“Schadenfreude – a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
There’s something about sports that often just brings out the absolute worst in people. This is something I’ve been noticing over the last few years, and it’s all but turned me off from the NFL and makes me cringe often during the college basketball season. Specifically, what I see so much of anymore is fans of Team A bashing fans from and members of Team B. What I can’t figure out is, why?
A couple examples of this: During the NFL season a couple years back, the Cincinnati Bengals were, as they are prone to do, struggling along, trying to be relevant. The Pittsburgh Steelers were doing what the Steelers normally do, which is methodically making their way to their annual playoff trip. What I saw on Facebook was so weird, though. On this Sunday, the Steelers and Bengals were playing different opponents simultaneously. I saw Steeler fan after Steeler fan bashing the Bengals for being terrible while the Steelers were playing a game that held playoff importance (followed by further negative reaction from Bengals fans). Fast forward to today. The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team is set to square off against Michigan State, a matchup of the country’s #1 and #2 ranked teams. I jump on Facebook, and one of the first posts I see is a fan of a program that isn’t participating in this contest taking the time to bash UK.
Let it be known, my sports loyalties are to the Cincinnati Reds, the Cincinnati Bengals and the University of Kentucky Wildcats. This post is not to single out fans of the Steelers or any other program. Trust me; I have seen plenty of discouraging behavior from fans of the teams that I follow (See: Dusty Baker, Tubby Smith, Carson Palmer. They’re still human beings, right? Right.). I guess the question I am struggling with is this; what does anyone get out of spewing hatred and venom toward others? What is gained by finding satisfaction in the displeasure of others? Why do we condone this behavior when it comes to sports? Does this not also reflect our personalities and, in turn, our lives?
I’ll be 100% honest with you. I used to actively root for the Steelers to lose, and there were times where I realized that I felt better about a Steelers loss than a Bengals win. The same could be said for college basketball and Duke/ North Carolina. Throw the St. Louis Cardinals into that mix, too. Even further, I have felt the same way about teams in baseball that I have coached against. When you take the time to consider why you feel that way, you realize that it’s so hollow, and it’s indicative of something more deep and personal. I often rooted for successful programs to fail because of how I felt about my own insecurities and failures. The very first time I asked myself why it felt good to watch people fail was when I decided I was going to make every effort to stop it.
I know, I know. It’s all harmless fun, right? It’s just sports. I get that. I just happen to believe that it runs a little deeper. So, I urge you to do the following: actively root for who you choose to root for. Acknowledge and respect the successes of others. Bite your tongue when you hear or read people spouting things that you don’t like. You’ll feel better for it. I do.
Have an awesome Tuesday,