The mere mention of the team name makes your blood boil. Your muscles tense up with ferocious anger. A venomous villain is around, and you’d give anything to watch it suffer and fall. It’s normal to have these feelings over a 60-minute, four-quarter or nine-inning game. It’s simply about the guys on the other sideline and in the other dugout, those scabby, filthy cheaters.
There are two fundamental principles of fanhood. You root for your team no matter the circumstance. Secondly — and just as important — you cheer as hard for the team playing those you dislike. The enemy of my enemy is my best friend. No matter the additional created tenets, they are distantly behind these two absolutes.
At some point in life, you’ve heard someone remark something along the lines of, “Hate is such a strong word.” If a stronger word existed, sports fans would use it. No exception to our second rule can exist — unless during intra-divisional games. A wavering soul who steps outside the laws forfeits fanhood. As with religion, movie plots and international affairs, there must be an enemy in the darkness to make our side feel that much brighter.
We live in a world full of irrational hate. The daily routine of some of our fellow Facebookers and Tweeters shows us how a mind can end up a pretzel. Irrationality seems to reign supreme. We hate traffic lights, rainy weather and strict attendance rules at work. These things are necessary, yet many of us can’t grasp their importance. Hate is real, and it’s out there for these small and understandable causes.
It’s worth hoping that sports fans keep their hatred directed at the foe, but that’s impossible. Believe it or not, fans are just people. As crazy as they may seem, at least they have an outlet to release some of their anger. Hating can be a healthy activity. Venting the negativity within can free your soul, if only for a short time.
A baby born in Chicago last week doesn’t know it yet, but he hates the Green Bay Packers. It will be taught to him if through nothing else than observance. That kid will grow to despise yellow and green. It’s the never-ending circle of fan life. When the Bears beat the Packers, he won’t thank his pop and brothers, but he should. The thrust of his fist in the air when the fourth-down stop on the goal line is made will make him feel alive again. It will bring him through lost relationships, failed papers and terrible jobs. For a moment, he will escape this cold world enough to let his disdain fuel a passionate high.
When I was 8 years old, Barry Switzer had the gall to go for it on fourth down in his own territory against the Philadelphia Eagles. One yard to go, and my guys stopped him. The play was whistled dead because the two-minute warning occurred. Switzer ran the same play again. My guys showed no prejudice — they stopped Emmitt Smith the second time too.
There’ve been a lot of games since then, many losses and wins. Playoff games and overtimes notwithstanding, those two stops give me the most goosebumps. They take me back to a day and age when I didn’t know much except that I hated Dallas. I still do. When Merrill Reese screams, “They stopped him again!” I reach a level of emotional sensitivity I wish I had more often.
I pump my fists and come to the brink of tears. I’m at the cliff of raw humanity, and I get ready to jump. Lost in a game that happened in 1995, I find a side of me that I forgot existed. No one who knows me has seen me cry over a YouTube clip. Trust me, I have. If the plays didn’t happen against Dallas, who knows how much they would really mean.
Because it came against “America’s Team,” I feel again. Oh, what it would be like to go back and relive all of those moments. Those catches and fumbles and home runs that made us feel the way we were created to experience things. They released us from the lines we live within. They gave us a reason to believe that someday, we would feel that same raw emotion again.
No matter the losing seasons and blowout losses, those games are part of the reason we come back. We know that the defense will rise to an occasion, boosted by a cacophony of what sounds like thousands of men, women and children screaming at the top of their lungs. Not only did our guys come through for us, they came through for us because it was those ugly jerks on the other side.
Plenty can be made of rivalry and good-natured ribbing after the games. Trash talk gives us an outlet before the game. But when that game comes down to an inch, it’s our passion versus reality, and we hope we win out. When we do, we release a part of ourselves that can’t be found on an ordinary day against a regular opponent.
We need those mighty villains. We must have those despised figures on the other side. There must be someone to play Satan to our sports gods.
It doesn’t matter if we weren’t there for every written chapter. Memories of Roger Staubach and Tom Landry aren’t needed to hate the Cowboys. But, they add to our legacies. One win for the good side erases everything those men did — if only for a day.
History creates legends and adds to our fire of hate. It’s normal, and it’s acceptable. At some point, we need to erase the idea that all bad feelings are bad. They can create great feelings and give comfort in this world. We need consistency and understanding when thinking of the way we act. We must embrace our hatred in the sports world. Keep your angst directed towards those characters on the stage; don’t let it seep over to the common man or day-to-day life.
Fuel your fire. Let it take you where it wants you to go. For a game, understand that you might just need those expletives and perhaps stronger words. You don’t always need rationality to be a fan. You need something to believe in. Sometimes, the only thing it provides is the vomit-like taste in your mouth when you see your enemy.
In sports, that’s normal. In sports, that’s expected. In sports, that’s a rule as sacred as the yard lines and home plate.