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There's No "We" in Fan
October 20, 2011 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Here's the deal: If you don't play for, or you are not an employee of, the team in question, "we" is not the pronoun you're looking for. "They" is the word you want.
Why "We" is the most overused term in sports.
posted by The Gooch (154 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 


Came to post that Mitchell and Webb link.
posted by justkevin at 1:52 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do find it odd that people so identify with a sports team based on the coincidence of geography. It's not even like we're rooting for homegrown talent. For instance, here is the the lineup of the current Minnesota Vikings, with their places of borth:

Quarterbacks:

Donovan McNabb - Chicago
Christian Ponder - Dallas
Joe Webb - Birmingham

Running Backs:

Lorenzo Booker - Oxnard
Ryan D'Imperio - Sewell
Toby Gerhart - Norco
Adrian Peterson - Palestine (TX)

Wide Receivers:

Devin Aromashodu - Miami
Bernard Berrian - Barcelona!
Greg Camarillo - Redwood City
Percy Harvin - Chesapeake
Michael Jenkins - Tampa

And on ...

It's not like the Olympics, where, I suppose, you might experience a flush of national pride if a collection of Americans did well, but here we have people identifying with a group of hired guns from out of state who are traded like gumball cards for millionaire owners who extort the state they live in for massive tax grants to build stadiums and create an infrastructure behind their team. And the Vikes owner is Zygi Wilf, who grew up in New Jersey AND LIVES IN NEW YORK.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:55 PM on October 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


Eh, it's just another old saw like "how come it's called the World Series when it's just American (and one or two Canadian) teams, huh, HUH?!" (Nevermind that the best players in the world modulo a few Cuban players all play in MLB.)

I'll admit I don't care much about pro sports so I've never really used "we" with any pro team. But with the Longhorns? Fuck yeah that's "we". My dad got his PhD at UT. My mom works there. I got my degree there. I think I can say "we".

(Even if the last couple of years it's mostly been in sentences like "Well, we really sucked on Saturday.")

Even for pro teams, when there's a team that gets embedded in a city's mythology, I think it's fine for their fans to say "we" too. Packers fans and Cubs fans off the top of my head.

Now, if you want a stupid sports cliche that's really annoying, how about when players and coaches thank God for a victory or good play? One of these days I'd love to see a player blame God for losing or dropping a ball.
posted by kmz at 1:56 PM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


The same goes double for professional teams, especially if you're not even from the same city — or country, even. If you're some make-believe soccer fan in North America, you cannot refer to frigging Blackpool as "we." You don't have a blessed thing to do with Blackpool, the little English city by the sea, let alone with the Tangerines. "Up the 'Pool!" Up yours, you twat.

They're called Blackpool Football Club, though, and you can become a member of this club for just £25. So presumably at that point you can say we to your heart's content.
posted by dng at 1:56 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


But my home team made up almost entirely of people hired from other places far from it is a tremendous source of local pride to me and my friends by virtue of it having our city name attached to it!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:56 PM on October 20, 2011


Or what Bunny just said just now.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:57 PM on October 20, 2011


They are the champions, my friends.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:57 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The backslide against "we" is obnoxious. Sports are communal. "We" is part of the language of following a team. If YOU don't like it, YOU can use the third person pronoun and leave US alone.
posted by moviehawk at 1:57 PM on October 20, 2011 [31 favorites]


Hey speaking of Vikings, let me use a 'we' properly:

We shouldn't be bending over backwards in Minnesota to keep this awful team. We can't afford a half a billion dollar stadium, but in all likelihood Dayton doesn't want to go down as 'the governor who lost "our" team'. It is fucking ridiculous.
posted by graventy at 1:58 PM on October 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


So, basically you are not allowed to self-identify as a member of a team? Does that extend to other social self-identities? I find this to be a pretty narrow interpretation that flies in the face of real world experience.
posted by meinvt at 1:58 PM on October 20, 2011


BackLASH. Gah.
posted by moviehawk at 1:58 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


They are the champions, my friends.

Shouldn't it be, "they are the champions, people who maybe or may not be fellow fans and/or acquaintances."
posted by kmz at 1:59 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does that extend to other social self-identities?

