On Sports Hate

As far as we know only one dude ever burned his jersey.

As far as we know only one dude ever burned his jersey.

I really enjoy Bill Simmons’ podcasts. They make for a great way to kill time on my commute or while running. I dig his shtick with Cousin Sal and I love the NBA stuff with Marc Stein and Ric Bucher. However, my favorites are the ones where he talks to someone from outside of the sports arena, interviews with Patton Osawlt or Louis CK really fascinated me and I can’t recommend those enough (yes, I’m telling you how I enjoy ESPN’s most popular podcast. I’m always finding those diamonds in the rough).

Anyways, I was listening to Simmons’ most recent podcast with Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and they got on the subject of Sports Hate. Flea, a huge Lakers fan, talked about how he absolutely loathes the Celtics; how hating the Celtics is a ‘pure’ hate and that that hate is one of the reasons why he enjoys sports as much as he does. He also talked about that the only time he’s rooted for the Celtics was when they faced LeBron and the Heat.

I found this interesting.

With Cleveland teams all playing at a below average level, come playoff time, many fans find themselves rooting against a certain opponent rather than for a team. You know, Cavs 4 Mavs and all that.

I’m fine with this. That’s what sports is all about. You root for your team, even if it is full of jerks, and then you root against the teams or players that are your rivals or who beat you or whatever reason you choose.  Personally, I usually go for either the team with the longer title drought, the underdog or against whichever team the announcers are shoving down my throat (which is a large reason why many folks ‘hate’ Tim Tebow).

Around this time every year I get into arguments with Steeler fans or college football fans, that, as a Ohio State fan/Browns fan, I should be rooting for the Big Ten (including Michigan) in bowl games and for AFC North teams in the playoffs.

To a certain extent, I agree. There’s a certain logic for rooting for the teams within your division (in the same vein, to root for the team that knocked your team out of the playoffs- well, at least we lost to the champs). It reflects better on my team that they had to compete against good teams throughout the year. I get that. It makes sense.

But when giving my Steeler buddy crap for losing to Tim Tebow’s Broncos, he piously told me how he’d root for Browns, should they ever be in, you know, games that actually matter. And since he’d hypothetically root for my team, I should have been rooting for my division opponent, the Steelers, a team geographically close to Cleveland, to win and not to get hilariously upset by a guy who can’t throw. (He also told me I should be happy as a Browns fan, since we’re one of the only teams that haven’t made the Super Bowl, so we’re unique. My response cannot be printed here).

I understand the concept of rooting for your divisional opponents in the playoffs. But that’s very easy for the fan of a team that consistently competes year-in, year-out, to say he’d root for a team from the area in which he lives… should they ever become good. But sports is so visceral, so organic that I can’t  just choose who I root for. Have you tried to pick a team before a game?

The first time I tried was when the Steelers played the Cowboys in 1996 Superbowl. I had no love for the Cowboys and I knew some Steeler fans from church (and didn’t actually hate them or wish them ill will), so I told myself I’d root for my division rivals, since that might reflect well on my own team and blah blah blah. It was logical.

Then the game began. I couldn’t do it. Not even a little bit. HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS!

Same with Michigan. I know a loss to Appalachian State reflects poorly on the Big Ten (and in turn, Ohio State). But the colors, the helmet… I will always enjoy a Michigan loss. Always. Hell, I can’t even get myself to root for Iowa in a bowl game, simply because their uniforms make them look like the Steelers.

Which brings me back to Flea and Bill Simmons. At one point in the podcast, Flea mentioned how if he meets a sports fan from Boston who doesn’t hate the Lakers, he loses respect for them. I completely understand this. One of the (many) issues that (many) Cleveland fans had with LeBron was that he wasn’t a fan of our teams. He’s from the area, but he likes the Cowboys, the Bulls, the Yankees and Ohio State (the only consistent winner in the state).

And how can you trust a guy like that?

Loving our hometown teams is a badge of pride. It’s easier to root for ‘national’ teams that wins a lot, we say. It takes character to stick with your hometown teams; there’s almost something moral about it (like, wow, sure takes a lot of guts to root for the Yankees). Many of us inherently distrust someone from the area who doesn’t root for our teams. How many people have you met that are fans of the Indians, the Cavs, the Buckeyes and… the Steelers. Drives you nuts, doesn’t it?

LeBron’s recent late game struggles has brought new scrutiny to the superstar. The Heat recently lost the Clippers and neither LeBron or Chris Paul played well down the stretch, but since the Clippers won, Paul’s late game mishaps are forgotten while LeBron’s were magnifiedFair or unfair, many fans have taken pleasure in LeBron’s late game struggles.

