By David Song, December 1 2017 —
On Nov. 26, the Toronto Argonauts stunned the Calgary Stampeders by taking the 105 Grey Cup in dramatic comeback fashion. Naturally, Toronto fans were elated while Calgary fans were heartbroken. In social media comments flooding from Canadian Football League fans, kicking the Stampeders while they were down was a common thread.
Trash talk isn’t inherently wrong. But there is a difference between fans who make sports a positive experience and those who inject them was malice and contempt. Here are three concepts that can affect the enjoyability of a sporting event.
1. Trash talk vs. trashing people:
Trash talk is an entrenched and acceptable part of the sports world. Franchise rivalries will always exist and add layers of competitive drama. Athletes and fans alike trash talk to show passion for their team and challenge their opposition to bring their best effort. It can motivate players and keeps fans on the edges of their seats.
However, trash talk sours when a specific person or demographic is targeted. Most fans are likely familiar with phrases like ‘Pittsburgh Penguins fans are arrogant’ or ‘Golden State Warriors fans are all bandwagoners.’ Heated arguments often arise about team allegiances between fan bases and involve cheap insults about a stranger’s character. This is especially damaging when socioethnic status, gender, age or sexuality are attacked.
Generalizing and aggravating remarks are a waste of time and limit the enjoyment of sports to a specific crowd. Petty bullying is unnecessary and trash talk should be balanced with sportsmanship that keeping intense rivalries grounded and respectful. A truly meaningful rivalry is distinguished by players and fans who can put aside tense emotions to say, “Good game.”
2. Arena etiquette:
Attending a live sporting event is extremely fun and can’t be fully captured through a screen. The crowds are raucous, stadium announcers fire people up and pulsing music keeps things lively. You can feel every swing of momentum and emotion in the space.
But the pleasure of this can be immediately shattered by a scuffle in the concourse, aggressive drunken banter or an adult intercepting a ball from the child it was intended. Much like Internet toxicity, real-life toxicity stifles our ability to enjoy a game.
Alcohol is a hot commodity at most sporting events. While many fans attend games for the thrill, their impulsiveness can become dangerous when mixed with excessive booze. Tainting someone’s experience by making them feel threatened or put down is reckless and belligerent. Most guests went to enjoy the game and bond with loved ones. This shouldn’t be compromised by aggressive fans who use live events as an emotional outlet.
3. Mistaking athletes for machines:
Athletes are not machines. They are human and exist for more than our entertainment. Yes, they’re paid millions of dollars to play a game — a controversial subject in its own right. But mature players usually act with this in mind. A lazy or selfish player with questionable character doesn’t often earn much respect.
Condemning athletes for failing to meet a standard is senseless. If you’re disappointed by a player’s performance, they probably are too. Athletes sometimes fail and can be hurt by slanderous comments, just like anyone else. This especially holds for non-professional athletes at the college or minor levels.
Overall, sports involve the pursuit of a serious passion — whether on the field or from the sidelines. Toxicity in sport is as destructive and meaningless as in any arena of life. At their best, sports entertain, unite and inspire. None of that can actualize without mature and respectful fans.