In addition to my media notes, I’ll be swinging by Wednesday afternoons to write a weekly column dealing with How We Think About Sports (or something), entitled “The Obstructed View.” Think of it as an unfortunate tariff to my other work here. Feel free to yell at me on Twitter about it (@Hadfield__) or email me at [email protected]
Like most of America, I will watch Super Bowl XLVII. And, like most of America, a smirk will take shape on my face as I watch Ray Lewis do his pregame ritual dance. I picture most of America having this reaction, smirking in unison as Lewis performs his cathartic rain dance like a lunatic.
Meanwhile, residents of Maryland experience The Big Game Jitters. You know what I’m talking about – numbness transforms into tingly excitement which, eventually, transforms into a pit in your stomach. “It’s the Super Bowl! And we’re here, we’re really here!!!” (Even though, in reality, they are watching from their couch. You get the point.) Oh, and they’ll smirk too, of course, but out of nervousness, like meeting your girlfriend’s dad for the first time.
Shortly after, the national anthem will happen. Ray Lewis will cry or, at the very least, ooze emotion. This will undoubtedly upset the virtual world – Twitter and Facebook – and prompt reaction at whatever Super Bowl party you’re attending. This dude can’t be serious. America will collectively utter to itself.
And, together, as one nation, we stand, laughing at Lewis; while Maryland, alone, proudly stands, their faces resplendent and nervously grinning, as they struggle to put the corsage on their girlfriend’s dress in front of pops before prom.
There is a common theme here that is completely exclusive, but mutually shared among fans of every successful team, in every sport. Our Guys. We relent, in circumstances, that Our Guys are bad people, or Our Guys are definitely just misunderstood. Either way, we make excuses for them because, well, they’re Our Guys.
Sometimes transgressions are so innocuous that we don’t really have to make excuses at all. For instance, Our Guys sponsor Male Uggs and dress feminine; flex while a player they concussed is being helped off the field; flip off a crowd; are sore losers; have children with 13 different women; swear on the basketball court (Relax, Dale. Every kid makes it to the back of the bus to hear the “bad words” at some point or another.); and have pregame routines eerily similar to Lewis’ (except we don’t notice, because they’re Our Guys.)
Other times, the actions taken – or not taken – reflect such poor character that we can’t make excuses. It’s quite possible, for example, Our Guys may or may not have taken PEDs (but hey, so did Your Guys … we rationalize.); harbor (and fail to disclose) knowledge of sexual assault on multiple children; and can inspire hundreds of thousands of people and raise millions of dollars for cancer research – all while lying about the means they took to acquire that inspiration and platform to do so.
Strangely, in the rarest of occasions, we just don’t know what to think about Our Guys. That’s because, these days, they can be tricked into having an out-of-this-world tragedy attached to an imaginary girlfriend; which, who knows, may have not been a trick after all.
The sailient point is that these guys – Our Guys – are a means to an end to memories of championship euphoria. Years later, when it’s over, we recant our opinion to the rest of America about their shortcomings as a human. We never invited them over for dinner, to our daughter’s wedding, or to watch a movie.
But in the here and now, provincial bias and glory trumps moral high ground, leaving good people to root for bad things, I guess. That’s why, when listening to fans and media folks alike discredit Ravens fans for rooting for a murder suspect, I shake my head. And maybe – just maybe — as Ravens fans hum along to “Seven Nation Army,” in awe of their fearless leader, I’ll take a moment to smirk with them instead of at them, not because I agree, but because I understand their burden, their relationship, to Their Guy.
[UPDATE: I didn’t adequately highlight this initially, but if a team’s success wanes, then, naturally, a player’s personal issues — like, say, Mike Vick or Will Cordero (kudos to commentator, Winning), come to the forefront. You think The Hoodie gets treated unjustly now? See what happens if the Patriots on-field dominance ever falters.]