Flea, a lifelong Laker fan, said he rooted for the Celtics because of his natural revulsion LeBron’s Heat. Think about that. Yet, Cleveland fans are constantly being told to ‘move on’ and ‘get over it‘; that we aren’t supposed to enjoy the comeuppance of the guy who gave the city the finger on the way out the door.

Screw that. It’s sports. This is supposed to be fun, not serious. Passionately hating a team or an opposing player a big part of sports fandom (some Steeler fans get this). It’s the ying and the yang. You have an unhealthy passion for your team and illogical hatred for your opponents.

Rooting against LeBron or the Steelers isn’t petty or vindictive (well, maybe a little), it’s natural.

To do otherwise just feels wrong.

Photo courtesy of WEWS.

  • Joemersnik

    What about sports talk station hate? Like hating on WKNR… Just sayin’

  • Big Z

    If I were around for the first game that LeBron played as a member of the Heat at the Q, I would’ve thrown my shoe at his face. Unfortunately, I was in WA at the time. 

    I can’t believe no one else did it. We’re talkin’ Cleveland sports fan legendary status here! I don’t even think the cops would’ve arrested you, they would’ve probably just taken you to the parking lot and let you go after a high-five. I can’t imagine you’d have to pay to eat at a Cleveland restaurant after that either, just bring in a picture of the shoe toss and it’s like “your meal is on the house”.

  • Ethan

    Amen.

  • http://twitter.com/BenCox83 Ben Cox

    heh. there’s sports hate and then there’s actual hate…

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    The idea of rooting for your rival in college football/basketball is very different when compared with the NFL/NBA.  I will never root for a rival in pro sports, because everything is predicated on record alone and I dont care if the rest of my division is in the playoffs if we’re not, nor do I care that the rest of the division blows and we’re the only good team.  

    In college though, so much is predicated on rankings that you have to care about the conference as a whole.  In football its for your BCS ranking.  In basketball, its to get in and get a higher seed in the tourney.  You need your wins to matter and to carry more worth in the eyes of subjective BCS voters and the tourney selection committee.  An additional aspect to both sports in college is also recruiting.  You want the Big 10 to have as many bowl wins as possible to make the conference as a whole more appealing to national recruits, and so that the conference as a whole is ranked higher in the upcoming preseason rankings.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I have a cousin who is a Buckeyes, Indians, Cavs, and….Steelers fan.  He only does it because he’s the younger brother, and wanted to annoy his older brother when he was younger.  And it stuck.  And yes, it drives me crazy. 

  • Dano

    I love WFNY and read everything on the site, but…

    1. Please do a bit more proof reading.
    2. Sports-hate justification articles are tired out. Really bored with this as a topic.

  • Anonymous

    “Proofreading” is one word.

    “Tired out” is . . . uh, I’m not sure.

    “as a” is superfluous.

    /proofread with a smile

  • Dano

    Thank you for not disagreeing with either of my points. I take your absence of any response to the points I made to mean you agree. I’m glad we had this chat.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree. Only team in AFC Browns fans could realistically root for was Houston (half of teams are division, Elway runs Denver, and Belicheat runs NE).

  • ctownincharlotteNC

    Let me help you out here.  Take his absence of any response as a total disagreement. And take this comment as a total disagreement as well. And take all of the lack of agreement as a total disagreement as well. Also if you’re going to comment about “proof (space) reading at least practice what you preach.

  • Dano

    I would like to apologize on behalf of my iPhone. He thinks that proofreading is two words. I’ll give him something to autocorrect about.

    1. I dislike reading anything with lots of typos.
    2. I think I’ve read about eighteen articles about sports hate in the last six months.
    3. Impulsive posting while hungover doesn’t seem to be a great idea.

  • Jaker

    I am a 22 year old from New Jersey, and I have been a loyal Cleveland fan my ENTIRE life (Thanks Dad). No Yankees or Giants, I stuck with the Cavs, Browns and Tribe. I reserve the right to choose to root against any team or any player as long as I have a reason. I’ll never root for the Steelers, and I will never root for LeBron. Your friend the Steelers fan doesn’t get what it is like to affiliate sports with constant losing, so he is just ignorant to the idea that he would root for the Browns. He sees the Browns as innocent and non-threatening, which is why he would root for them. Its a slap in the face that I get all the time, living near people who consider missing the playoffs as an apocalypse and a championship “drought” at 5 years. As a Cleveland fan I don’t want sympathy, I want to be treated like all the other teams who don’t win that season.

