Sports and Identity: Reflections on the BCS Championship Game

I love Oregon.  I grew up there.  Rain is in my blood.  Indeed, I have webbed feet … err … rather a beaver tail.

So, yesterday, my well meaning Chicago friends said to me with great excitement, “Go Ducks!”

“I hate the Ducks.”  I replied.  “I hope they lose … Bad.”

You see, I’m a Beaver fan.  My grandpa went to OSU, my mom went to OSU, my brother went to OSU, and my in-laws went to OSU.  So, I grew up a Beaver fan and I remain a Beaver fan.  And, when it comes to sports, I don’t think people should be allowed to pick and choose.  I say you get one or the other.  I love black and orange.  Yellow and green, on the other hand, are the ugliest colors on the face of the planet.  What was up with those shoes?!?  I still have a headache.

It may sound nasty to you, but I’ll admit it.  I took delight in seeing the Ducks lose last night.  And those shoes only increased my abhorrence for those ugly webbed footed waterfowls.  After they lost, I thought about posting something like this to my Facebook page:

Ya know, my parents told me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, so . . . I feel really, really bad for Duck fans.  I mean, really, to lose the game in the last three seconds with a field goal like that.  I feel your pain.  Really, I do.  And to think, you had the ball in the red zone three times and couldn’t finish.  Shame, isn’t it?  Really a shame.  You deserved to win.  You were sooooo close!!!  But now you are 12-1.  Second place is not the first loser – no matter what anyone says.  Oh well.  There’s always next year…”

But I decided I’m not that petty.  But I’m just petty enough to post it on my blog.

Okay.  I admit that I’m a bit irrational when it comes to sports.  Try as I might, I can’t become a White Sox fan or a Cubs fan.  For me, baseball is all about the Mariners.  Unless the Mariners are having a bad year (which is usually the case), and then I root against the Yankees.  I have a natural aversion to all Yankee paraphernalia.  It makes me want to vomit.

Yes, yes.  I’m irrational.  But I wonder how something like my sports mentality might seep into other aspects of life.  It comes down to identity.  The easiest way to form a strong sense of identity is to be against someone else.  For example, I’m a Beaver fan, which means I must hate the Ducks and take pleasure in their loss.  Well, if I’m a Republican, does that mean I must hate the Democrats?  Should my top goal be to make them lose elections?   (Of course, the Dems easily form identity in the same way.)  How often do we get in a rivalry with our neighbors that mirrors Clark Griswold’s enmity with Todd and Margo Chester in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?  Or a rivalry with our in-laws that mirrors Greg Focker and Jack Byrnes in the Focker movies?

So, yes, accuse me of being irrational.  Accuse me of being a sore loser.  (The Beavers and the Mariners are perpetual cellar dwellers.)  But before you get all self-righteous on me, perhaps this identity formation of being over and against another infects your life, too.  I’m sure there is a way out of this identity formation trap.  There is probably a way to form an identity of openness and acceptance of others, even those we don’t like.  But, for the moment at least, I feel really good rooting against the Ducks.

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