“In Defense of the Virtuous Sports Fan,” John S. Walters

Mar 13th, 2019 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Logan, UT

I’m reading a polemic so revolting that I scarcely can choke back the urge to belch. The misguided author attempts to exonerate the craven exercise of clambering aboard any bandwagon carrying a winning sports franchise. Wherever courage and integrity are aspired to and revered—wherever persevering stalwarts steadfastly refuse to abandon their lovable losers– this nauseating practice is righteously denounced, worthy of all the opprobrium that honorable people heap upon it. The person who thinks it is possible to share in success, simply by glomming onto it, is a person devoid of character, worthy not of forgiveness but of the kind of shunning usually reserved for pedophiles. For my part, I would rather drink beer with a Trump supporter befouled in a MAGA cap.

Unspeakable acts of betrayal dot and defile the American landscape. In the Deep South, hideous displays of Golden State Warrior gear obscure the seldom seen garment bearing the identity of the Hawks or Hornets—and spoil the otherwise delightful ambiance of the Piggly Wiggly.

In northern latitudes, a deeper than usual depression descends over Downer’s Grove as throngs of traitors abandon the Bears and masquerade in Tom Brady jerseys, a charade more disturbing than George W. posing in an Air Force bomber jacket—which offers a clear answer to a question of long-standing public import: What’s worse than a public figure feigning authenticity? A dope thinking that an authentic sports allegiance can be purchased–or simply declared, either of which is tantamount to moral bankruptcy. Character counts, and it is developed not by choosing winners but by enduring losers. Ask your long-suffering spouse. The virtuous fan digs in, stands his ground, and pledges unyielding fidelity to the team that he was born into. Yes, born into.

Your sports allegiances are grounded in geography, dealt out at birth like a deck of cards. If you were born and raised in Michigan, as I was, you embrace the aces (Red Wings) as you accept and hang onto the jokers (Lions), however much you may want to discard them.

If your native state is bereft of a professional franchise, you have but one noble path to follow: man up and eschew shiny objects. Resist the impulse to choose perennial winners. In choosing these, you are choosing the path of a coward and demonstrating that you are a loser. The honorable Nebraskan forsakes the Patriots, Red Sox and the Warriors, for they do not belong to him; nor he to them. He attaches himself to teams outmanned yet overachieving, which even in defeat can be counted on to give the big boys 60 minutes of hell.  In other words, the Nebraskan of unquestioned integrity chooses from any of Minnesota’s professional sports franchises—as should his prairie neighbors in the Dakotas.

If you suffer the great misfortune of having to move from a Big Ten state to a state hosting a team from the Southeastern College Football Conference (perhaps you’re serving in the Peace Corp), you’ll appreciate that you hail from a region where student athletes can read and write—even if they are rarely are inclined to do so. Note: if you’re from Michigan, never call yourself a Michigander; it’s stupid and degrading. You are and always will be a Michiganian.

The only bond more sacred than a fan to his sports team(s) is the bond between parent and child. True fans take vows of eternal allegiance. Unlike marriage vows, these are to be taken seriously. For richer and poorer: You dump your impoverished spouse, as you cling to the small market team that invariably is priced out of the free agency sweepstakes, thereby demonstrating that you are a stand up guy, even if your ex-wife insists that you are not; in sickness and in health: There’s nothing wrong in asking your flu stricken wife to spend the duration of her illness at a hotel—or preferably in the garage. Why should you get sick, too? As your best pitcher is sidelined indefinitely with a torn rotator cuff, you feel a sharp pain in your own shoulder, demonstrating that you are a person capable of feeling great empathy, even if your ex-wife insists that you are not. You pray fervently for his speedy recovery, giving evidence of your religious impulse, even as your ex-wife insists that you are heartless and Godless); till death do us part: Your loyalty holds in bad times, even if on more than one occasion you sit in the stands with a paper bag over your head. You’re grateful for the good times, even if the good times are few and only marginally better than the bad times. You draw sustenance from a wellspring of comforting aphorisms: “we’ll get ‘em next year.” And you really believe this shit, even when the rational part of your brain is capable of recognizing hokum. Above all, you are not just another douche bag chasing championships. Nothing else really matters.

Jesus said, “Love your Neighbor.” That is widely known. What is less well known, owing to its classified status, is that Jesus finished this thought: “unless your neighbor has sinned gravely by attaching himself either to the Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys, in which case it’s ok to take a dump on his porch.” 


John Spencer Walters is old and tired and sustained only by the prospect of impeachment proceedings commencing in 2019.

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