Such as? I am a fan of the Guthrie Theater, but I don't talk about how good our performance was in Hamlet.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:59 PM on October 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


I always thought it was funny how Mainers, who complain (sometimes justly) about "Massholes" still always root for the Boston Red Sox.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:00 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, this guy watched "Money Shot" by Whitney Cummings, saw this bit, then wrote an article? Whatever.

The community that I've found with Green Bay Packers fans all across the country validates my use of "we" when I'm talking about the team. Fuck you, snobbish Grantland writer.

Also, I love the use of the Vikings as an example of a team whose fans shouldn't be using "we". They usually just sign washed up Green Bay players. BURN
posted by King Bee at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The entire real point of saying "we" when talking about your team when you've won is so you can then change to saying "they" when talking about them once they've lost.
posted by dng at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


Emotional connection to the teams makes sports a more fun experience. Who the fuck cares what pronouns fans want to use to enjoy themselves?
posted by Navelgazer at 2:02 PM on October 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


I used to always comment on this and one of my friends insisted that he says "we" because the fans are part of a larger family with the players and all of the team's support staff. He then scolded me for trying to squash a great tradition of supporting a team and feeling part of something special.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:04 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Using those pronouns is as much a matter of convenience as anything else. They're one syllable each and thus a lot easier than always saying the full name of the team that you support or even "the team that I/you support". If you spend a lot of time talking about your chosen sport then this is immensely useful.
posted by MUD at 2:05 PM on October 20, 2011


So, this guy watched "Money Shot" by Whitney Cummings, saw this bit , then wrote an article? Whatever.

Or he and Whitney Cummings sat down and watched Mitchell & Webb together once. Either way.
posted by The World Famous at 2:05 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"We" works maybe, just maaaaybe, for the Green Bay Packers, since the citizens own the team. That's it.

Your favorite sports corporation sucks. And doesn't care about you.
posted by Eideteker at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Sports are communal. "We" is part of the language of following a team.

I'm going to argue against that. If you're playing a sport then yes, your fellow team members are part of your communal thing, and 'we' is appropriate. If you're in a group (at home on the couch or in the stadium) watching college or professional players then your community is the fans, but the people actually playing the sport don't know your name or who you are. That doesn't seem 'we' to me.
posted by komara at 2:07 PM on October 20, 2011


They're called Blackpool Football Club, though, and you can become a member of this club for just £25. So presumably at that point you can say we to your heart's content.
My first thought was those teams rescued by grassroots supporters' initiatives like AFC Wimbledon or FC United in Manc-land.
posted by Abiezer at 2:07 PM on October 20, 2011


What about the 12th man? Seattle earns at least a couple of wins a season just because of how loud the fans are.
posted by rouftop at 2:10 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The entire real point of saying "we" when talking about your team when you've won is so you can then change to saying "they" when talking about them once they've lost.

Particularly useful when the riots commence.
posted by mannequito at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2011


What about the 12th man? Seattle earns at least a couple of wins a season just because of how loud the fans are.

Boy, you ain't kiddin'.
posted by King Bee at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2011


This is stupid. I am a person who has no emotional connection to sports and does not identify with any team, including any national olympic team.

But this is what team sports is about. People care about the conflict and the result in large part because they feel connected to a team. And that connection is what sells tickets and ad spots and pays for those stadiums and coaches and players.

So they're not "really" connected with the team? (Whatever that means?) Who the fuck are you?

And the essay doesn't engage with the subject at all, just repeats and repeats its dead-obvious point in boring permutations. Look, if you really mean what you're saying, then your subject is not pronoun use, you moron -- you're writing a jeremiad against the enjoyment of team sports (along with school spirit, patriotism, and other forms of granfalloonery). You're too dumb to see that, so you posted this on your sports blog, and tomorrow you're going to post some essay about some game that, if you really thought about your argument, would be meaningless and irrelevant to you.

Cheers.
posted by grobstein at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2011 [16 favorites]


How LeBron James broke the golden rule of sports

“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.” - Lebron after losing the championship series.

This article is just another violation of that same golden rule. Sports viewing is inherently a narcissistic form of voyeurism, the industry relies on us all ignoring that and watching other people do what we wish we could.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think there's a sliver of a point: the fable of symbiosis between team and fans has been shat upon many many times in the major American pro leagues by mercenary owners and willing marks in local government. And there are degrees of ownership, as has already been mentioned. But it's a fantastic troll, which makes it worthy of the terraces.
posted by holgate at 2:13 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do find it odd that people so identify with a sports team based on the coincidence of geography.

