We're all sports fans. Some are casual. Some are fanatics or die-hards. We all have our favorite teams and our favorite players. We defend those we hold an allegiance to and we even wear some of their names on our backs. As a sports fan we have our superstitions and traditions - such as a lucky jersey or a certain place to order food from because "it brings your team good luck." We're nuts. It's obvious. But we're also passionate and that's where it can actually get scary. How much of your life has been dedicated to a player or team? How much memorabilia have you bought and put on display in either your house or your car?
But when can being a sports fan actually be taken too far?
How many of us have dwelled on a bad loss. Or felt it personally when your favorite athlete is either being crucified by the media because of poor-play or is in the center of some kind of criminal investigation of some sort?
Popular educator and futurist Jacque Fresco once spoke on depression and said: "If you live vicariously through another person lets say you rely on that person entirely and that person dies you lose your identity. Because you put your identity on another person which isn't a good thing to do. It's a kind of dependency."
Using that logic and correlating it to a present story in sports, the first thing that comes to my mind is Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong for years stood as a hero to many. Not just as a sign of hope for those touched unfortunately by cancer - but also for many who saw him as a man who can overcome at any cost. I won't talk about the Lance Armstrong story which is a modern day "fall from grace" - but talk about the mentality of those who saw him as a hero. Many wore "livestrong" wristbands as a way of life. Promoting Lance Armstrong's message and in other ways showing an unwavering idolization to what he stands for. I say idolization because isn't this the same reason why many wear a cross? To show the strength in their beliefs and their faith in Jesus Christ?
Let me say before I go on : This is not a religious debate - just a social commentary on sports idolization.
Armstrong has broken the spirits of many people across the world with his now exposed use of PED's which he vehemently denied. Some still support him because they feel his good deeds outweigh the fact that he cheated - others feel as if the one who they put on a platform has failed them and broke their hearts and spirit.
Pulling away from biking - we can go to another story that was huge. The Penn State scandal. This one hits closer to home for me because I've been a Penn State fan since I was ten years old and I went through my own ways of going through the shock of the Penn State and Jerry Sandusky scandal. Even in the midst of what was becoming more and more evident as a child molestation cover up it seemed as if most (I won't say "all" because that definitely wasn't the case) in the Happy Valley area were in full support of Joe Paterno. When the firing of Paterno was announced there was immediate shock sent through the Happy Valley community. They didn't want their beloved Joe Pa to lose his job. Although the man was part of one of the most disgusting cover ups in recent history - they wanted his statue to stand and rallied to keep him. As a Penn State fan, I watched - confused and hurt but I knew at the same time I had been in a way misled to believe something that wasn't. I only knew Penn State and Joe Paterno to be prestigious and always stand for the right thing. They lied and I knew what was right and wrong at the time, and was embarrassed at how some would still defend Joe Paterno blindly. But even with that, sometimes I still feel weird that I cannot let go of being a Penn State football fan. It's like being the nephew of an embarrassing uncle with a shady past. . .
We all live dangerously as sports fans. If a season ends without a championship, playoff appearance, or any kind of success - we literally go into mini-depressions. We get upset. Sometimes weeks are ruined. We snap at the wrong people. And we don't understand how the players who we worshipped all year long - can just go away on trips to tropical islands when the seasons done. We don't understand how they can crack a smile during an interview and just give a bland answer like "we'll work harder next season."
Every year it seems another one of the sports world's elite takes a hit. Alex Rodriguez. Kobe Bryant. OJ Simpson - just to name the first three that came to my mind. They seemingly failed the public who put these guys on the highest of platforms. The let down the public. Because the public built an image.
I'm a sports fan. A fanatic. I won't stop being dedicated to my teams or my favorite players and I didn't write this piece to change how you root for your favorite teams or players. I'm just talking truth. We put hope and passion into sports. And we can't control the outcome of what they will ultimately become. After all the jerseys we buy, the traditions we continue - we can't stop these people from a fault that we all share - being human. They are not gods or gladiators (as some advertisements make them out to be) they are human.
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