As previously noted, I’m not much of a sports dude. Mostly I wish I was, just so I got what all the fussing was about, but that’s just not how this dude rolls. This last Super Bowl, I was talking to my sister who backs the Patriots. She isn’t a big fan of their politics (spoiler: not a fan at all), which is a conflict for her, because by whatever metric folks pick their teams, this is it for her and football. That kind of tribalism has never really jived with me. Like I have this loose “Go Cards” in my heart, mainly as an alum, but I’m not losing sleep if they win. I’m just not a competitive person.
And therein squats the toad, really: I see sports as a direct analog to politics. I’m way deep on team lefty, for a ton of reasons including, but not limited to love, empathy, and human rights. Yeah, I get that someone is going to say the same about their team (yeah Right… pun intended), but that’s kind of the thing here: what does it take for you not to back your team? What kind of heinous garbage would someone have to do to make you flinch and back away? Is it something racist? Is it something violent? Is it a sex scandal? Is it any of the above? Because the parallels here between sports and politics is real, and I have to wonder at what point there is an internal breaking point and shit just doesn’t work anymore. I have to believe that such a breaking point exists, so I asked some diehard sports geeks in town to chime in and say their piece.
Adam Colvin (Bat Wizard)
It’s a hard one. I have been thinking about it. I have heard or watched on some vice show or some shit some guy say “would you rather kill Osama Bin Laden or have the NY giants win the super bowl?” He picked the super bowl.
What would it take for me to stop watching and go completely against say U of L basketball? Oof.. it would have to be a complete shift in ideology of the school like U of L would need to become some scary, religious fundamentalist institution and the b-ball players become like their foot soldiers. The basketball team purposely spewing false political propaganda to align with some dangerous political belief that is 100% opposite American like lock up people for some political reason. It would have to be a HUGE hardcore event.
But like Seinfeld said, (something like) with sports we are really only rooting for laundry one year we love Player X, next year they go to a rival team we DESPISE them. It’s laundry we really love. Sports is embedded deep. Family stuff that rarely leaves you. Not unlike politics but I think you can alter your political views before your sports allegiances. U of L basketball would have to become something far heinous than I can imagine for me to stop rooting for them. I’m honestly not bothered by the hookers and Rick’s philandering. I mean, I am but not to the point where I would give up say, court side seats (HELL NO). Sports > morals I guess haha.
It would have to be years of systemic change into a violent, intolerable culture or some shit for me to back off and not want to watch them. Cards basketball runs real deep, dude. And I am not even originally from here.
Andrew Padon (Straight As, Body Double)
I work with someone who defected from supporting UK to UL in basketball when Pitino came to U of L. But I feel like that kind of thing is extremely rare. Personally, if there was some kind of scandal involving violent crime, gang rape allegations like the University of Minnesota, or that Ohio HS football team a few years ago, that would probably do it for me. The thing is, it’s usually just one or two people, or more likely it’s made out to look like that, anyway. A player or two can be dismissed. A coach can be fired. But if multiple key players keep having issues with no real repercussions, and the coaches and administration are pieces of shit that protect and cover for them, to me that’s sort of irreparably damaged.
McKinley Moore (Pleasure Boys)
It would take a lot to make me stop supporting my team overall. I don’t even think a terrible scandal would do it, so long as the university responded appropriately. Penn State is probably a good example. Something like that would definitely put an end to my fandom. Or you know, maybe if there was a scandal involving hookers and the school didn’t punish anyone that was actually responsible for it. Or if they rehired a football coach who had screwed us over once and then got in trouble for fucking a student and lying about it.
Dat Boi Dunn
Pretty interesting concept. When you think about it you could draw that parallel to a lot of different things sports, politics, bands/musicians, movie fanatics (ie star wars/star trek, hell there are even people that follow Apple and whatever product they put out blindly ya know.
To me sports maybe a lil lesser of an evil because alot of fans root for their respective teams because that is where they are from. Seeing Louisville on a Jersey of a player doing great things directly makes the fan from Louisville feel connected, feel like a winner, like being from the same soil makes them somehow a part of the victory. That is what it all boils down to, the majority of people just want to be a part of something and feel connected, wildcats, trump, fans, iPhone stans they all want to feel like they are part of something real no matter how many big blue walls they build without a headphone jack, they will follow. Because they are sheep. Because they are sleep.
I am guilty of that to a degree I am a huge UL fan and have followed them thru all their dumbass scandals. But that my home team. I have to stick with them thru thick and thin BUT I dont feel that way about all teams I follow. The Dallas Cowboys for example they were stuck in mediocrity for about a decade and I stopped buying their merch until they put out a winning product on the field. The Miami heat, after they disrespected D-Wade this past offseason and didn’t resign him, completely stopped following them. Lastly Michael Jordan, I stopped buying his shoes until he did something to speak up against gun violence and the treatment of black men in America. He has one of the biggest voices in the black community but was hella silent until recently. People were getting killed over his name and not a word. I couldn’t support that.
Jake Barton (Marine/My cousin)
My initial thought to this hypothesis is that sports tribalism is far worse than political partisanship. at least in politics people want to appear non partisan even if it is a total farce (I’ll call anyone out it just so happens I always think republicans are right bs) . The contrast is sports fans want to be known for their undying love of the team (there through thick and thin etc.) I’ll be totally honest man I don’t know what it would take for me not to support Louisville. I think an honest assessment is the closet I’d come would be not talking about them as openly as I would otherwise. Louisville is certainly an outlet for me from the day to day work week. So I think if they were embroiled in a absolute program ending scandal I think I’d still be a cardinal fan and wouldn’t leave I just wouldn’t have as much to be obnoxious about and might have to supplement sports with an additional outlet.
Not sure if that was on the mark. Just initial thoughts to your question. I could give it more in depth if you would like. There might be a good documentary you’d like. 45 mins long about Glasgow Celtic vs Glasgow Rangers. The most deadly rivalry in sports. Two Scottish soccer teams whose fans are drawn along political, religious and sports lines. Celtic fans tend to be left wing, Catholics and rangers fans are right wing protestants. Add in the sectarian troubles of Northern Ireland and its intense. Celtic is my team so yea. Anyways it’s a vice documentary. And it follows the financial collapse of Rangers in 2012 with the fans. Pretty good. Now I’m rambling.
Mike Giralico (Three Nails for a False Prophet)
There have been times where team I follow have made stupid trades or personnel moves that made pissed me off. Prime example was the Canadiens trading PK Subban last offseason. Trading a younger super popular player while for another all star but who is older just seemed maddening. I actually had a knee jerk reaction to mail the front office every piece of memorabilia i owned and tell them i was done. That situation i took a few breaths and decided to just wait and see.
Two seasons ago though the Twins signed Tori Hunter, he had played here years ago, left for Anaheim and while there made a lot of homophobic statements. He also went so far as to give money to candidates in his home state that campaigned on anti-LGBT legislation and do ads for them. I didn’t go to or watch a single game that season. I told the team i wasnt until Hunter was gone. They called me trying to sell me season tickets and i told the rep that on the phone. He ended up retiring after one season and i went to games again.
I guess also related to this I was a huge Peyton manning fan, how can someone not be when the guy comes in and salvages a franchise your’e a fan of (the Colts). However I learned (like a lot of people did) prior to his final game in Denver about his sexual assault and TAUNTING the victim afterward. That ended my fandom of Manning and combined with the multitude of mishandled domestic abuse issue in the NFL has cooled me on the league as a whole. I didn’t even go see the Colts when they played here in Minnesota this season. I still follow the standing, watch some games and whatnot but I’m kind of just going through the motions with that.