The Super Bowl is something that we, as a society, mark pretty much every year. Things here in western Washington are particularly frantic and excited this year because of the Seahawks’ second Super Bowl appearance. It seems everywhere you turn there’s blue and green jerseys, flags, banners, and most especially the number 12 plastered everywhere.
Subtlety hasn’t been a strong point in the city of the last few weeks.
As the vast majority of us gather together under a 12th Man banner to support our team’s championship run, there are others who are a bit less excited about the the focus on football in the area. There’s a lot of non-sports fans out there who aren’t shy about making it known that they couldn’t care less about the Seahawks, and wish everyone else would just shut up already.
They have a point, too. Seahawks fever is ubiquitous, and for those out there who don’t want to be a part of it, they’re frustratingly unable to escape. I went through a similar experience in high school. Way back in the 1990’s, the Mariners made a magical run from being 12 games out of first place in their division to winning the division and beating the Yankees in the playoffs in what is probably the greatest single play in Mariners history. To this day, Mariners fans get chills hearing Dave Niehaus’ call of Edgar Martinez’ double down the left field line. Macklemore even wrote a song about it.
I, however, wasn’t so thrilled. I hated sports back then. I thought they were frivolous (which, even though I love sports now, is still true). But in fall of 1995, I couldn’t escape it, and it angered me.
Here’s the problem, though. While I’m not without sympathy for people who don’t like sports, that doesn’t change the fact that I get irritated by some of the reactions I hear. During the weekend of the NFC Championship game, I saw this little cartoon on my Facebook feed no less than 5 times:
First of all, I’m going to gloss over that last line about what the athlete makes; I feel I covered that in enough detail already. What’s interesting about it, though, is the sense of intentional ignorance. The entire joke of the comic is that sports are meaningless if you don’t understand them and because they’re meaningless, they’re not worth understanding.
Here’s the thing, though. There’s not a lot of dumb people I’m friends with. Intellectual curiosity runs rampant in my circles. So I don’t understand how people would not only choose to be ignorant on a subject – especially one that is important to so many other people – but to actually proud of that ignorance.
This is an attitude I see in conservative religious circles regularly. Creationists don’t understand evolution, and don’t want to. They’re proud of their lack of knowledge. I once had a conversation with a fundamentalist co-worker, and asked him what he knew about evolution. He said, “It’s about the big bang and stuff, right?” He was absolutely, 100% convinced that evolution is wrong, but knew nothing about it.
The picture of Phil Robinson looks similar, but his head is in something else.
How is it different with people who make “sportsball” jokes? I can’t think of a single situation where ignorance is superior to understanding. There’s plenty of subjects that I don’t find interesting enough to learn about – and I’m sure my non-sports fan friends consider football to be in that category – but I would never be proud of my ignorance of those subjects. I’m not really a naturalist. I don’t like being outdoors, and I don’t know much about what’s out there. However, I only mention it here to make the point. I don’t tend to announce my ignorance of nature casually in public, and I don’t post it on Facebook every time my wife wants me to go hiking.
I also took issue with the fact that it had to be during the build-up to the game and the game itself that the anti-sports comments became the loudest. I understand that it’s during a game day, when the cacophony of fandom reaches its highest levels that those who don’t care feel the greatest urge to let everyone else know about their displeasure. Yet, as a fan, that displeasure is a discordant note that echoes through an otherwise exciting time. I don’t want to say that people who don’t enjoy sports should just keep silent. What I am trying to say is that I think some of the motivation for people to loudly proclaim their disinterest during a game is to ruin it for everyone else.
This is hardly an uncommon attitude. People, by their very nature, have a cavalier attitude about ruining things they aren’t interested in. I remember a particular example of this a few years ago when I was waiting outside Borders bookstore for the midnight release of the 7th Harry Potter book. I was standing outside the store about a half hour before the book was going to be released when some teenagers drove by shouting spoilers they’d read on the internet. They didn’t like Harry Potter, so they thought it’d be fun to ruin the excitement for everyone else.
Or how about when Rosie O’Donnell, unimpressed by the film Fight Club, spoiled the twist ending on the very day the movie was released. Today Fight Club’s twist seems almost cliche, but at the time it was shocking.
“That’s not even the douchiest thing I did in my career!”
The point is, there’s a tendency for people who don’t like something to spoil it for everyone else. When it happens to you about something you enjoy, it’s infuriating. I’ve struggled with doing that in my past, I even wrote a post about it. It’s fine not to enjoy sports, but it’s not fine to try to infringe on other people’s enjoyment of it.
Look, I understand people who don’t enjoy sports; like I said, I’ve been there myself. It’s just that sometimes it seems that the outcry against the enjoyment of sports is louder than it needs to be. A friend of mine once wrote something to the effect of, “There are more people on my Facebook feed hating sports than people liking it. Who knew I would survive to see the day when football fans were the counter-culture hipsters.”
“We prefer to be called futbol fans.”
If you don’t enjoy sports, that’s fine. But let those who do enjoy it do so in peace. Next time you want to speak up because everyone’s talking about something you don’t care about, just scroll on by.
So before I wrote this post, I talked to my wife about it. I told her that this post, more than any, would probably open me up to accusations of hypocrisy. I’m pretty sure there have been situations outside of sports in which I did the very same thing I’m railing against here. That’s fine, on it’s own. A part of my writing this blog is to explore issues and find situations where I’m being inconsistent, and work on those. My most successful post by far was a such situation where I candidly discussed failing to live up to my own standards.
As my wife and I were discussing this, I thought of a perfect example of my own inconsistency with the above article. See, as an atheist, I’m constantly reading news about the latest atheist billboard or advertisement to get rejected. Or when they’re not rejected, they’re vandalized. This is so common there’s an entire page dedicated to the vandalized atheist billboards.
No one rejects or vandalized christian billboards, but atheist billboards are considered so offensive by some that they can’t leave them alone. Even completely innocuous ones with statements like, “Don’t believe in god? You’re not alone.” are vandalized. Once an atheist group tried to design an atheist ad to be as non-offensive as possible. They developed an ad with only the word “Atheist” and a couple websites. It was rejected.
Godless bastards are even ruining kittens now. Have you no shame!
I get angry about this… a lot. Too many people think my very belief system is offensive. People want me to shut up. People think I should move to another country. Hell, once a sitting president said he didn’t consider me a citizen. Atheists are often told stay silent about their beliefs, or that it’s not the right time, or that they have no tact. The problem is, there never seems to be a right time. My beliefs are always offensive to some, so instead of always being silent, I refuse to.
So in all fairness to you anti-sports friends of mine, I may not be in the position to complain. It is against my values to tell anybody to be silent. I may not agree with some of your reasons, but that gives me no reason to tell you to scroll past in silence. Let the arguments continue.