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Monday, December 13, 2010

Fans or Fanatics?

Our neighbor across the street is from L.A., and as best as I can tell, he is a die hard Dodgers and Lakers fan (he may still be a Rams fan even though they high-tailed it to St. Louis a few years back).  No doubt, like me, he feels exhilarated when one of his teams wins a game or a championship (as the Lakers did last season) and a bit depressed when one of them falls flat on their face, so to speak (as the Dodgers did this past Fall).

We occasionally kid each other about the loyalty we feel for our respective teams.  He "threatened" to hang a Lakers banner after they beat the Celtics in the NBA Championship, and I joked that if he did, I'd shoot it down (he doesn't know that I got him one for Christmas). When his new baby girl was born, I told him I planned to get her a Giants hat, and when I hung a Giants World Series Champion banner outside our front door, he shook his head in disgust. He also thanked me when we took it down to make room for our Christmas decorations.

This is what I think of when I consider what it means to be a sports fan. Happy when our teams win, sad when they lose, and a willingness to engage in friendly banter with those who support other teams. But then I hear about what happened before the recent USC-UCLA football game: Dozens of fans brawled, two men stabbed, three men arrested and two police officers hurt, and I recall that that the word "fan" is a shortened version of the word "fanatic."
fan. 1889, Amer. Eng., originally of baseball enthusiasts, probably a shortening of fanatic, but may be influenced by the Fancy (1807), a collective term for followers of a certain hobby or sport (especially boxing). There is an isolated use from 1682, but the modern word is likely a new formation (Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved December 05, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fan)
Sporting events, whether at the professional or recreational level, should bring us together, not tear us apart. And they often do (bring us together, that is). The degree of racial integration at NFL games on Sunday afternoons is higher than you'll find in most churches on Sunday mornings (I think it was the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who remarked that Sunday morning is the most racially segregated hour in Christian America), and I would like to believe that no game is so important that people would feel the need to bring a knife to it, but clearly I'm wrong. 

How sad. How very sad.

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