Good afternoon, dear reader
It was the result of a tweet from @GirlOnATerrace that prompted me to write this article. This tweeter is an English lass who is a lifelong fan of Rochdale AFC. She blogs about the team, follows the team, knows the team. She is truly a fan. I have never met her, and probably never will. But her standards in regards to sports teams is something I admire. And so I decided to write about it...not about her, but about sports teams, their fans and how I view myself as an athletic supporter. Read on, dear reader. Even though you might disagree.
I am a sports fan. Always have been, always will be. I love watching sports, and I used to love playing sports. I've played a lot of different games...soccer (or football to my British readers) and hockey being the main ones. I was never very good at hockey, but I could hold my own on the pitch. I could run like the wind, hoof the ball a mile and pass with pinpoint accuracy. At least, that's how I remember it.
As I got older, I drifted away from playing sports, and became a supporter. But, I don't think I was or am a typical fan. You see, I cheer and I exhort my team on to glory. I enjoy victories, titles, trophies and promotions. And yes, I do cheer for some 'big' teams. I cheer for the Calgary Flames (and have since they were in Atlanta). I cheer for Liverpool FC. I cheer for the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays. I cheer...I really do. I was in Calgary for the celebration in Olympic Park when the Flames won the Stanley Cup in '89. I was in Toronto on Yonge Street for one of the World Series parades for the Blue Jays. So, as you can see...I do cheer.
But all this begs the question...what if the teams I cheer for don't win? What if the 'big' teams don't achieve titles, trophies and promotions? What if the highly paid athletes that I spur on don't achieve what I think they should? Well, the answer is simple. I don't give a rip. That's right...I could not care less. I do not get weepy and morose for days on end when the Flames miss the playoffs yet again. When Liverpool falls outside the top 5 in the Premier league, and miss out on lucrative Europa League football, and on the even more lucrative Champions League football...you guessed it, I don't care. I do not lose any sleep over it. I don't shed a tear. I don't even get a little bit sad. Because. I. Don't. Care.
However, I do start to care a little bit more when I am cheering for a minor league hockey team, or a lower league football club. And before you go off screaming double standards, hear me out. You see, for me, a big part of sports is tied up in money. Teams go about buying their way to victories, titles, trophies and promotions. And I have a real hard time caring for teams that didn't quite spend enough to beat the next guy. But the minor or lower leagues is a little different. In hockey, they are playing for the privilege of making millions, but they play with their heart. They put everything they can into it. They present a different side to the game than the pro's do. In soccer (or football for my readers overseas), the lower league clubs play for a lot less wages than the pro's do...but they play with more heart, more desire and more effort in a lot of cases.
Do you see the difference, dear reader? The young lass I mentioned in my introduction cheers for Rochdale AFC, a 3rd tier football team from Northern England. She lives there and she stays loyal. Oh, she could choose to cheer for Manchester United or Manchester City, two of the 'big' clubs that are right next door. Heck, Liverpool and Everton are just down the road. But she cheers for the little club. She is not drawn in by the 'glory' that allegedly comes with the money the big clubs spend.
And I feel the same way. I would rather cheer for the 'little' teams. That is why I will get a little more unhappy with a poor Lethbridge Hurricanes showing. That is why I was over the moon when Rochdale got promoted a couple years back from League Two after 39 years. Buying a title or a trophy is not sport, in my opinion. It is business. Paying obscene amounts of money for a player, or paying a player obscene amounts of money is not sport, in my opinion. Playing hard to get those opportunities is one thing...the heart is there, the desire is burning and the paycheck is smaller. Don't get me wrong...not all highly paid athletes just go through the motions. There are many examples of them that work hard at their craft. And I respect that. But I respect more those that play for a lot less. And put in just as much effort.
Maybe I'm way off base here. Maybe some of you will think I have no idea what I'm talking about. And you may be right. But, this is my opinion. This is the way I feel. This is how I choose to be an athletic supporter. How about you?