One of the things that I’ve been struggling to articulate internally is why I really dislike college sports. Not just in the sense of “I don’t like to watch college sports”, nor even for the old “that money should be going to academia” sense. I get the impression that it’s done / is doing something odd to our culture. College football fandom in particular seems to go way beyond the level of interest and involvement that teams at the professional levels will see.
A non-sporty friend of mine often gives me a certain amount of crap for being a Bears fan. Local sports team fandom, he would say, is merely a “proxy for tribal warfare”. And if you strip away all the negative connotation that would go along with such a blatantly snobby statement, he’s right. I couldn’t go out there onto that field of battle and throw a spear at one of those assholes from Green Bay, so the Bears metaphorically do it for me (I hope). I think that’s ok. Other sports fill the same niche, and college sports seem to be a more directly-connected sense of that. “I attended college X, therefore, when my team defeats college Y, I was a part of that! And also I must now go and shout at my peer who attended college Y in a meeting.” Those who take such college sports so seriously often come across as arrogant alpha male douchebags.
Actually, on further review, I’d be hard pressed to name anyone I’ve ever met who takes it to that level and doesn’t come across as an arrogant alpha male douchebag. I guess that’s why the cultural aspect annoys me.
But in reflecting on the whole college situation I ended up pondering the concept of sports-fandom in general. How does one call oneself a fan? Why? The tribal warfare argument is probably most accurate: I’m from Chicago, ergo I like the Bears and White Sox and Liverpool FC (LFC, an old team with piles of history, constantly on the cusp of having a “good year” but almost always performing disappointingly and being unable to challenge for the title? Sounds exactly like the Bears and the White Sox, so naturally I feel a kinship there). And yet I don’t care for the Bulls or the Blackhawks or the Cubs, so… does that make that argument invalid?
But I haven’t watched a White Sox game in years now. We have five games to go this season, they’ve been chasing a playoff spot, and literally all I’ve watched of them this season was a few online video clips when their announcer had an on-air rant in March. My involvement with the team has been checking the standings to see how they’re doing. The Bears, too. I follow them a little more closely, given that football, unlike baseball, isn’t one step removed from being farming. But I didn’t watch any of their games last year unless they were on TV at a family gathering, and likely won’t this year either. Can you still be a fan and almost totally ignore a team for years?
And why do I now feel bad for ignoring my tribal warfare proxies?