Wednesday, January 26, 2022

What Type of Sports Fan Are You?

Barry Bonds. Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. Aaron Rodgers.

Dustin Johnson. Tom Brady. Alex Rodriguez. Aaron Rodgers.

Michael Vick. Pete Rose. Justin Turner. O.J. Simpson. Aaron Rodgers.

The San Francisco 49ers 13-10 defeat of the Green Bay Packers united Twitter for the first time in it's (near) 15-year life span. How? Why? Because as the Niners who head to the NFC championship game in Los Angeles, kept the Pack and its leader—Aaron Rodgers— home. 

After the 38-year old quarterback made "comments that some people feel are misleading" (how own words) about his vaccination status, millions of football fans turned on the likely 2021 MVP. Others have long despised Rodgers. According to PTI cohost Tony Kornheiser, many fans are "sick of his need for attention. They're sick of the fact he always makes it about him and he blames Green Bay Packers management for everything that went wrong." While one Super Bowl to his name lessens his credibility on the all-time great list, whether you like him or not is irrelevant. Rodgers is an incredible quarterback and future Hall of Fame inductee.

My profession of faith in his athletic ability has already sent some people's blood pressure sky high. Sorry. Not sorry. His numbers—during the regular season—speak for themselves. And yet, I have come to realize just how many camps there are among us sports fans. Therefore, it's time I ask: Where do you stand?

1. Athletes, not activists
In the day that followed the that Rodgers was not immunized against COVID....nor vaccinated, the former Cal Bear said "I am an athlete, not an activist."

Many fans enjoy sports for the purpose of entertainment. The notion of an athlete using his or her platform to invoke social change is not necessary. Let athletes be athletes. 

2. An Athlete's personal is life is personal.
Many people can separate what an athlete does on the field from what they do off of it. The words "it's none of your business" though seldom heard today, is the modus operandi.

Gambling, womanizing, domestic violence, drug and alcohol usage, promiscuity, and a host of other moral issues are their own doings. In the words of Pope Francis "Who am I to judge?" Oh wait, let's not take that out of context once again....Whether they donate 90% of their salary to a needy cause, spend the off season doing service work and/or love their spouse is irrelevant. (but is it??!) These sports fans find heroism in the feats on the field, not what happens off of it—for better or for worse.

3. Just Win, Baby!
This might be a hybrid of #1 and #2. There are those sports fans—to call them primal, might not be far off—who want an athlete to do whatever it takes to win. These gamesmen and gameswomen, I mean fans, expect that a number of personal fouls ought to occur without the penalty. For an athlete to compromise their long term physical and mental health in the name of winning, can be justified. And so can Bountygate. 

4. Lines and Sand
Athletes are people too, right? Like the rest of us, many athletes make good choices and not so good ones. While the ones I make are most likely not promulgated for social media to share, when an athletes does, we read, tweet, and blog about it. 

I know a number of people who get behind certain athletes who others deem controversial. Inevitably, they will excuse their player's behavior/choices by way of compare and contrast. "At least she did not do x." Or "I was okay with y, but then z made that difficult."

The line in the proverbial sand always makes this conversation interesting.

5. Passion Play
I know a number of sports fans who cannot separate the personal and the professional. These fans cannot and will not cheer for an athlete because of past transgressions, political stances or personal beliefs. Said fans cannot cheer in good faith for an athlete who has crossed much more than a line in the sand. Their public platform can unite or divide fans. Indeed, passion is part of professional play.

Benjamin Franklin said "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." I do not try to persuade passionate fans to consider otherwise. However, a few good reins never hurt anyone.

6. I'm Only Human
I will put my cards on the table: I see athletes as...human beings. They are heroic, inspiring, and they are flawed, even mysterious. I appreciate that many athletes use their voice, and stand behind their causes, follow their passions and formulate their foundations. Go for it.

But I always remind myself—whether I cheer and jeer for a person—I don't really know them. I look for passion in how they play, I seek the beauty they bring to the game. I want an athlete to be who they really are. The world doesn't need another Simone Biles or Michael Jordan. We need each man or woman as him or herself. 

I have forgiven athletes for mistakes they have made and held grudges against others. I am a human being too. I appreciate their passion and I seek those reins (the investigation behind Justin Turner on the field after the 2020 World Series was fascinating to me). I am only too glad that sports provides a platform for me to consider, question, discuss and debate so much more than what a scoreboard reveals.

And as for Aaron Rodgers. What does the future hold? Start asking his fans.... or not!

Photo Credits
Rodgers departure: @knbrmurph

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