December 27, 2011

Sports and Community

I was home for five days this Christmas. In addition to being out to many friends in person for the first time and celebrating the one-year anniversary of letting the parents in the loop, I was able to take in a hockey game, an NFL game, and a college hoops contest. I witnessed two quality wins by the Penguins and Steelers and unfortunately saw Wagner defeat its first ranked opponent in 33 years by way of the Pitt Panthers (really Jamie Dixon?). While taking in all of these sporting events, I grappled with the idea of community and what it means to be part of a group. Much of this has to do with my personality.

Steeler fans have recently started this annoying trend where they collectively scream “first down,” as if the PA announcer couldn’t handle the task himself. Every time one of my friends attempts to heckle an opponent or influence the call of a referee, I find myself cowering and attempting to disassociate myself. I went to the Consol Energy Center to watch the Penguins play the Blackhawks. Every time a “Let’s Go Pens” chant erupted, I found myself chomping on peanuts and quietly analyzing the game and discussing strategy with my family.

Granted, I had a fantastic time. I watched world class athletes compete and shared the experiences with the people I love. I sported my team gear, bought food, and invested in the team by buying a ticket. But the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins, and Panthers do not need thousands of John McGintys who sit on their hands and refrain from joining in chants. These teams need individuals who instantaneously start clapping their hands when Cha Cha Slide plays. These teams need individuals who freely catapult themselves into screaming or hollering whatever the jumbotron demands.

Am I less of a fan because I choose not to partake in these gimmicks? Sorry I’m not sorry that I think the decibel meter is rigged to make the crowd louder. Am I at fault for not being the loudest, foam finger waving, belligerently intoxicated fan out there? I still consider myself a valuable member of the Pittsburgh sports fan base and community, but at the same time I can’t deny that others in my stead would have a more tangible impact on the game. I can’t deny that I feel more fulfilled when I force myself to join in a chorus of defense chants at a game. I cannot coerce myself to participate all the time, let alone others. Is it enough for me to tacitly support my teams and be a part of a community, or should I be faulted for free riding off of more active and passionate members? . I’d like to think that I can be a quiet fan and still rank my passion for sports at the top of my identifier list. But is that fair, is that effective, and does that produce the world I want to live in?

This post never mentions LGBT or the Duke community, but it has everything to do with them.


  1. Personally, I don't think so at all. Everyone has different ways of expressing (or not expressing) support. In the sporting sense, I'm not one to scream out loud all the time or flip out when I disagree with a call, but I don't consider myself less of a fan. If anything, I feel more educated if I'm talking strategy.

    In the whole sense of "Community" I think that I think that there's a HUGE perception difference (but a small action difference) between LGBTQ/Sports/Whateveryouchoose fanatics and supporters. One can have a more personalized and moderate advocacy but recognize that visibility (wearing the gear) is everything. A community is composed of a variety of different members who play different parts. I'd like to think that if we were all the most visible and fanatical, there'd be no one around to do the real legwork.

    There's got to be a humanizing factor and I'd like to think that you and I (and people like us) are a part of it.

  2. Like the perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  3. think it's totally different in that you can better the lgbt community by just living your life openly, maybe even more so than if you were loud

  4. @anon 11pm - i don't think the author was simply addressing being loud, rather i think he was getting at whether individuals should feel an obligation to become a part of the community or not. idk maybe i missed the point. i find myself questioning whether i should stay on the sidelines and let others fight the good fight. i do think living your life openly is a good start though.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I, too, have been thinking about the implications of being what you refer to as a 'quiet fan'. I am still quite undecided on the issue, but seeing that others are thinking about it too is refreshing.

  6. Hey John, thanks for writing about this topic-I think it's difficult to write about controversial (or semi-controversial) topics on the blog, and so I admire that.

    I remember one time we had an Our Lives Discussion Group topic (last fall, I think it was) about Pride. The idea was brought up that some people think Pride is "flamboyant" (eh, don't like that word), or "excessive". But then other people brought up the idea that for some people, 364 days out of the year, they feel discriminated against, and feel as though they don't fit in. But then they go to a Pride and feel completely accepted-or at least, the 1/365 days out of the year they feel comfortable and feel like they fit in.

    Like you say, there are different opinions and different approaches.Quiet fans are great-they probably end up reaching other quiet fans. Loud fans are great-they probably end up reaching different types of communities/individuals as well.

    It just gets tricky when both the loud & quiet fans are looking from acceptance from within the community, because clearly discrimination can and does happen from one minority community member against another. It gets especially tricky (and frustrating) when folks within a minority community who are more gender non-conforming disproportionately recieve the greater part of that discrimination:

  7. ur so damn cute john!!!