Football Town, USA

American Football & Helmet

If you are a sports fan or more specifically a football fan, then you are probably familiar with the phrase, “On any given Sunday…” It relates to wins, losses, stats and general goings on ON any given Sunday in the NFL.

I happen to love football. I love high school football, college football and professional football. I have for years and I find my love for the game growing year by year in spite of a team that has lacked luster for years, and on good years, is promising only to get close and then lose. Nonetheless, I LOVE it! What I don’t love is what happens on Monday morning. The kickback from the day prior’s loss is generally more than substantial. There is ranting and raving about which player needs to be benched and which coach needs to lose his job. After all, bemoaning is as much a right of a fan as cheering, isn’t it? That’s what we like to tell ourselves. It’s our right to be ticked off and let everyone know via social media. Those players get paid the big bucks to entertain us and keep our fantasy football teams flourishing. Their jobs exist to give us border bragging rights. It’s really no big deal to tweet the players or comment on team facebook pages and let them know just how disappointed we are and how we DEMAND they either do better or we’ll call for their job. This is all a fan’s right. RIGHT?


Gridiron Linemen

I used to think so. Or at least I would join in to what I deemed was an acceptable point. But I have come to the conclusion that it’s not my right to behave in such a way. Am I allowed my opinion and do I discuss the game, good or bad, with friends on social media? Yep, I do. Do I feel like it’s okay to express my broken heart when my team loses and loses and loses, especially in big games? Yep. But here’s where I start to have a problem with the responses to losses that  I see on social media… at least in my city. Overall, there is a negative, un-supportive, fair-weather-fan, band-wagon jumping base to most comments. I think fans in my city and my whole state {in general} are “bad” fans in this regard. I think it’s been this way my whole life, but I sense it getting worse. We haven’t had a LOT to cheer for over the years, but when it’s there, the whole state is behind the team. However, when there isn’t much to cheer for, the fans bail and start verbally biting at anything and everything. I’ve been there.

$$$

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that players should be coddled or that stats should be ignored, but there is a way to support a team in a critically constructive way. There is a way to be disappointed by how a team played on the field without taking it out on each player {and/or his family} personally.  While, yes, football {or whatever other sport} is their job, it is not the definition of who these guys are as people. They were not created by God solely for our Sunday afternoon entertainment and fantasy football betterment. These men have families and dreams beyond the gridiron. Many have cut their football careers short in order to stay healthy so that they are able to pursue these other dreams. Some men are gifted more than others on the football field, but let’s face it. They are ALL more gifted on the football field than either you or I will ever be. And yet we berate and tear them apart when they fail to meet OUR expectations. We place their playing ability and performance on the field of greater importance than their character off the field. After-all, they get paid for their on-field time, so that’s what really matters, right? I get it, when an owner has paid a lot of money for a particular player, we want that person to play up to their $$$ value. 

Let me put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. You are valued by your boss for a certain $$ amount too, right? Do you always perform your job to the standard of that monetary value? When you fail and fumble a project are you scorned by your peers or others in person or on social media? Maybe, but I’m guessing it bothers you and in many ways feels unjust to you. {Oh, I know, I know. We’re talking about men paid to entertain us, not people with REAL jobs.} — Please hear my sarcasm– Are football, baseball or basketball players just entertainers? I would argue not. These men, particularly football players go into battle each week, striving to work as a team and come out with a win. Whether you and I watch them is irrelevant. They still go out and do their job; fight their battle. Sure, if we don’t watch, the league itself loses money and the players would ultimately be paid less, but there was just such a day and time not all that long ago. Yet, football players were there, going into battle… without our eyes; without our cheers or boos from our comfy couches, appetizer platters and 6 packs; without us screaming at the refs, coaches and players through our HD televisions. There was a day and time not all that long ago when being a fan required commitment to actually attend the game {or at the very least listen on the radio}, because that was the only way to BE a fan. I’m sure there were fair-weather fans then as well, but I would guess fewer than now. Why? One thought falls to social media.

They’re people too.

Gridiron linemen

Social media has fanned the flame of being an angry fan. For whatever reason it is much easier to express our real and un-edited opinions about our teams, players, coaches and the refs. We read comments made by others and allow ourselves to be incited to reply whether good or bad, because we have an opinion. There is opportunity to share our opinion and we feel that we just HAVE to share it. Yes, I have been there too. I am stepping back in my commenting though. I have grown saddened by what I read out there. I follow many different professional athletes, coaches, sports media personalities and some athletes’ wives on social media. What I read on their pages, twitter feeds and Instagram accounts is often unbelievable. The hatred that is spewed would never be dared spoken face to face, but because it’s almost anonymous, it seems acceptable to some. I have read horrible threats and despicable wishes on the lives of athletes’ wives {too horrible to mention here}. Last I checked, if my life was threatened by someone when my husband had a bad day at the office, the police would be involved. 

When I was a child, I would often pull out my dad’s Twins Year Books and read player stats, but more than that, I would read about their families and what did they did off the field. It gave me such a greater appreciation for them as players. The great players like Harman Killebrew and Rod Carew became greater to me because of the love they had for their families. It’s true that a lot of athletes aren’t so great off the field, but we as fans also don’t require them to be. We mostly only hold them in high esteem based on their stats, their wins, their accolades. Well, there is a lot more to life than those things. 


I could go on and on, but here is my point. Here is my plea for you my reader. Stop thinking about these athletes as merely pawns for your entertainment. They. Are. People. They have families. They have lives outside of football {or whatever sport they play}. Critique, yes, but don’t forget that they don’t exist for you. They don’t do their jobs perfectly anymore than you do. Yes, they are paid a lot of money, and if they do their job poorly, the outcome lies with the people who pay them? Do we own our players? We may think we do, but we don’t. What’s at stake on any given Sunday for us, the fans? If our team loses we don’t have bragging rights the next day? If our fantasy team players don’t have great stats, we might ultimately lose a little money at the end of the season? The truth is, we as fans don’t have anything at stake that is great enough to allow us to treat the players, refs and coaching staff the way that we often do. 
Picture

The 12th man.

So the next time your team loses and you are filled with raw emotion and think you just HAVE to share your thoughts with others, stop and think for a moment. How would you comment if those players were members of your family; if they were you? How would you critique the game differently if you were a member of the team? I know its hard to imagine, after all, we aren’t on the side line or in the locker room. We weren’t at practice all week. That’s my point. We like to think we know more, we know better, but more than likely we don’t. We don’t see the full picture as much as we think we do. Here’s my other main point, when a football team wins and the crowd is extremely loud and “in it”, they are credited at the 12th man. Every football team needs a great 12th man in the stands. But just because you aren’t at the stadium doesn’t mean you can’t work hard at being a great 12th man. Players yell at each other when needed, but mostly they encourage one another and push one another forward to do better. So, 12th man, do your job. Criticize with constructive points, but get behind your team and cheer them on {even when they’re terrible}, encourage them to do better, work harder. Tell them you know they can do better and that you’re cheering for them to improve.  Be a better 12th man!
**While this post has not included a spiritual answer to this conflict, there is one. I did not leave it out of this post out of fear or a feeling that the two shouldn’t be mixed, but rather the thought that the spiritual side to this discussion deserves it’s own post.**
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