Ok. So I know that saying “It’s just a game” around any Hog fans will catch a beating. I call the Hogs, sing the fight song, I’ve sung “It’s Hard to be Humble…” with thousands of Razorback fans when we’ve run the score up miserably on some nobody school. However, born and bred Hog fan or not, I tried to approach this year’s Battle for the Boot realistically. LSU is arguably the best team in the country. We fought crazy hard to get to #3 earning the nickname “Heart attack Hogs.” They had their entire season riding on this one game. We had nothing to lose except MAYBE a shot at the national championship. They had players who had just become eligible again after character issues; we had players mourning the loss of a teammate less than a week before. LSU is loved by the sports media, while Arkansas is treated as the stepchild of the SEC. Would it have been great for us to win? Sure. Was it likely to happen? Only if we played our best game….and we didn’t.
So when the devastating loss came, it was many’s first instinct to trash talk. Blame the refs, blast the coaches, curse home field, use Ukeman’s death as an excuse….. And for many, the trash talk was enough to have the most devout level-headed fan wanting to say, “IT’S JUST FOOTBALL!” And it is. It’s a game that’s played between people who are barely adults. But it’s tied to so much more….
Growing up, football was a family thing. Yelling, laughing, celebrating in front of the TV was expected. Even with professional sports, you picked a team, you followed, you cheered. It provided an opportunity for family and fellowship and FOOD. Oh, man! The food! I have been so glad to introduce my kids to an atmosphere of fun and friendship while watching our favorite sport. Yesterday’s game, though, went against every aspect of my fun football atmosphere. A nasty rivalry showed its ugly face, and I have begun to see that football brings out the worst in some….
People who have never followed LSU or the Hogs saw it fit to bash one team or the other. Similarly, people who have never cheered for either team saw it fit to suddenly be devout followers. People who I have heard say, “I don’t care; I don’t even like football!” while sitting in my home watching the game were suddenly the biggest of fans. The name calling began. Excuses were made. And those oh-so-classy editorial cartoons began being posted to Facebook. I was angry. I was shocked. While being seriously disappointed in my team’s loss, I was simultaneously confronted with “friends” who are in actuality, (for lack of a better term) CRAP TALKERS.
Suddenly football is deeper than fun. I came to see this game I love as more than “just football.” It’s a character litmus test of sorts. Throw a person into a situation like that, and see how they come out. Are they ugly losers, making excuses and throwing their team under the bus? Are they nasty winners, quick to shout an “in your face” as if they invented the game? The ultimate test! Not that we aren’t all capable of saying things in the heat of the moment, but seriously….The things you say when your team experiences an important victory (or defeat) defines whether you’re the type of person I enjoy or not. I have no room for people who abandon all decency and kindness to “back their team.” I cannot listen to spontaneous fans who cared only after the game’s results were known. Because truth be told, fair weather fans are fair weather friends. You know, the folks who only call when they need something? People who are sore losers (or winners) are pouty babies who will only have things their way. Sudden fans are fakers who will say whatever needs to be said to be part of the majority.
Yes, along with fun, family, fellowship and awesome food, football does more. Football does indeed expose most of the character flaws I detest in a person. And that makes me want to be the kind of fan I enjoy. An enjoyable fan backs their team win or lose. A classy fan celebrates a victory without hurting feelings. An authentic fan endures defeat with a “maybe next time” attitude.
I will think about this the next time “TAKE THAT!!” is on the tip of my tongue. And all future friends must pass the fan test.