  • Matt Underwood

    Dano’s a Fag.

  • Dano

    Thanks for contributing.

  • porkchopxpress

    I gotta agree with Foghorn.  When it comes to the NFL, if the Steelers were playing the galactic superstars and the fate of the world hung in the balance I could only shrug my shoulders reflect on the run I’ve had and smile happily as some Marklar WR highstepped past Ike Taylor into the endzone.
    College football is differnt though because like it or not when Michigan gets plunked in a bowl game we have to hear about it from fans from other areas.  Here is my compartmentalized train of thought on the subject.  Michigan wins a bowl game; “See how tough the Big Ten is!”  Michigan loses a bowl game; “They have no honor, can’t even show up to do the conference proud.”  Michigan wins a bowl game and OSU loses; “Muck Fichigan”

    What I hate and feel forced to ferret out and expose right now are the BS band wagon riding Ohio Born, trying to find a connection to PA Steeler fans.  25 years ago you simply didn’t see all the Pitt jerseys everywhere.  Now they’re inescable.  I haven’t looked a census but I know 20000 people havent moved here from Pittsburgh in the past 25 years which means a lot of people have been jersey trend shopping.  There is nothing I love more than letting some guy in his shiny new authentic Lambert jersey start talking mess about the Browns, and then casually asking him who “Big Ben” replaced as starting QB.  I know who it is because he led the crushing comeback against the Browns in our only playoff apearance of the oughts.  They stumble and stammer and can’t say 1 of 3 QBs  they’ve had in the same time period we’ve had 15 and I can name them all.  I really wish we could go Inglorious Basterds on them and carve the word poser on their forehead so all would know what they really were. 

  • Anonymous

    Nice write up, Ben. I totally agree with you, I think we should be allowed to root for or against rivals without scrutiny. I always heard that I should root for the Tigers in the playoffs because they’re from the AL central, or the Steelers/Ravens etc… all for really bad reasons. I’ve always thought “if we can’t have it, neither should [insert team]“, nothing about a rival team hoisting a trophy gives me any sort of warm and fuzzy feeling.

    Also, I was hoping you would touch on literal sports hate. It’s really concerning to me how many high profile beatings have happened recently.  I enjoy having “sports hate” but those lines are getting blurred in a huge way. I know that fights aren’t a new thing around sporting venues but the results, someone being in a coma, are to me, frightening. 

  • Anonymous

    I so “hate” the phrase “shoving down my throat.”  Close your mouth.  Or your ears.  Or just change the channel.  Or turn off whatever it is that’s annoying you.  Free will is a cool, really enjoyable, thing, if practiced.

    As for “sports hate,” I’m not sure I follow the following logic:  “Cleveland fans are constantly being told to ‘move on’ and ‘get over it'; that we aren’t supposed to enjoy the comeuppance of the guy who gave the city the finger on the way out the door.  Screw that. It’s sports. This is supposed to be fun, not serious.”

    If it’s “supposed to be fun,” why the hate?  Move on.  Get over it.

    As a caveat, I understand that “sports hate” is not “real hate” – and I really “sports hate” the Steelers, Wolverines, Ravens, etc.  The problem is when it crosses the line and transfigures from the former to the latter.  That’s when I say, “get over it, move on.”  I think the LeBron hate, and the Modell hate, too often takes the form of real, bona fide, hate – which, not to “shove this down anyone’s throat,” is spiritually really a bad thing.

    Nobody needs to be in a coma over sports.

  • Big Z

    Nah, what’s spiritually bad is when you betray an entire city (the shadow of which you were born and raised beneath) of people who thought of you as their champion. Not to mention deciding to sink a multitude of daggers into their backs on national television during an event that most of them thought was designed to bring some publicity and respectability to their home town. THAT, my friend, is spiritually bad. 

  • CFL

    I’d say that people who can just casually “move on” or “get over it” never really cared too much in the first place. This is why so many fans of teams like the Yankees or Lakers, (who don’t really have any idea what it is like to be a fan of something,) don’t understand why people still hate LeBron James. 

  • Anonymous

    “Many of us inherently distrust someone from the area who doesn’t root for our teams.”

    I agree with this, except for one thing — college football. While I understand rooting for Cleveland teams, what with there being no real reason to support a professional team other than front-running or locality, college ball is a different beast. I didn’t attend Ohio State, no one in my family attended Ohio State, and I don’t cheer for Ohio State. Plain and simple.