Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cheer but behave

Sports have become a multi-zillion dollar industry in the United States, but it has benefits other than cash. From a societal point of view, it has the potential to unify us all in ways we do not normally see.
Consider this quote:  "The real angler knows his sport transcends every limitation of economics, class, and culture. In my hometown (Wyandotte, Michigan), fishing was the only place the doctor, the alcoholic welder, the priest, the barber, and the town bum could meet on equal footing." – written by novelist Thomas McGuane.
Now, McGuane was only speaking about the sport of fishing, but I have heard similar quotes relating to other sports. When we all share a common goal or interest, we do a little bit better job of coming together.
And in many ways, this coming together transcends all the barriers we have erected around us. We become a little more likely not to be distracted by a person’s economic status or skin color or gender. One could even argue this is one of the few situations where we come close to being the type of society we dream of being.
Of course, I am romanticizing this a bit. While I agree with McGuane's quote, it is not as clear cut as he states. This is for several reasons. For example, as unifying as sports can be, it is becoming more and more difficult for those of us in the middle class to attend events.
Just as sports have become big business, so has the expense of being of fan. With football season starting, it can cost a pretty penny to attend a college or professional game. This is not the case on the high school level, but to attend those other games, a person has to budget wisely.
Depending on the game, a ticket to a University of Tennessee game can cost anywhere between $40 and $80. Toss in costs for parking and meals, and it can take a big wet bite out of a family’s budget. The costs are even more for professional teams like the Tennessee Titans.
This impacts unity because these events are pricing many of the people mentioned in McGuane's quote out of the chance to attend a game.
Plus, there are other factors impacting potential unity. Take it from somebody who has attended many games over the years, the consumption of alcohol is one activity that can change a lovely afternoon at a game to a miserable experience.
Especially when it comes to National Football League games, the league and beer companies are multi-million dollar partners. While this may seem benign on the surface, it becomes a big deal when the man sitting next to you has had too much to drink and is mad because his team is losing.
At times like this, forget about unity. Profanity and physical confrontation are not that uncommon. There is nothing worse than a jerk who has tied one on and feels it is his constitutional right to make everybody miserable around him.
The bottom line is what we get out of life is based on the decisions we make. Unity can be enhanced by taking part in sporting activities. However, if we get selfish and decide to act like a yahoo, we can impact others around us in negative ways. So, when attending events like this, remember that it is not all about you. It is about everybody pulling together.
Obviously, these principles do not only apply to attending sporting events. We need to make smart decisions in every walk of life. If this sounds simple, why don’t we do it more often?
That is another question for another time.

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