Recently I had an argument with my grandmother. It has taken me a little while, but I have to come to realize that she was completely in the right. It all started while talking sports. My first big mistake. Second, talking Oregon Ducks football. You see, my grandparents have had basically one consistent thing going for them for the last several decades. They love the Oregon Ducks. Though they may not really be the world’s biggest fans, they think they are. I mean it’s understandable. They’re from Oregon, my grandpa has worked around the university for a while and they know people. But as the years have passed, their love for the Ducks has grown with them into old age at what seems like an exponential rate. They have a room dedicated to Oregon Duck paraphernalia appropriately called the “Duck Room,” and their cars look like every day is game day. They still travel to Eugene for games, and you can even catch them eating popcorn and watching re-runs of the televised ones just so they can “see where we went wrong” (as my grandpa would say). The truth is that they are true fans. They live and will die with the team.
This last 2014-2015 NCAA football season turned out to be a pretty good one for Oregon. From Marcus Mariota winning the coveted Heisman Trophy, to making an appearance at the National Championship. It was that game that started the argument with my grandma in the first place. They spent a pretty penny on tickets and were flying down to Texas to go to the game. I had a hard time understanding why they were doing such a thing and I made the mistake of making that known to my grandmother. I just couldn’t understand why they or anybody else would go that far out of their way to go and watch a game that they could just as easily and much more comfortably watch on their giant TV in high-definition with homemade popcorn in the “Duck Room.” And on top of everything else, the Ducks could easily lose the game. Pay all that money to go and watch your team lose!? For me, not a chance.
So we disagreed, I went on my way, my grandparents flew down to Texas for the big game only to watch their beloved Oregon Ducks get downright trounced by the Ohio State 42-20. I watched the game, I wanted the Ducks to win for my family’s sake, but the first thing that went through my mind when all was said and done was, “Wow…grandpa and grandma went all that way for nothing. See? I was right!” My point was that there was no point in being a fan. It was a waste of time and money and most of the time your team will let you down. It’s just not even worth it.
My background in sports is pretty minimal compared to a lot of other boys. I mean I love the idea of sport and competition, within reasonable bounds of course. I consider myself to be a naturally athletic person, but I never really gave myself a chance. Part of it was that I didn’t want to be like everyone else, I was too small to really succeed at anything my community offered, and when it all came down to it I didn’t like to lose and I preferred to be playing music. All of these reasons resulted in a short-lived recreational flag-football career, and basically a lifetime of hitting a hockey puck around my driveway. Sure I had dreams of becoming a professional football or baseball star when I was in grade school like everyone else, but by the time sports could have become a big part of my life, I had decided I was to be doing other things. And so it goes…
So recently I sat down and I was making a list of simple things that I could do that could improve my life and give it more meaning (a great exercise…I highly recommend it). I did some brainstorming, wrote down a bunch of ideas and I listed one that surprised me:
“Become a fan of a team. Buy a T-shirt, and care.”
Believe me, I was just as confused at this concept as you think I was. But I experienced a change of heart at that moment and something really occurred to me. Why would being a fan of something contribute to a more meaningful life? I had that on my mind for a while and I came to the frank realization that indeed it could. And it does. Sport was invented for the good of mankind. To stay active, challenge ourselves, compete, and test our capacities of many kinds (including that of finding ab eligible mate). This is a healthy thing. So that led me to decide that cheering for a team you like that plays a sport you like and relate with at some level is a healthy thing.
I decided that being a fan can give even the most purposeless life a purpose. For a brief period of time you get the chance to forget about yourself and put your pressures on something or someone else. I can put my trust and hope in a team or athlete and if they win then it almost turns into a victory of my own. “We did it!” fans usually shout upon their team winning, when in fact they did absolutely nothing athletic to contribute to to the feat. Why do they do that? Well because they felt it. A connection has been made and that is what being a fan means. And when they lose, well depending on your level of fandom you might feel the pain just as vividly as if you were the one who let the goal through or threw the game losing interception. Teams can literally become an extension of our own competitive natures, and for those of us that have minimal competitive outlets, well then they become exactly what we need. So we put on our jerseys and foam fingers and paint our faces and bellies and root for the home team. Why? Because there is community and purpose. And it is just downright healthy.
So this is me publicly announcing to the world that I have changed my mind. I was thinking about the argument that I had with my grandma, all the things that had transpired, and I realized that I should become a fan. A true fan. Win or lose, live or die, a fan. A loyal one. Because it is good for us as humans to be fans. What team will I choose? What sport? Well I am currently deciding. It may take me a while because I literally have absolutely zero affinities towards any team (except of course for team USA). So to all you sports people out there, I salute you. Promptly I shall join your ranks as a true fan. This is the human way. Cheer on my friends, cheer on.