Who Took Sports Out of Spectator Sports?

Monday night I watched the college football national championship game with great interest. My home town team, the Oregon ducks, was in the championship game for the first time ever. And to say “with great interest” is an understatement. I was glued to the couch.

Tuesday morning a 7-year-old grandson asked me about the game. I said:

It was a great game. The ducks played their hearts out and almost won.

He answered:

Why are you happy if they lost?

You do see what’s wrong with that, right? I hope so. Just in case, let me explain. And before I do, it’s not him, nor his parents. He didn’t watch the game, he went to bed. His parents aren’t football fans. He and his mom got the results from me the morning after. I use this story because his reaction is typical. He gets it by osmosis in first grade.

I wasn’t happy that the ducks lost. But they played their hearts out in a great game, came back from behind to tie it up with just a couple minutes left, and then lost on the very last play. Sure, I wanted them to be the national champs, I’ve rooted for them for 40 years. Furthermore, I live in Eugene OR a 5-minute walk from the University of Oregon campus, I have a master’s degree from there, so does one of my daughters, and I’ve taught there as an adjunct for 11 years. Go ducks. But it’s a sport, not real life. And the Auburn Tigers won, fair and square.

I was raised to be what my dad called “a good sport.” That meant playing hard,  winning and losing gracefully, and liking the game.

Am I a fan? Hell yes. I love football. I loved to play football when I was young, always loved watching it with my dad and brothers, and still love a good game, especially when I’m watching it with family members who also care.

But there’s something really wrong with the way we deal with spectator sports these days. This is just my opinion of course, but what I see is …

  • It’s just wrong to watch a great game and be sad because the team you like lost. Not when it was a close game and they played really well. It’s sports. It’s supposed to about the game, not just the win or loss. Be disappointed a bit, okay, and more so if they played badly.
  • I hate it when the stadium boos the visiting team. And it gets worse than booing sometimes, what with the chanting, throwing things, verbal abuse and harassment. That’s so ugly.
  • I hate the fact that stadiums aren’t appropriate places for preteen kids anymore because of all the bad behavior they see.
  • I hate it when fans of the loosing team obsess on some referee call or bad break. Referees and bad bounces are part of the game; it’s called sport, not science. A really bad call that determines the outcome of the game bugs me too, but hey, a sudden gust of wind can determine the outcome too.
  • This whole thing starts way too early. Have you been to a kids’ game lately? Have you seen parents in stands and on sidelines shouting stupid things like idiots? Some parents seem dead set on teaching the opposite of sportsmanship.

Ask yourself this: when your team loses, does that spoil the time you spent watching? Is it no longer entertainment? Is it not fun? Does it spoil your day, evening, week, or what?


  • Elia Freedman says:

    While it isn’t a perfect fit, your post reminded me of an interview I recently read from Joe Posnanaki about the founder of the Washington Generals (of Globetrotter fame). What the founder said, at least to my ears, was that the difference between a loser and losing is knowing that there is a difference. Coming from someone who only obe game in his professional career, pretty insightful.

  • Jake P says:

    As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I will admit to suffering bouts of fan depression throughout my youth and early adulthood, as they suffered one epic defeat after another. Interestingly enough, once they finally won a World Series, I find myself quite at peace, no matter what happens. I’d really like to see the Bruins win another Stanley Cup someday, but that’s about it.

    With regard to kids’ sports, I had an interesting conversation with my granddad shortly before he died — he attributed a lot of the problems to the advent of Little League back when my uncles were kids in the ’50s. I witnessed a lot of nasty child and adult behaviors during the early 2000s when my own kids were in youth sports, but I’m not sure it was any worse than it was when I was a kid. (I remember my dad complaining about it.)

    For me, one of the main things that has taken the fun out of pro sports is the complete lack of loyalty between player and team. Players are in and out so often, that you can hardly get a good rivalry going.

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