Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sports Fans Have A Moral Dilemma

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m a huge baseball fan. I’m a huge sports fan in general. I love the competition, the history, the mystique, and the uncertainty of sports. Some say it’s just a game, but it’s more than a game in many respects for many people. People like me are called fanatics or fans for short. A fan takes special interest in a team or player or sports city. We call our passion for our sports teams a rooting interest. I root for the Cubs and I root for Adam Lind, but this got me to thinking about something else. As sports fans, we root for players and teams, but we also root against players and teams. Sometimes our reasons for this are justified, sometimes not but it begs the question: is it right?

I don’t think anyone can question that wishing a player or team well is a good thing. As humans, we enjoy watching those we care about succeed. As sports fans, when our team or player succeeds we (perhaps somewhat irrationally) feel like we are a part of the success. We celebrate with our team or player. The grey area is when we root against a certain player or team. Is this morally wrong to wish misfortune on another player or team? In my opinion, this can be answered in two ways: yes and no.

We like things to be black and white, right and wrong, good versus evil, but things in life aren’t always so clear. Often times, one person’s good fortune is another’s misfortune. That’s just the way life is sometimes. As it says in the Bible, there will always be poor in the world. There will also be the fortunate and the unfortunate. Utopian society on earth is not possible. When we as sports fans root against someone therefore, it is my belief that it is only morally wrong if we truly harbor hatred in our heart. Any time one wishes severe physical or mental harm on a human being, I believe that is undoubtedly wrong. However, if I simply want David Ortiz to strike out 4 times in one game, that is perfectly fine. You could argue that this could bring Ortiz some mental anguish, but it could also cause him to work harder and have a positive affect on his long term success. Even if that is not the case and he does suffer some mental anguish, you must not over look the fact that there are several people effected by those strike outs. After all, the pitcher and the opposing team is positively affected from Ortiz failing to hit the ball.

Tiger Woods was once asked the question: What describes you best? Do you love winning or do you hate losing? His reply was, “I love winning… and I hate losing.” A similar question could be asked to sports fans: What do you enjoy more – having your team win and succeed or watching your rivals lose and fail? If we say we more enjoy watching our rivals lose and fail than watching our own team win, our rooting interests are misguided. I will be honest and admit that I have watched those teams I do not like fail and felt a guilty sense of pleasure. I have felt joy in other’s failure and I enjoyed it very much. I remember watching games with my mom and whenever they showed the losing team she felt so bad for them and I’d always tell her not to feel sorry because somebody has to lose. My mom and I were both right. I guess my mom just has a little bigger heart.

Passion is a good thing unless it becomes an uncontrollable passion. I have a passion for sports, but sometimes I care so much about these players and teams that I really don’t even know on a personal level, that I neglect those people and things most near and dear to me. There are so many great things about sports and so many great lessons that can be learned from them, but sometimes we as fans can take things too seriously. This is true for those who have a passion for other things as well. Some have a passion for singing, some a passion for dancing, and there are many more examples. It is good to have a passion, but we must make sure our passion doesn’t turn into hatred and irrationality. We must control our passion and not let our passion control us. Don’t worry sports fans, I’m not saying you have to like the Red Sox. I can tell you that I will wish them well once they walk off the playing field, but while they’re on the field I’ll be wishing good fortune for the other guys.

Side Note: Adam Lind was demoted to AAA yesterday. Toronto has consistently shown erratic behavior in regard to forming their roster and this demotion tells me that they lack confidence in Adam. I won’t be surprised if Adam gets traded before the end of the year. I will follow the events surrounding Adam with such an interest that only a huge sports fan would. Good luck Adam, I’m pulling for you.


Anonymous said...

I think there is nothing wrong with rooting against a team. After all it is just a sporting event. It has little significance on the grand scheme of things. The only time it could cross the line is if you wish physical harm on a player or team. Sports are entertainment. The whole point of watching sports is to root for the teams you like and root against those that you don't. Sometimes you may have unjustified reasons for disliking a team but that doesn't necessarily mean you dislike the individuals off the field.

Mike said...

I agree. Thanks for the comment.