Â Â Â I don’t like sports. I don’t usually watch, enjoy or discuss them and I do not have any right doing so.
All of my knowledge on the subject came from my childhood, when I still played in little league and an under-12 soccer club; and considering this was an age when my two main fears were still dinosaur attacks and volcanoes, that knowledge can’t be trusted.
Â Â Â While I may not be well versed in the rules, customs or terminology of sports culture, I like to think that I know a little bit about sportsmanship.
Â Â Â I was always under the illusion that your team is your team. Like how you can’t pick your family, or your nose, you’re born into a loyalty that you can’t just abandon.
Â Â Â This is the way my dad has always treated sports. He’s a Riders fan in football season, a Leafs fan in hockey season and a bored, disinterested man in the time of baseball and basketball. He has been so since he was a child and he still listens to the games on the radio just like he did then.
He never bad-mouths his teams without acknowledging their strengths and I grew up thinking, quite naively as I found out last Sunday, that this was how real fans acted.
Â Â Â I recently went to a Riders game at Mosaic Stadium with my dad as part of one of our semi-annual pilgrimages. It has become more of a ritual of male bonding for me than a football game, a way for me to connect with my father and drink beer.
Â Â Â Possibly because of my idyllic thoughts on the nature of fandom, I was taken aback by the attitudes of the people around me. We were seated in the sixth row, right behind the Riders bench. This area is populated entirely by season ticket holders who inherit them from deceased family members. Getting tickets in this zone is as difficult as mediating peace between the Jedi and the Sith, so I expected only the most diehard of fans to surround us. This was not the case.
Â Â Â We were caged in by old men with beer guts and bad dispositions who were armed with the foulest of mouths and loyalties that turned on a dime. Every completed catch was met with “attaboys” and cheers but when they weren’t doing too well, like for the last two minutes of the game, people were incensed.
Â Â Â They were screaming obscenities at the young men representing their team within minutes of praising them. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem, since I understand trash talking is popular among the people, but this was different. When you’re sitting that close, those people can hear you.
Â Â Â It’s not like when you’re in the nosebleeds and all of your insults get lost in the wind so you end up just screaming at the sky. We were no more than a dozen metres from the bench and every time someone called Darian Durant a fuck-up, he could hear it. Every time an overweight man with a face the colour of an overripe tomato screamed offensive things about Wes Cates’ mother, the rain and wind were unable to block it out.
Â Â Â What happened to loyalty?
Â Â Â What happened to the hard-nosed, stick to your guns style fandom that I have always heard about? Has it ever really existed? Or is that just the kind of thing you see in movies and in the dying traditions of better people?
photo Michelle Berg