In 1974, the Philadephia Flyers won the Stanley Cup. EVERY player on the team was Canadian, but in Philadelphia they were to a man considered Philadelphians.

Everyone loves a winner.
posted by three blind mice at 2:15 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or he and Whitney Cummings sat down and watched Mitchell & Webb together once. Either way.

Or listened to me and others bitch about it for years. It's not an obscure criticism of sports culture that Mitchell & Whatever invented in some comedy bit.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:16 PM on October 20, 2011


So they're not "really" connected with the team? (Whatever that means?) Who the fuck are you?

I am the greatest team in the history of sport. I do not say "we." I say "I." I won the Stanley Cup. I won the World Series. I am the greatest. That's who I am.
posted by The World Famous at 2:17 PM on October 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's not an obscure criticism of sports culture that Mitchell & Whatever invented in some comedy bit.

I happen to be a big fan of Mitchell & Webb and we will not have you talking about us in that manner.
posted by The World Famous at 2:18 PM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


The sheer volumes of pain and joy that the Welsh national rugby team has put me through in the last few weeks should qualify me to refer to the team as 'we', dammit. I think that's a fair exchange for the ten years the RWC semi-final took off of my life.

(In more general terms: I don't see 'we' as being presumptuous, but as agreeing to share in the highs and lows of the team, and to join the collective that shares in those same highs and lows. Which is a good thing.)
posted by kalimac at 2:18 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like a lot of people here have the luxury of being able to contemplate this particular plate of beans (I thought the anthropologists had settled this anyway) because YOUR TEAM ISN'T IN THE WORLD SERIES -- GO CARDINALS!!!
posted by cgk at 2:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Which is a good thing.

Why?

Honest question.
posted by stebulus at 2:24 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I only do this with pornography.
posted by maxwelton at 2:24 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


What about the 12th man? Seattle earns at least a couple of wins a season just because of how loud the fans are.
posted by rouftop


Oh please, there is no way that the Seahawks are so terrible that half their home wins are due some green and blue drunken jackass screaming foolishly showing how little football knowledge he really has, or even 70,000 of them.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:26 PM on October 20, 2011


yeah but the alternative is knowing that you have been complicit in having your feelings of belongingship taken advantage of by people who don't give a shit about you or your town and that is fucking raw, man.
posted by beefetish at 2:27 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


you're writing a jeremiad against the enjoyment of team sports (along with school spirit, patriotism, and other forms of granfalloonery).

Not really against enjoyment, though, right? Enjoyment alone, even enjoyment as a spectator, doesn't make granfalloonery.

And, by the way, thanks for reminding me of the word "granfalloon". I need this word all the damn time.
posted by stebulus at 2:27 PM on October 20, 2011


Not really against enjoyment, though, right? Enjoyment alone, even enjoyment as a spectator, doesn't make granfalloonery.

Hell, I'd probably describe myself as Bokononist and I don't see why granfaloonery is inherently a bad thing.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:30 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have very strong allegiances with a few sports teams and weaker ones with others. I only use "we" when talking about the former.
And I will continue to do so despite Chris Jones and his Andy Rooney musing stretched into an entire article which I can't believe I wasted time reading.
posted by rocket88 at 2:30 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Edmonton Oilers will always be 'they' to me.


Unless they make the playoffs.
posted by mazola at 2:31 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know that this is common usage, but I'm not a sports fan myself, so it always feels presumptuous when a sports fan talks about their favored team as "we" - like they are pretending they somehow helped the team win.

It's like that annoying usage some couples have, "we're pregnant" - uh, no you're not. She's pregnant. Men, lacking a uterus, do not become pregnant. Maybe you could say that you are both "expecting".

But after reading the above comments by sports fans, I think I will try to be more charitable in future, and read the "we" as having to do more with the community of fans than with the team itself. If the fans are interested in sports matches as a sort of proxy battle between cities, then I can see why it would make sense to say that "Minnesota" beat "Florida" or whatever, and why if you are a Minnesotan you might say that "we" beat "Florida", even if you, personally, did nothing but watch TV with your friends for a couple of hours.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:31 PM on October 20, 2011


Does that extend to other social self-identities?
I do find it odd that people so identify with a sports team based on the coincidence of geography.

