you know i'm a big steeler fan. watching steeler games, especially at heinz field (but also at home on tv), is a highlight of any autumn or winter week for me. we all wear black and gold in this house all day on game day; even the dogs wear gold bandanas during the game. we never miss kickoff, and each dog gets a treat every time we score.
fan culture can be weird, though. i wasn't always a fan; i think i started watching in 2004 or 2005. before that, fandom bewildered me. game time was just the best time to head out for errands because the streets and stores would be deserted around here.
i've lacked any belonging to a fan base (at least for sports) for most of my life up until that point. in high school, i went to basketball and football games as a social activity but didn't really care about the sports.
but i learned some things at those games. my school belonged to something called the prep league, which enforced some pretty strict rules. no booing, ever. no making noise to distract the opponent trying to score. (cheering was fine.) everything was positive. i never thought a thing of it until i got into the real world and saw that this is not how sports fans generally behave.
i'm also a quaker. even before i became a quaker, i was a quaker and didn't know it. that whole some-light-in-every-person thing? that is completely how i'm wired to think about the world. though i'm definitely imperfect, i become very uncomfortable at personal, violent, or unkind attacks.
this, too, is something that is not the norm for sports fans, i've learned.
most recently, i've been participating in a steeler fan group on ravelry. mocking opponents is pretty common there, and i don't like it so i just don't participate in those conversations. but sometimes things go further and i feel like maybe a little nudge could pull everyone back into a kindness zone. today, someone wrote about michael vick,
You know, if he can’t perform, we can take care of him like he did his dogs.
and another person replied,
Wicked! I love it!!! (she grins evily)
now, if you're unfamiliar with vick's story, he was convicted of participating in a pretty brutal dog-fighting ring a few years back. he owned the facilities in which the fights took place; he reportedly tortured and killed dogs that underperformed, and many were buried on the property. part of his plea bargain included agreeing that he'd not only financed and knew about the activities but also personally hanged or drowned dogs. after he served his time, he got a job as quarterback for the philadelphia eagles, where he still plays.
so i read this statement and was uncomfortable with it. obviously i would never ever defend michael vick's choices. but advocating violence against someone isn't okay with me. i thought for a while about what, if anything, to do. and i couldn't stand the idea that anyone could ever see that i had been a participant in this conversation and had not said anything about that.
so i wrote,
we can be more gracious than that, y’all.
and the original poster replied,
For Vick? No, I can’t.
i have a few reactions to this. one is how sad i am for this person that vick has that much power over her. grace isn't for vick. it's for me (or her or the other poster).
my dislike of those kinds of comments isn't any reflection of my feelings about vick or his choices or other people who make those choices. it's about me. it's about who i am and my own choices and values.
yeah, i know: it's just sports. trash talk is part of being a fan.
sorry, not for me. i can build up my own team without denigrating anyone else. and, if only because i think it would reflect better on my team and its fans, i wish that everyone thought that way.
ah, if only i were in charge of the world. ;)