am not the smartest, nor do I have all the knowledge on this lifestyle. Yes, lifestyle.
The lifestyle of a fan is a difficult one. As a former fan, it’s difficult to put into words for why we feel a certain way towards a player, team, or fanbase. It’s difficult to explain how and why we feel the need to yell things at other people we don’t even know. I feel it’s easy to yell “loser” or “bum” from far away to a person or team that we don’t know on a personal and intimate level.
I wanted to take a few days to see how it all played out in Boston. Nothing has changed, so back to the topic at hand.
We are a bitter, envious, love/hate type of individuals. We go to the gym to play basketball, for free. We play intramural softball or flag football, for free. Soccer, lacrosse, all for free. We don’t have insurance provisions or any way to recoup money if we get injured. We work long hours for not enough, no matter what our job or career may be. We just want some fun. After our long days, we tune in to watch a game that we just got finished playing for free, to watch others play that same game for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars: And we can’t fathom it. Naturally we don’ like to admire those who are able to perform better than us and are publicized for doing so. For most, competition brews within our daily lives. Hell, we constantly bicker, cut-down, and financially shame people who are literally in our same financial situation. Some of us struggle to feed our own families, and are one to two paychecks away from dining at our local soup kitchen. So when we see an athlete not measuring up to our standards, it’s in us to hurl every insult we can think of to show our displeasure. Deep down, we lose on a daily/weekly basis. Our bank accounts aren’t enough, the news is draining, we didn’t get our quarterly raise, the kids are crazy, or our boss is on our ass. Which ever way you have it, we just want a victory. Now, I would first like to separate to paying fans from betting fans. Betting fans have a hedge, not that it is acceptable to use vulgar and racist language, but they have an explainable reason for their verbal displeasure. So if we are betting on the game, we aren’t owners, are part of the team, then why are we so evil towards athletes?
I had mentioned earlier that we are looking for a win, and it’s true. Look at how we cheer for our sports teams. Look at how we defend our programs, professional teams, players, coaches and fanbases. Look at how we go at each other for bragging rights. Oddly enough, look at how we switch teams or bandwagon to a winner and/or underdog in collegiate sports. Our emotions are running high, our hopes are high, and our spirit is low: We just want to win and we want our teams to win just as bad as we do.
Spoiler Alert: Most of them don’t.
At this time I would like you to rid yourself of all excuses for using racist, vulgar and insensitive language: Especially the “I was drinking” and or “I didn’t really mean it”.
Where does it comes from? How does it go from, “He’s a bum” to “Fuck You Nigger”? Let’s analyze for a second: How does anything get to a certain point of “Oh wow, really?” Just like the bubbling anger of road rage, the sports fan has the same feelings inside them. We have to remember that our fandom is from a “safe place”. We are in the stands, the bleachers, outside of the cage or ring; we bought tickets. Even with basketball having the least amount divider between the action and fans, the closer seats still provide a safe zone for fans to spew. We rant, we yell, we scream, we argue, we curse, we cheer in unison, we kiss cam, and we unleash our burdens upon the athletes. The things we say are the things we believe. That may be hard to accept but it’s true. Is anyone interviewing you? Is your boss there? Are your employees there? Is anyone really listening to you? Is not the crowd loud enough? Can any of the player respond to you? What’s the likely hood anyone would even notice? Therefore, we feel we have the right to say whatever we are feeling, because said team isn’t performing the way we like. So is the bigotry in our minds, deep in our subconscious? Is the racist remark on the tip of our tongues and we feel the sports venue is the place to let it fly? Was it just a mistake?
No. No mistakes. No do-overs. No take-backs. The things we say are in our minds, the main question is are we willing to accept it and correct it. I dare to say that most who yell nigger at a ball game are pretty comfortable with the concept, but aren’t comfortable with being shamed by their peers. Like it or not, bum goes to loser to pathetic to nigger very quickly. You remember when saying faggot wasn’t looked down upon? Of course you do. That’s the “locker room talk” that was amidst the airwaves last year. Now, drinking can and will enhance your ability to spew from a distance, but let’s remember those thoughts and concepts weren’t developed from alcohol: They were developed in a sober mind.
If you’re still reading, you’ve probably recoiled at the nigger and faggot. That’s the point. Once you read it, it’s suppose to make you recoil and feel uncomfortable. Now imagine being called these words, while at work, and knowing that’s the only way people feel about you: By those terms.
We don’t like the players as much as we think we do. We will already turn on you if you switch teams or don’t hustle on a play to second base. But as fickle as our fandom is, we are consistent at letting things lie. As American as we claim to be, we sure like to watch other people treat other people like crap. Our sensibilities have been thrown to the wayside, only to be replaced with a “I’ll mind my own business” approach. We hide behind the flag, the constitution and free speech to undercut the simple fact that we will watch another person defile another with language. Truth is, we don’t really care about the players, they are just pieces of real estate to us to which we don’t invest. We moan and groan about how these organizations don’t care for their own players, but in reality we have adopted the organizations notions of discarding players. This is a process that happens over time. Players get cut, injured, traded, suspended, and we just keep on moving as if nothing has happened. When Emmitt Smith leaves you feel something, or when Steve Young or Troy Aikman are gone it lingers, but over time you begin to not notice anymore. Players slowly become nothing more than our entertainment for the day, and if they don’t measure up, we boo. Now booing is another sore subject, but booing is pretty much accepted in the sports world. Racist language is not.
So when you add up all the reasons for why we don’t like the players, sprinkle in our own personal stereotypes we have, cake on the financial gap between most fans and players, and then add a layer of entitlement and ownership: We don’t care for the players.
Adam Jones was given a standing ovation by the fans of Boston during their “Let’s show how not-racist we are”. It’s eerily similar to something else we do all together at ball games, they call it the National Anthem, also the “Let’s show the world how together and patriotic we are”. All this is nice and scenic, except for the fact that specific Red Sox/Orioles game was marred by a pitchers throwing baseballs at players for retaliation of a slide.
So, when we are arguing over racist remarks, we can all come together to watch people do things that are illegal in all 50 states.
Welcome to fandom.