Are we in Afghanistan?

Did I agree to send us there? I voted (for a candidate, not a policy). Shall we count that?

Did I pay to send anyone there? I suppose so, infinitesimally. My percentage of the funding of that mission is tiny, probably less than that of a fan who supports the team by buying an occasional ticket to a game.

I'm from the same geographical area as some of the soldiers who went over.

I have some memorabilia (passport, driver's license...)

I root for us to win (well, I root us to cut our losses and get out).


I do think I can say we with reference to things done by my countrymen, notional as that identification sometimes is. Why can't a sports fan identify with her team in the same way?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:33 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, but do you wear a U.S. military uniform when you watch the news?
posted by The World Famous at 2:35 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


His movie reference is actually incorrect. Plenty of films want us to engage on that level so that "we", the "good guys" win. The films are often constructed deliberately for this very reason.
posted by clvrmnky at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't see why granfaloonery is inherently a bad thing.

Because, by definition, a granfalloon is false.

Let me concede in advance that falsehoods can have redeeming features; still, being false is a big strike against.
posted by stebulus at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a fairly big sports fan, I fused to find the usage of "we" by fellow fans pretty embarassing.

Now, probably because I run with a different type of sports fan crowd, I find it charming in a throwback jersey sort of way.

Because I find it charming, I'm prone to find arguments against it pretty douchey in a "Classics professor who pontificates loudly about not having a TV" sorta way. As much of a fan of Grantland as I have been when other articles have been posted to the Blue (thanks for reminding me exists, all not snark, I meant it) this article continues that long standing tradition.

Unlike many other strings, this sports-related one remains unbroken and probably will for quite sometime.

It makes me want to start using "we" in protest, even though I would probably be laughed at by those I watch sports with.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:43 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's the deal: If you don't play for, or you are not an employee of, the team in question, "we" is not the pronoun you're looking for. "They" is the word you want.

Hmmm ... wonder if this works for politics ...

Here's the deal: If you don't give large contributions to, or are not an elected politician of, the team in question, "we" is not the pronoun you're looking for. "They" is the word you want.

Well what do ya know; it does!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:43 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't mind it when I know the person using it is a genuine fan of the team. It's a little grating when, like last year, people I've known for years who never once mentioned the San Francisco Giants or baseball suddenly started using it when the Giants got to the post-season and the World Series (and once again have gone back to not ever talking about the Giants again).
posted by notmydesk at 2:47 PM on October 20, 2011


The thing is this sort of contrary pose will not bond you to your neighbors, co-workers, &c. I grew up in Oakland. So up until the time I graduated from college I was a naive devoted Raider fanatic. Then I moved to New Orleans, which had a team that sucked and hundreds of thousands of people living there who naively and fanatically loved them.

I felt disdain towards these people and it was no benefit to me to have this. Quite the contrary. When in Rome you have to root for the Romans if you know what's good for you.

Now I root for (Bob McNair's) Houston Texans and I don't mention the Bob McNair part. It is a little weird how almost all my fellow citizens donate their time and their energy and their money to promoting McNair's business, but I almost never mention it even though it's always there like a purple elephant in the room.
posted by bukvich at 2:47 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


In regards to the 12th man argument, I don't know much about football, but in hockey the fans definitely do stuff to affect the on-ice play. I've personally sat rink-side and yelled stuff at the opposing team's D when they're trying to hold the blue line, causing them to bobble the puck. Earlier this week fans in Edmonton almost drew a penalty for their team by throwing hats on the ice after the delayed announcement of a hat-trick. Then there's the asshole fans who do stuff like shining laser pointers in the goalie's eyes, or the case in the pre-season where some dick actually threw a banana on the ice during a shootout.

And I follow baseball to a lesser extent, but aren't the fans even more intrusive in that sport? A couple months ago I was watching a game where the ball was rolling towards the left field corner and one fan leaned over and scooped up the ball. The Umps seemed confused as to how they should call it and had to have a group meeting.
posted by mannequito at 2:50 PM on October 20, 2011


I'm not unsympathetic to complaints about the excesses of this, and don't begrudge a good comic riff on it.

