“The Giants have no chance this year,” said a thick-bearded, beer-bellied lumberjack look-alike sitting a few seats to my left as he passed a Budweiser to his fellow green-clad Jets supporter. “That’s what people said in 2011,” a young fan of the Big Blue from the next row retorted. “At least we have a quarterback who doesn’t make ESPN’s ‘Not Top 10 Plays’ list every week.”
Even though the Giants were playing the Colts in their first preseason matchup, the stadium was full. Not only with New York and Indianapolis fans, but also with Jets fans, Patriots fans, and Eagles fans. Even though their beloved teams may not have been playing on that day, their beloved sport was being played.
Each time I go to a Giants game, I am reminded time and time again that, above all else, the people around me have their strongest allegiance not to any particular team but to the sport of football.
As the game proceeded and New York continued to blow scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity (in true G-men fashion), so too continued the banter and bickering that only seemed to get more lively with each additional empty beer can. These Jets fans were enjoying themselves and having a good time despite the fact that their team was awful (ranked 26th out of 32 teams by nfl.com heading into this season).
Perhaps as Columbians, we can learn something from Jets fans. As much as I hate saying this, we Light Blue fans have quite a bit in common with those in Gang Green Nation in that we both aren’t exactly supporters of perennially dominant and well-run teams. Despite disappointing management decisions and poor performances by their team, Jets fans hold on and find ways to enjoy football. Maybe we can follow suit. We too need to make the distinction between being a diehard fan of a team, and being a diehard fan of a sport.
(Indeed, I don’t envision us being ardent Lions supporters wearing body paint and light blue from head to toe, like Duke fans. Besides, imagine how long it’s going to take to get into that costume, let alone getting out of it afterwards.)
A truly diehard—perhaps “diehard” is even a bit of an understatement—Arsenal fan, my friend Nick can’t even watch his team hit the pitch without stressing and screaming. Yet just a few days ago at the U.S. Open, Nick was telling me how he was enjoying himself in a completely different way. Without feeling the intense need to root for a beloved team, he was able to enjoy the experience quite a bit more. In a way, it was a “healthier” fan experience.
As we sat in the bleachers of Arthur Ashe Stadium and soaked in the afternoon sun, he began to relate how much he was enjoying himself in a new way. He wasn’t cringing at every serve, and flipping out at every unforced error. Without an intense motivation to root for any particular player, he was enjoying the splendor of the game, unadulterated.
Perhaps it can follow that we can learn from Nick’s experience, and approach our Columbia athletics programs in a similar way. It’s not always easy to be a diehard fan of some of our sports teams. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t root for our teams. On the contrary, we should take more time to enjoy the actual experience: the food (and drinks perhaps), the company of friends, and the overall love for the sport being played.
So next time you go to a football game, don’t spend 100 percent of your attention and concentration on the score (although I do expect great progress from our team this year). Take a minute to slow down and appreciate the beautiful stadium and the atmosphere. You won’t regret it.
Alexander Bernstein is a Columbia College sophomore. Contrarian Review runs biweekly.