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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sports fans

All of the hoopla about fan reaction to Lebron's decision makes one wonder about what goes through the heads of some hardcore sports fans. Why do some people identify with a particular professional sports team so closely?

I'm a swimming fan. Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time. I marvel at his accomplishments in the water, but if he were to leave the North Baltimore Aquatic Club for, say, Texas Aquatics, I wouldn't feel as if he had some how tarnished his legacy. More to the point, I feel no personal connection with him. If he falls on his face in the 2012 Olympics, I'll find that interesting, but I won't particularly care. His loss will simply be another swimmer's gain. I follow Phelps because I'm fascinated by the limits of athletic achievement, especially when it comes to moving fast through the water. I certainly don't bear him any ill will. But I don't really root for him either.

Many of LeBron's fans acted as if their boyfriend just broke up with them. Dan Gilbert, as pointed out by Guy in his comment after the previous post, is acting particularly like a woman scorned. But, as the owner of the Cavaliers, he at least had a reason to feel that way, even if he expressed himself intemperately.

I understand national pride in a sports team, especially when yours is a small country going up against a behemoth, and even more so when your country is ethnically cohesive and the athletes look like you. Ethnic pride is universal, and natural.

But what about the people who had no real personal connection with Lebron? Or what about hard core Mets fans, or Yankees fans, or Celtics fans. Do the fans of these teams not realize that these are just a somewhat random collection of talented athletes bound mostly by a common love of money? These are just guys who happen to have the same employer, and as often as not it's a temporary employer.

It would make as much sense to root for Hewlett Packard over Dell. Or Toyota over Honda. Really: who cares?

Evidently a lot of fans.

Note to fans: you should care as much about your sports heroes as they care about you. Admire their athletic ability, sure, but please, don't invest your personal feelings in them. Save those for people who care about you.

(Like the way I hold myself up as a paragon of rationality?)

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