However, if the point is intended to be serious, I tend to think that superficially dumbass ways of finding affinities with other human beings, especially strangers, have a lot to be said for them, so long as they don't turn violent against other granfalloons.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:57 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


This pedantic piece of crap was making the rounds a bit yesterday.

All I can say is, if the Washington Capitals are ever in a position to clinch the Stanley Cup:

1) I will immediately buy two tickets to the clinching game. No matter where the game is. If we don't win that clinching game, I'll stay till we do, or until the other team does. Seriously, I actually have an online banking account where I've been saving for this eventuality for the last five years.

2) If we win, I'll be screaming my lungs out in the Verizon Center (or the visiting team's arena), I'll be in DC for the victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and you'll have to accept my apology in advance, as I think there may be a lot of dust flying around those places and some of it might get in my eyes.

I would disrupt my life to a pretty serious extent to be present during those times. Would you disrupt your life for the Weakerthans, you pretentious douche? Do you think it's a novel insight that sports teams are run by money-hungry businessmen who will gladly take advantage of my passion, goodwill and money now, and forget about it later?

I don't care. I do know that sports fandom - and my personal identification with the team I love - is not only a wonderful escape from the crapfest of American life, but it's also one of the few places where one can experience the whole range of human emotions in a 60-minute period. So, while you're writing your ironically detached, shitty, holier-than-thou "opinion" pieces on the World's Worst Sportswriter's website, I'll be, you know, actually experiencing life.

Dick.
posted by downing street memo at 2:58 PM on October 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


"we" is not the pronoun you're looking for. "They" is the word you want.

What an absurd, ugly notion. Sports are a tribal exercise, a way for people to affiliate with each other based loosely around geography and to a lesser extent, performance, history and taste. To deny the "we" in sports is to abnegate the cultural importance and impact of sports on those who watch it, follow it, and even participate in it, and reduce it unforgivably.

Here's a hint - when the franchise packs up and skips town, folks don't tend to follow them anymore. If there is no "we", there's no reason to.

The whole deal stinks of moneymen wishing you'd just follow the Yankees already and dollar-watcher stathead nincompoopery.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:00 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


What about the 12th man? Seattle earns at least a couple of wins a season just because of how loud the fans are.

Much as I hate to credit the damn Aggies in any capacity, those Ags were definitely the pioneers of the "12th Man". Kyle Field is not a fun place to play. (Of course they've also got a bunch of creepy traditions along with their loudness, but that's another matter.)
posted by kmz at 3:01 PM on October 20, 2011


Oh please, there is no way that the Seahawks are so terrible that half their home wins are due some green and blue drunken jackass screaming foolishly showing how little football knowledge he really has, or even 70,000 of them.

I had a lengthy discussion with a friend of mine -- with a national identity bonus side dish -- years ago on this very topic when I lived in Toronto. He insisted that every fan cheering made a tiny incremental boost to a team's performance, and if he missed a game, he might make the difference between us winning and us losing.

This same flag-waving friend of mine often boasted of how "we" had won the World Series two years running and that this was a triumph for Canada. He had some lengthy arguments prepared as to how twenty-nine Americans, three Venezuelans, a Brit, five Dominicans and one guy from Toronto constituted the essence of Canadian athletic achievement.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:01 PM on October 20, 2011


I'm not gonna give grantland page views. I know what the article says already. :P

What if your child is on the team?

What if you are terminally ill or disabled and the team had adopted you as its unofficial mascot?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a hint - when the franchise packs up and skips town, folks don't tend to follow them anymore. If there is no "we", there's no reason to.

That kinda sounds like you're supporting his point.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2011


then the presuppositions of the article would no longer apply, grimm. correct me if i'm wrong but the article seems like it is critical of the cynical exploitation by sports team owners of the emotional bond that fans feel with their teams.

maybe it is because i only very vaguely follow college ball but i don't think that this is too crazy of an opinion to have. pro sports is fucked in some ways even though it is fun to watch.
posted by beefetish at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2011


Using those pronouns is as much a matter of convenience as anything else. They're one syllable each and thus a lot easier than always saying the full name of the team that you support...

As a fan of the Centerville Rufus Xavier Sarsaparillas, I'm behind this argument 100%.
posted by darksasami at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2011


"Fan" is short-hand for "fanatic", and you're looking for logic?
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:06 PM on October 20, 2011


correct me if i'm wrong but the article seems like it is critical of the cynical exploitation by sports team owners of the emotional bond that fans feel with their teams.

