(And, yes, I'm referring to myself here, too)
I'm going to make some general statements here, so consider yourself warned.
Sports so often brings out the best in people. The ability to push your body to the limits and display the greatness that is possible in all people is inspiring. The sportsmanship shown when two people (or teams) battle against each other, but still have the decency to show respect perform caring acts toward their opponents is something we should all emulate.
Now, when I say "Sports Fans are Assholes", I'm not referring to YOU, specifically, Mr(s). Random Internet Reader. It's entirely possible that you're a kind, loving person who appreciates the athletic exploits of all compeitors, even when your favorite sports team loses. But I doubt it. We're not that kind of people. We're fanatics, withholding all reason and logic in the name of supporting our band of warriors. Don't take it personally, I'm talking about myself here, too.
So, what do we do that makes us assholes? Well, first off, take WAY too much personal pride in the performance ofa group of people who almost certainly don't even know our names. Let's look at what ties we have to these people.
Professional sports: We're typically from the same city (or general region) as them.
College sports: At best we go (or went) to the college that they're representing. However, with big-time NCAA Athletics, it's just as likely to be merely a regional, or even more superficial (i.e. I LOVE that one player!) connection.
Other than that, it's just us rooting for a group of people that we decide to support financially for whatever reason at whatever level we deem appropriate. I won't get into my feelings about how money has sucked the fun out of big-time college sports, but it has certainly made the FAN feel an inappropriate level of entitlement. When I pay (roughly) $1000-2000 for a pair of season passes to a BCS-level Football program- $75/ticket for 6 games plus parking plus a significant "donation" for the right to buy the tickets in the first place - it certainly can be understood why I think I have a right to demand that my money gives me a louder voice than I had when I was paying a lot less. But, having a reason for entitlement doesn't make the entitlement less insufferable.
There is nothing wrong with pride. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in something you didn't personally earn. But, when you use that pride as an excuse to treat others poorly, why is that glorified in our sports-obsessed society? I'm guilty of it, too. Even our justification for these actions - or at least, MY justifications for these actions - are unacceptable in polite society. I like to tell myself that I have to flaunt my team's successes (and point out YOUR teams' failures) because you'd do it to me. But, I'm smart enough to realize that it's hypocrisy. The internet sure as heck hasn't made this better. We talk down to people we don't know because they're not real to us. We don't care if we insult them, because some other faceless person who roots for the "other" team insulted us, so it's fair. Furthermore, we carry callousness into our interactions with those we know, because that becomes the accepted norm. I don't have a problem with sports-related hatred. Honestly, that's not what I'm talking about. It's sports-realted disrespect. I can hate you while we play and still respect you. Athletes do it all the time. The problem isn't about wanting to beat your opponent, or wanting to be better than them. It's about losing touch with that basic sportsmanship which is rooted in respect.
There is no reason to treat another person, ESPECIALLY a person you count as a friend, disrespectfully. But, I've done it. You've almost certainly done it, too.
I don't like this. I didn't mind it when I was younger, but whether it's because I'm maturing a bit, or whether it's because I've started to see how much of a pain in the ass the consequences to acting like an asshole can be, it's starting to make me enjoy sports much less. I want to take pleasure out of the things I enjoy, I want a victory to feel good, and the loss to suck because losing sucks. As it currently stands, a loss feels great, and a loss sucks, but there's always knowing that someone, somewhere is going to try to say something to act like an asshole - sometimes that person is me.
I'm sick of having to bite my tounge at family functions because someone my get offended.
I'm sick of being the one offended.
I'm sick of trying to make a friendly comment and having it intrepreted as an attack.
I'm sick of avoiding facebook after both wins and losses because I know I'm going to see a bunch of crap that is going to just ruin my mood.
I'm sick of avoiding my favorite blogs because I know that unnamed people from other fan groups will come to mock us in loss, or to belittle our team's victories
But, Sports are too wonderful to be ruined by that, so I'm just going to stop it. I can't control other people, but I can control myself. I'll never stop wanting Missouri or St. Louis to win every game. I'll never stop wanting to see Detroit or Kansas lose every game theyplay. It's just not going to happen, there's too much on the line for MY teams by having the other guys lose - that's just part of sports. But, I AM going to stop feeling like I have to justify my fandom to other groups. I am going to stop allowing the successes or failures of a group of people I don't know determine my self-worth. Others are still going to do it, and that's just something I'm going to have to learn to deal with, and I'm going to learn to deal with it.