Don't Be an Obnoxious Fan
I would never tell a fan how to be a fan, but I do have some suggestions that will make even the douch-iest (and yes, I did just make up that word) that much more bearable when discussing sports. Sports debates are a large part of the culture and there is no escaping it, however, much like political debates, sometimes the passion can overshadow the argument. What I am merely advocating is that sports fans be a bit more reasonable when it comes to the home team and their need to dominate the argument.
One thing every sports fan should realize is that there exists no panel, board, or ultimate authority on who is the greatest player for any sport. Your favorite sports network or publication can create lists until they’re blue in the face, but with no way for the athletes to settle the arguments and no time machine to shuttle back and play against the old timers, it’s just a darn good article. Remember to not only take these lists with a grain of salt but resist the urge to make them the backbone of your argument. Michael Jordan has long been regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, but the operative word in this sentence is ‘regarded.’ He was never voted, anointed, or confirmed as the greatest by any governing body so just keep that in mind.
You can’t tell a fan of any team to be objective any more than you can convince a zebra to repaint its stripes horizontally. However, convincing those same fans to temper their enthusiasm and high expectations with just a dose of reality is really the way to go. So listen, “Football Superfan Joe,” don’t come to the debate waving your team’s flag and screaming about a championship after you’ve lost half the starters on defense, and your quarterback posted the worst QBR in history just a season ago. That’s not only unrealistic, but what you’re ultimately doing is setting yourself up for a season of disappointment and ulcers, after you realize how off-base you were.
Case in point, I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (I will now allot a ten second pause to commiserate with or laugh at me), and to be fair, it hasn’t exactly been our best season. Going into the season though, I legitimately had very low expectations. The offensive line has been a patchwork for the last six seasons, the defense, while still formidable, lacks the playmakers and overall stopping ability of the previous seasons. Knowing the state of affairs, how could fix my mouth in any argument to proclaim that we’re Super Bowl bound? Yet, there are fans who, every year, will talk your head off about how it’s their teams’ year. If you’re one of those fans (and if you have to ask, you probably are), do yourself a favor and grab a scouting/injury report. Don’t just grab it, READ IT! After you’ve finished, try to temper those lofty expectations with a practical realization of what your team is bringing to the table.
Some other suggestions to make you less of a drag to debate sports with include:
-Stop taking your talking points from Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. These talking heads are journalists who get paid for their opinions.
-Stop thinking that ONE big free agent acquisition is going to put your team over the top. If you’re a fan of a traditionally non-winning franchise, you should practice this in earnest.
-Agree to disagree. There’s nothing wrong with a sports debate that ends without a clear winner, they’re not supposed to! Where many fans go off the grid is when they get angry because their opposition won’t adopt their argument as doctrine.
-If your favorite team has a rival, just acknowledge the rivalry for what it is (all rivalries are good for their respective sports) and keep it moving. I’d look pretty foolish trying to convince a room full of Tarheel fans that Duke is better.
-Don’t rely so heavily on numbers. They can be an accurate barometer of how your favorite team is performing, but they can also provide a false sense of achievement. That your team’s quarterback is averaging 350 yards and 3 TD’s over his last 4 contests is admirable; but the fact that it came against four of the six worst-ranked defenses puts it into a little better perspective.
-Your hatred/dislike of certain players does not make them any less great. Going to such great lengths to disparage a player you don’t care for is really petty, grow the *eff* up.
-Stop living in the past—especially for fans of more successful franchises. Those championship trophies are ancient history. Speaking of history, you also DO NOT get to celebrate or talk about titles your favorite team won before you were born.
-Ease up on the hyperbole. “That was the greatest shot EVER!” or “He’s the best player to ever play this game!” Condition yourself to see amazing plays every week and stop being a prisoner of the moment.
-I understand that highlights are how a large percentage of so-called sports fans determine who and what is great, but seriously…stop. This is especially true if you think Blake Griffin is an NBA Superstar.
Finally, as with real life, don’t be a jerk when you debate sports, otherwise people won’t want to talk to you.
***Hab Richardson is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, Duke Blue Devils, and Pittsburgh Steelers who refuses drag all 26 combined championships into any sports debate***