Sports, HUH...GoodGawdY'all

From the age of 7, I've been a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I've watched all of their games religiously, and cheered them through 6 Superbowl victories, and many losses. Loyalty to a team was how I was raised, so I never flip-flopped on my team, no matter where I lived.  This past season in particular, I've really begun to question the cost-benefit of watching professional sports, particularly football, given the effects it has on fans, and its anti-female stance.

When I was growing up, gender roles were much more defined than they are today. Me liking sports placed the 'tomboy' label squarely upon me. At that time, I wore it with pride, as being a 'girly girl' just wasn't something palatable to me. I liked playing football, baseball, being a cheerleader, majorette, etc... athletics were something I loved- challenging my personal best brought me joy.

When my team began to become a major player in the NFL, I was 9. "The Immaculate Reception" in 1972 seemed to kick off a decade of Steelers' victories. It was wonderful. The 80s? Not so much. The 90s saw a resurgence of my team's victories, and in the past decade and a half, they've maintained a relatively good standing overall. But, throughout all of those years, good sportsmanship was the mantra.

I used to smack-talk with friends of other teams, with the understanding that it didn't get taken too far, and that, in the end, the friendship was much more important than a sports game. One Superbowl between the Cowboys and Steelers, my friends who were Dallas fans, were allowed to take up half my living room with their Cowboys decor, while us Steeler fans took the other side. Dallas beat us that year, and yet, not one person on the winning side was a poor winner, and not one of us on the losing side was a poor loser. We had a great time, and talked about that night for years.

Moving to Maryland was a culture-shock, as I experienced the rabidity of fandom at its worst. I've traveled a lot in my life, but I had never come across people who treated others so badly when it came to football. Sportsmanship just doesn't seem to be in the vocabulary of the majority of fans in my adopted home state. My friend Michele pointed out that after the Colts left Baltimore, many fans took on other teams such as mine and the Redskins. In retrospect, I have to admit that I've seen native Baltimore Steelers fans who behave just as badly.. perhaps it's a regional issue- I don't know, but the lack of good sportsmanship is rampant around here. It's even infected family members to the point where I don't want to talk football with them anymore.

Good sportsmanship is realizing that a game is a game. Friendships and familial relationships should be much more important. As Michele also aptly pointed out, kindness is something lacking in many areas of American life these days. I would also add that respect is its missing companion. And, respect for women within this group of franchises is sorely scarce.

49% of the NFL fanbase is female. Yet, the incidents like that with Ray Rice only prove that women are not respected by those who run the league. When we are so completely ignored, why should we support it?  There is no honor when it comes to the almighty dollar, it seems.

I think it's time for me to hang up the jersey and find something more worthwhile to do with my time left here. I'd rather be loving and respectful of others, and know that I am supporting institutions who do the same than to spend a few hours each week in the summer/autumn timeframe engulfed in flame wars and disrespect.

If I am lucky enough to be old and gray and sitting on my front porch reviewing my life, I don't think my football fandom will be something I'll regret giving up, particularly given the climate I'm seeing today.


  1. Brilliant! It is awful here in Illinois, too, but you know that already.

  2. Thanks, friends. I'm going to work on other things now. My time as a football fanatic is ending. That just creates an opening to do something more constructive :)

  3. I have been (since 1961) and will remain a Vikings fan. I have been (since 1961) and will remain a Twins fan. Not a fanatic, though. (I believe the shortening of "fanatic" to "fan" has changed the meaning of each word over the years.) If either team (or sport) went away tomorrow, I will not crawl in a hole and die.

    It is my belief that professional sports are a mirror of life as it currently is. There are good men and bad men everywhere. It's just that pro sports are more in the public eye than everyday life. It is my hope this will change but I don't see it happening in my lifetime. Mo'Ne Davis and her team's acceptance of her is a good start...

    As far as rude fans? I agree that it seems to be worse. I remember, as do you Kallan, friendly teasing during the season punctuated by hugs. I don't see the teasing as friendly, anymore, nor do there seem to be hugs between fans of rival teams. Sad, really.

  4. I lost a very good friend over football. She was a Browns fan - but one of those fans that would chose a team because of a player then would switch teams (or band wagons) as other teams caught her attention...

    She and I used to banter back and forth, we would always watch games together. But being the Browns, you know they never really went anywhere, they hadn't been a good team in quite awhile.

    In addition to us not agreeing on football teams, she took exception with the fact that I am a vegetarian. She told me one day that she didn't "agree with my life style choices". I was confused by what she meant... to me liking the Steelers and being a Vegetarian aren't really "life style choices" that people get to take exception with....

    That day was the end of a very wonderful, loving, amazing friendship... To this day I am still hurt by it. I am hurt to think that I couldn't be friends with someone because I find it cruel to kill animals for food. Not everyone agrees with me and that's what makes the world go round... but I have the right to make my own choices... and I never, ever, try to make someone stop eating meat.

    And I never, ever, would end a friendship over a turkey burger and a football game.... But, alas, it happened to me. And it still stings. Badly.

    With that being said - I just wanted to point out to everyone that it's ok to talk smack, as long as you allow the other people to banter back and forth WITH you. If we all liked the same team... well who the heck would we root against?

    I agree, hon, that life is too short to keep something in it that you can't feel good about. And if you can't feel good about being a fan of the NFL, it's time for you to make a change. We, the Steelers Nation, will be very sorry to see you go - but we will stand strong in your absence and do our best to make you proud.

    1. oh, I'll ALWAYS be a Steelers fan.. that's never going to change. I'm just weary of the lack of kindness and good sportsmanship I find in this region. I totally understand how you feel, Chelle. You have to do what's right for you. Hug yourself for me.


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