“The Eagles gon’ lose tonight, the Eagles gon’ lose!” A small man shouted at me and my Carson Wentz jersey from across an Old Mill parking lot.
I didn’t know him, so I replied, “We’ll see. It’ll be a good game.”
We did see. Much to my dismay, the Eagles did lose. I am forced to admit that it was a good game.
When the man shouted at me, I was reminded of my Rome semester. There were some half dozen times when I was walking the streets of Rome or Berlin, when some other American tourist whom I had never seen before and would never see again would greet me upon recognizing my lucky Eagles hoodie (which never actually got me pickpocketed).
Some time ago, I wrote about being a fan, insofar as being a fan involves watching athletes play sports. But there is another aspect to being a fan: interacting with other fans. Like any TV show with drama unfolding from episode to episode, the best fun is discussing the previous week’s events.
So I enjoy my venomous and jeering conversations with Cowboys fans following every game between the teams, not least because it gives me the chance to explore possible scenarios where the Eagles win the Super Bowl.
This is probably the greatest fun in actually attending sporting events. I have been to the AT&T Stadium for two football games, and I have loved the sheer intensity and energy of the game. But all of that energy comes from the fans.
It’s an intoxicating feeling, like what Nietzsche describes as the Dionysian spirit in “The Birth of Tragedy.” When the crowd starts roaring, and the whole stadium is shaking with the noise, one person can get swallowed up in the ecstasy of it all. In fact, when I saw the Cardinals play the Cowboys (whom I utterly despise), I momentarily considered rooting for the Cowboys simply because the crowd was so strong.
Of course, the one thing that prevented this was my dedication to my own team. And this is perhaps the most peculiar phenomenon: That I somehow care deeply about this organization which plays football, and this other organization which plays basketball, and so on and so forth. Why and how do people form these attachments?
When I examine my own sports attachments, I find that I choose to like the teams that are presented to me: My father exposed me to Philadelphia sports, and I chose to follow them. I am from Washington, so I was exposed to Gonzaga University basketball, and I chose to be interested in Gonzaga University basketball.
And now I care about University of Dallas sports. It is the case that I don’t always care about them as much as I think I should, but I do care about them.
Last week, I suggested that people look up the records of the UD sports teams, so I took my own advice. I learned that both the men’s and women’s soccer teams lost their senior games.
I expended relatively little emotional energy on them: I have homework to do and things to write. But I was saddened. I know a few of the seniors, and only a very small fraction of the teams as a whole.
So why do we get attached to sports teams? I’m not sure, but I think it is because it is fun to be connected to something. It is fun to be with something: to be able to say, “I think we played well yesterday,” even when all you did was watch.
Certainly it is not as fun when the team you like loses, but even then, the ability to be connected is nice. Last week, I expressed frustration in what I perceived as a lack of interest in sports on campus, and said that the remedy is somehow for us to interest ourselves in sports.
I think that this is one way that we can do that. Because we are at UD, UD sports teams are connected to us. Even as observers, we can connect ourselves to the sports.