Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

December 9, 2013

TIDBITS: Calm down. It's just a game

CROSSVILLE — Perhaps it's because I haven't had my favorite team make it to a conference championship in a year or five. It could be because my favorite team has been "rebuilding" for several years now. Or maybe it's the drought of bowl games where I get to see my favorite Orange and White take the field after November.

Whatever it is, this lull in wins for the mighty Volunteers of the University of Tennessee has had an unexpected bright spot.

I've stopped looking to a bunch of kids on a field to provide my reason for living (not that I really ever did) and I sat back and started watching the game for what it was — a game.

The world didn't end when the Vols ended up losing to Louisiana State University 14-16 with a penalty call for too many players on the field.  I watched that game. I was heartbroken. There they were, a team nobody expected to do very well about to take out the undefeated Tigers and shock pretty much everybody watching. And then, they made a terrible mistake — a mistake that seemed so simple to avoid. There were all kinds of jokes about teaching the football team to count to 11.

And we don't even want to talk about that blocked field goal in the 2009 match-up against Alabama — something my Tide-loving friends continue to hold over those in the Vol Nation.

It stings to see your team lose. It's not a lot of fun and, in fact, can cause you to overeat while looking for comfort from the misery of defeat. Researchers found that fans whose football teams lose eat 16 percent more saturated fat the next day.

I might be guilty of overindulging after a loss. Mostly, I just overindulge during the game because these are social events in my world, with potlucks and food galore. I eat when the team does well. I eat when they don't do well. Sometimes I eat and I'm not even sure how the team is doing.

Don't get me wrong, it is great when they win. Everyone gets excited and we cheer and yell for our team to go, go, go! If we fall short (like against Georgia this year), we'll be disappointed, but then we go on with our lives.

Unfortunately, it seems there are many fans in the world who don't see things in this light. Their team losing is equivalent to the world ending. This is especially true of teams experiencing a great deal of success. I'm not wanting to point fingers, and certainly I'm not painting all fans with this brush, but there's a team with a crimson color and their fans like to tell things to roll, and they've not dealt well with the craziness that Rivalry Week can bring about in the world of college football.

Poor Cade Foster, who was not the kicker that missed the final field goal attempt in the 34-28 loss to Auburn Nov. 30. He's the kicker who missed two earlier attempts and had one blocked before being replaced by a newbie freshman kicker for the final play.

Foster was, however, the target of lots of venomous words on social media sites, and even a few death threats.

Foster is a senior. That makes him 21-22 years old, right? The poor kid suddenly became the focus point of a fan nation that was devastated by the end of their perfect season. No trip to the SEC championship. No chance to go for a three-peat in the national championship.

But the hate wasn't relegated to just members of the Crimson Tide team. Fans who weren't sufficiently contrite and beside themselves with grief faced dangerous situations. A woman in Birmingham supposedly killed another woman because, according to the slain woman's sister, the victim wasn't sad enough. Nekesa Shephered said Adrian Laroze Briskey, 28, starting shooting after telling the joking fans they weren't "real Alabama fans."

Investigators aren't sure that's the real reason. Alcohol may have been a factor, but the two women did not know each other prior to the party they attended to watch Iron Bowl 2013.

I'll grant you, Alabama has a phenomenal team. They are amazing to watch, and they are simply too much for other teams to handle many Saturdays. But they weren't too much for Auburn on that day. That's actually one of the greatest things about SEC college football. All of our teams (usually) are contenders. And in the right circumstances, any team can rise to the top and topple what many see as a Goliath.

And when they lose, it stings. But the real sting is for the players who were actually out on that field playing. Not the guy sitting up in the stand second-guessing every decision of the quaterback or booing the player who simply had an "off" day. Frankly, you don't get to be Alabama's starting kicker because you're lucky. You get there because most days, you're pretty darn good. The ones out there getting hit, the ones who spent all that time in practice the week before, the ones who work their butts off at a pretty tough university to stay academically eligible, they are the ones that are actually "invested" in the outcome of the game. The rest of us? We're just along for the ride.

I suppose this nonsense in the world of sports mirrors the nonsense in other areas of our uncivilized society. You've got kids running around hitting people in the head because it's "fun." You've got people packing heat and just looking for trouble. You can't even go shopping without worrying about people being violent. This past Black Friday was considered "calm," with Time magazine reporting only one death and 15 injuries attributed to the biggest shopping day of the year.

I'm ashamed. We've lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. And no one seems to "talk" anymore, preferring to "text" about differences of opinion. When that fails miserably, people turn to their fists and other not so great methods to make a point.

Before you go posting death threats to a kid who was doing his best, or shooting up a room of sports fans because they aren't "sad" enough, or booing those players who are already beaten down, or throwing insults and worse at the victors, stop.

Just stop. We are human beings. We have brains in our heads and we can control our actions. Exhibit good sportsmanship — from the T-ball field to the professional stadiums. Say, "Good game." Enjoy the game for what it was — a game. No one need fear for their lives after a bad play. No one should be gunned down because their world didn't end with a losing score. Take joy in the good plays and keep the bad plays in proper perspective.

And the next week, do it again. Because you are not a fair weather fan. You support your team on good days, bad days and those make you want to cry days.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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