Friday, July 2, 2010

Don't Take Trash Talk Personally. Take Two.

This was originally posted at the end of the Olympics, but it's been a crazy week over here at Don't Do That, so we're taking a look back to March. At that point, the three of us had spent two weeks immersing ourselves in sports that we totally did not understand - much like what we've done over the last month or so of the World Cup - and had also been doing some trash talk. If you're not a regular sports fan, this may come as a shock to you, and so we are here to tell you, if you're going to remain a sports fan outside of the feel-good-ness of global events like the Olympic Games and the World Cup, Don't Take Trash Personally

Back in March, we were - okay fine, I was - involved in a bit of an internet kerfuffle. To start with, emotions were already running high and there was some shit-talking going on (on both sides) about that USA - Canada gold medal hockey game. Some of the problem was that a few of the people involved in the conversations clearly weren't used to being on A Side in a sporting contest and were a bit taken aback by all the partisan noise. A hint for those folks? Cheering for your team and against their opponent is not bad sportsmanship. It's part of loving sports and, if you want to get all Olympic or World Cup about it, part of loving your country. And if you're going to love sports, you have to develop a thicker skin.

(Note: This is taking it a tad too far.)

Here's an example. I don't know where you're reading from, but if you're anywhere in the Midwest, you likely understand a little bit of the hatred between Wisconsin and Minnesota, specifically the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the University of Minnesota Gophers. I happened to go to my first Gopher hockey game at two months old, own a button that says "I Cheer For Minnesota And Anyone Playing Wisconsin," and my dad told my sister and I that we could attend college - which he would pay for - anywhere. Except Wisconsin, upon penalty of death and financial ruin. Even adding my name to the mailing list - jokingly - would have likely given my dear father heart failure. (As it was, he ended up with heart failure five years later, but I don't think it can be blamed on Wisconsin. If it could, it would be, trust me.) However! My grandparents, who I love fiercely, met while students at Wisconsin and my grandpa (who is almost 87) remains a Badger - and Packer, God forbid - fan. We talk shit to each other all the time - as much as you can talk shit with a grandparent, of course - but we don't take it seriously or personally. In fact, when I asked at Thanksgiving if my grandfather had a sweatshirt I could borrow, he gleefully told me he had "just the one!" and pulled out his red and grey Wisconsin hoodie.

But Roxy, you say. That is a family member! Of course you guys can tease each other with no hurt feelings! And that is true. But it's also true that, when Daisy told her Yankee-fan best friend that she was thinking of getting married at Fenway Park, her friend told her that was great, but that she was going to wear a pinstripe dress. And it's true that Brownie and a friend got into it when her team (Niners!) beat his in the playoffs, but that was many playoff seasons ago, and they're still pals. One of my best friends cheers for a different Big Ten school than I do, but since they suck at the sport I care about, and because my school sucks at the sports she cares about, it's generally not too big a deal. I have family members that are die-hard Cubs and Bears fans (I heart the Twins and the Vikings, but please don't ask me about Brett Favre), best friends who are Blackhawks fans, and a husband who lives and dies with the Broncos.

But when you're a fan of a team whose coach gets caught on camera making this gesture at the officials (if that's the coach, just imagine the players), a team whose linebacker gave his own tight end brain damage and crushed his eye socket (and that's just the beginning of that particular rap sheet), or even a team that is just obnoxious in all its "glory", you should probably be prepared to have some vitirol thrown at you. And really? Throw some back! I would be shocked and even disappointed if I was spouting my mouth off to Badger - or Sioux or Packer or Canadian hockey - fan and they didn't spout back with cracks about my team's goofy name, our inconsistency, the Mullet, or whatever other shit people are saying about Minnesota teams these days. (But hey, at least we can take some smack talk. Wisconsin.)

Just because we're not on the same side during the game doesn't mean that we hate each other as people. We can respect each other as fans, without loving - or even respecting - the team that the other person cheers for. That's part of the fun of loving sports! You can get overly emotional, hyperbolic and melodramatic about something that has nothing to do with you and that you have no control over. It's a wonderful respite from the real world, but only if you are able to tell yourself that at the end of the day, it's just a game - for you and for the fans on the other side of the field.

So if you've found a team that you've decided to follow (I recommend the Gophers, of course) but if in a week or a month or this weekend, depending on how the rest of the World Cup goes for you - you find yourself getting your feelings hurt by someone who's pointing out the cheap hits or crappy goaltending or nepotism of your team, just stop, think about what keeps you a fan of this team, and don't take it personally. (And talk some smack back!)

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