What I took away was a condescending scolding given to the fans for having that connection at all.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I suppose fans can have a limited affect on the outcome of a team. Home field advantage does exist partly due to fan behavior.
posted by travis08 at 3:10 PM on October 20, 2011


"Don't get me wrong. You might very well be in deep love with your team, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with falling in love with something or someone outside of yourself. There is nothing wrong with finding faith and belief in forces beyond your reach. If we didn't, if for some reason we could no longer believe in things that are not of us or our world, there would be no religion, no space travel, no Pepsi Max."

this guy is crapping on fans for being fans?
posted by beefetish at 3:10 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eh I dunno... I like the idea of identifying with something bigger than yourself. I'm not a sports fan, but if one of My Favorite Bands hits the top of the charts I'll feel like I played some small part in that by buying their albums, wearing their merch, and being a supporter. And it seems like sports fans see their teams WAY more than bands do..

(and then you get into fans supporting their band's favorite teams, which is why a bunch of Aussies were wearing Red Sox and Celtics jerseys at Dropkicks)
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:20 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the deal: If you don't play for, or you are not an employee of, the team in question, "we" is not the pronoun you're looking for. "They" is the word you want.
Why "We" is the most overused term in sports.


One could say the something similar about the community of Metafilter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:21 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Was anyone actually under the impression that teams care about their fans on an individual, personal level? Is there some high school kid just in Prairie du Chien who thinks Aaron Rodgers might come to their birthday party?

Thanks for waking up the sheeple, guys.

I like Baltimore. When something associated with Baltimore does something good, I will briefly celebrate. I might even say "we", knowing full-well that Ray Lewis didn't just sack some dude for me. I then continue on with my life.
posted by spaltavian at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


But would a Barcelona fan be allowed to say "nosaltres" on a wet, windy night at the Britannia?*
posted by Abiezer at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I do find it odd that people so identify with a sports team based on the coincidence of geography. It's not even like we're rooting for homegrown talent.

Personally I identify with one particular sports team that happens to be playing in the World Series this year, even though I've never lived anywhere near where they play their home games. In fact, I grew up rooting for them in an area that happens to be the home turf of their biggest rivals, and had to deal with a relatively large amount of flak for it. My grandfather was the one who originally started being a fan of the team and it's become a sort of family tradition since then. We all travel together around once a year to go see a home game there with all of the other fans. I've been a fan all my life and somewhere there's a photo of me as a child asleep wearing the team's baseball cap with a baseball glove in my hand holding a baseball.

So for me being a fan of this particular team is part of who I am and part of what connects me to my family. I will always be a fan of the team no matter how well or poorly they play, and no matter who is on the team. There are maybe three players on the team right now where will also on the team five years ago, but everyone in my family has been fans of the team for as long as I can remember. Because of all of that, I think "we" is an appropriate term for me to use when I'm talking about the team, even though other people might think it is silly. Obviously the players are the ones that actually determine the outcome of the game, but the team will be a part of my life long after they get traded or retire.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:25 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Barcelona are a supporter owned co-operative, aren't they?
posted by dng at 3:27 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find my use of we vs they correlates directly to my opinion of the topic being discussed. We signed Felix to a five year contract! WooHoo!!! They signed Chone Figgins? WTF?!
posted by calamari kid at 3:40 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


god, grantland sucks. thanks for the reminder.

yeah, "we" is mostly shorthand. but nice SEO chum, son.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:42 PM on October 20, 2011


god, grantland sucks. thanks for the reminder.

Grantland is probably my favorite video game review site outside of Kill Screen.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:43 PM on October 20, 2011


The Venn diagram being "getting it" and "this guy" is basically O O.
posted by effugas at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2011


s/being/between/
posted by effugas at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2011


I'd like to hear fans of professional tennis and golf weigh in
posted by boygeorge at 3:44 PM on October 20, 2011


I like a lot of what Chris Jones writes, but man is he off base on this. What makes it particularly bad is that if you follow him on Twitter there is basically universal opposition to his stance but he fails to understand why anyone would disagree with him on this.

