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.