August 21, 2019

Relieving Sports Fans’ Woes

Deep in every human heart is the wish to make a contribution to humanity. Not necessarily a big one like finding a cure for a disease, inventing a labor saving device, or ending a war. Just something that makes the world at least a little bit better. That wish has led me to consider how to relieve the recurring sadness experienced by sports fans.

There are, of course, moments of joy and exhilaration for every sports fan, such as seeing one’s team make a difficult play, win a challenging contest in the closing seconds, or reach the pinnacle of a league, or world, championship.

But for every one of those moments in a sports fan’s life, there are at least as many, and often more, moments of disappointment, some of them extended for one or more seasons. Consider the Tampa Bay Bucs’ 26 straight losses (1976-77), the Towson Tigers basketball team’s 41 straight losses (2011-12), and the Wagner tennis team’s 59 straight match losses (2007-12).

At the end of every season in every sport, a single group of fans can truthfully say “We’re number one,” while legions of others are left mumbling the half-believed mantra, “Maybe next year.” (Think Chicago Cubs fans here.)

Recently, I was watching a “March Madness” basketball game with a friend. She was totally absorbed in the game. Every good play by her team—seizing a rebound, blocking an opponent’s shot, sinking a long three-pointer—caused her to scream with delight. Every mistake drew a loud rebuke: “I can’t believe this. What’s the matter with them?” When her team was ahead, she exulted; when they fell behind, she shook her head, her pain palpable.

Her team’s loss that day bumped them from the tournament, a fact that caused my friend deep sadness.

Hoping to relieve her pain, I shared with her an idea that had been forming in my mind for some time, a way to relieve the sadness she and other fans experience when their teams disappoint them. The idea is an approach I call Continually Alternating Allegiance. Here is how I explained it to my friend:

At the beginning of any contest, there is no score, so I favor neither team.

The moment one team scores, they become my team and I cheer for them.

When the other team scores, however, I immediately switch allegiance to them.

If one team builds a significant lead, I cheer louder for them—the greater the lead, the louder the cheer. If the opposing team overcomes the deficit and ties the game, I become neutral for a time. Then, if they go on to take the lead, I begin cheering for them.

As many times as the lead changes, I change my allegiance. Simply said, I am an ardent fan of whoever is winning.

I went on to point out to my friend that the beauty of my approach is that all the good plays will be made by “my” team; the bad ones, by the other team. I therefore will never experience the “down” moments that other fans experience. There will be only “up” moments, occasions for celebration. Best of all, “my” team will never lose. At the end of every season, they will always be the ones to raise the trophy.

I went on to say that Continually Alternating Allegiance will save me money. I’ll no longer have to buy an expensive Gator, Seminole, or Buckeye jersey or jacket. I can get a cheap one that says “My Team Is Number One” . . . and it will always be true.

For some reason, my friend did not respond enthusiastically to my new approach. In fact, she hasn’t invited me to see a game with her since I explained it. Maybe she’s jealous that I thought of it first.

Copyright © 2016 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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1 comment
  • The only “woe” for sports fans worth writing about now, is the need to boycott the NFL and the NBA for its bullying of N.C. and and those who work to preserve our traditional freedoms, especially religious freedom, in this country.

Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
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