Jones is big on the old-school idea of sportswriting -- not that he's against stats analysis or anything, but I think he sees sportswriters as the guardians of the games they cover. He cherishes rules like "no cheering in the pressbox that come from a time before bloggers, citizen journalists, and all the other riff-raff broke into the journalism game. Hell, the website he writes for is even called Grantland.

That stuff doesn't bother me. Sports journalism isn't exactly coverage of the Iraq war, but it's nice that people in the pressbox want to self-police impartiality. But what Jones tried to do with this piece was to take the rules from the pressbox and foist them on the fanbase. This is wrong. There's good reason to not a team's press corps to start feeling like they're part of the organization -- BUT THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING A FAN IS TO FEEL PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER.

There's an old joke about sports that with entire rosters turning over every 5-6 years in a lot of cases, not to mention ownership and management changes, fans are basically cheering for laundry. When I talk about the Toronto Raptors, Jones wants me to use "they". But there is no they. None of the players have been on the team more than 5 years. They just fired their coach. They're owned by a fucking pension plan, for chrissake. In an age where a franchise will pick up and move across the country for a better arena lease, we have to believe that a team exists as a common idea shared by its fans -- not just as a bunch of rich dudes wearing the same colours.

This is shown most clearly by the return of the Winnipeg Jets. The new Jets have nothing to do with the old version -- it's a completely different franchise, and there were questions about what the team was going to be called when it moved to the 'Peg. But Winnipeggers uniformly demanded that the team be called the Jets, and every sports fan in the world understood why. It was only grumpy sportswriters who looked down on the fans for their crass sentimentality. But everyone else knew. The franchise might belong to True North Entertainment, but the Jets belong to the fans in Winnipeg.
posted by auto-correct at 3:45 PM on October 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


I do hope next week's article isn't going to be about Santy Claus.
posted by digsrus at 3:55 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, but do you wear a U.S. military uniform when you watch the news?

Well a lot of "us" certainly seem to drive around with flags stuck to our cars as if we're in imminent danger of forgetting what country "we" live in.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:58 PM on October 20, 2011


Certain people are always gleefully pointing this out to me but fuck that. I live in St. Louis, they are the St. Louis Cardinals and WE are in the goddamn World Series.
posted by saul wright at 3:58 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I honestly don't understand how people connect to sports teams in this way. I just don't get how it works. I see the benefits and enjoyment people may derive from feeling that way, but I don't understand how the connection works, or how people tie their emotions to the success or failure of a team they watch playing a game. I'm not a sports fan of any description, but I've watched the odd national game of whatever when no alternative presented itself and although the minute to minute action seems sometimes compelling, the outcome doesn't bother me one way or another. The whole thing of sports fandom seems weird.

Seriously, could someone explain how it works? Do you have to be indoctinated young or can you come to it later on with the same fervour?
posted by xchmp at 3:59 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Things which, in addition to "I" are not in team:
We
Me
You
Us
That guy over there with no shirt, a painted face, foam hands and matching beer cozy.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:05 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am "some make-believe soccer fan in North America," and I also follow tennis. Tennis is a he/she pronoun sport, but when I become a fan of a particular person I find I start to refer to them by first name or nickname, like some of the TV commentators do, even though I'll probably never meet them.
posted by Edogy at 4:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can I just make another point about hipsterization of everything?

Internet hipsters and the preening "signaling" of people online has led me to almost totally lose enjoyment in most creative things. I can no longer read a book without thinking about what my lit-nerd high school friend on Facebook might think about my choice, I can't listen to music without wondering whether I'm committing some kind of faux pas with my choice. Fuck, I can't even cook anymore without wondering if I'm using the proper, locally-sourced ingredients or whether I'm using some spice that went out of style in 2005.

In recent years I've been noticing that the energies of the pretentious have fallen more and more on sports, and Grantland, I think, is a pretty prime example. I will NOT have my enjoyment of hockey - one of the few things left that I love unabashedly, unironically, and without reservation - ruined by this. I'll turn off the damn internet if I have to.

How about we just let people be fans of something in the way they want to?
posted by downing street memo at 4:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


BUT THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING A FAN IS TO FEEL PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER.

OH MY GOSH YOU'RE RIGHT I'M A FAN OF YOUR COMMENT AND SUDDENLY EVERYTHING I TYPE IS BIGGER!
posted by The World Famous at 4:09 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how the connection works, or how people tie their emotions to the success or failure of a team they watch playing a game.

I've never really gotten it either. I tried the "we didn't do anything" argument out with some friends and family when I was around 9 years old, and quickly discovered that it was not going to make me any friends.

I have sometimes attempted to use my somewhat transient life (at 27, I've lived in something like 15 cities in 9 states + DC + one foreign country) as an excuse for not feeling the strong ties to a geographic place that inspire many (although perhaps not all?) sports fans, but this hasn't made people find me any less weird, so...meh.
posted by naoko at 4:10 PM on October 20, 2011


The OP, just like the Mitchell and Webb sketch, is blatant classism, pure and simple.

Oh ha fucking ha, these poor lower class morons genuinely believe themselves to be part of some kind of community when in fact they've just been scammed by clever entrepreneurs again: the truth is that all sports are just business and no more, and in fact, the team and the organisation doesn't give a fuck about you the fan or any of the other fans, except insofar as they remain a revenue stream. It's all bollocks.

The problem with the Mitchell and Webb sketch is that while it rightly pokes fun at fairweather fake fans, it has nothing to do with the actual subject of this post, which is actual fans of actual sports clubs. These people do actually exist and aren't hard to find: don't bother with the big games and the big teams where it's hard to distinguish the fairweather fans from the genuine - go to the little games with the little teams. When your team is shit and you lose every week but you still hold a season ticket because that's your team and that's the end of it - that's what it's about.

See (if you must) the Nick Hornby book Fever Pitch, where he describes - the poor sod - what it's actually like to be an Arsenal fan. Whatever you think of Arsenal, by the end of the book you at least realise that he is a proper fan, win or lose.

The problem with the article in the OP is that it isn't a description of the nature of sports fandom, it's just a particularly nasty defense of the owning class narrative of sport in which it's all just about money and winning, and genuine fans are not relevant at all as - being smaller in number - they bring in less income than the fairweather types. You can either buy into that or not, as you choose, but actual fans of actual teams don't and won't.

Meanwhile look at the story of AFC Wimbledon. The business brains behind that organisation managed, in 2002, to move that particular business entity to Milton Keynes (a long way from Wimbledon) - and lo - the actual Wimbledon fans from Wimbledon and area ignored it and instead spent their energy regenerating the actual Wimbledon team in Wimbledon. It took years but AFC Wimbledon recently got back into the Football League. And good luck to them. Fans 1 Money 0.

When I was a kid, my father was massively involved in the 'Keep Watford FC In Watford' campaign, which successfully fought against an attempt to relocate our club to another town. Currently, the real Chelsea fans (not the wannabes) are campaigning to keep Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

It's a bit like the Simon Cowell attitude to music - in his view all music is just as shit as everything else and the only thing that is interesting is what happens to sell in large quantities. You can take that attitude to music if you like. But you'd be missing out on everything that makes music worth bothering with.
posted by motty at 4:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


Seriously, could someone explain how it works? Do you have to be indoctinated young or can you come to it later on with the same fervour?

In my experience it does take a commitment of time and attention to become a sports fan. The drama comes from knowing the back story, which you can only get by following a team for awhile. Taken a game at a time, much of the drama is lost. By viewing a team over a season, each game becomes more significant in terms of reaching the playoffs. Following a team over multiple season is where the fun really begins, only then do you understand the disappointment of an aging veteran failing to live up to his previous accomplishments, or the anticipation of just how well the hot new rookie will actually perform, or the thrill of the unexpected career year from an old standby journeyman.

Sports to me are like a form of theater, providing an unscripted drama full of highs and lows, and not a bad way to spend a couple hours in the evening.
posted by calamari kid at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


BUT THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING A FAN IS TO FEEL PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER

...without putting in the work. (Sports training is HARD!) Just by buying a jersey, a poster, a foam finger, and/or a ticket, you get to feel like Big Sporty Guy/Girl without breaking a sweat. And sports fans get pissed when you spoil their illusion.
posted by LordSludge at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"multiple seasons" rather.
posted by calamari kid at 4:24 PM on October 20, 2011


I'm not saying this because I'm a sports fan. I pretty actively dislike sports and sports culture, honestly. But everyone on MeFi and pretty everyone in the world has something they cheerlead for. Grantland has Chuck Klosterman on staff, and I like Chuck partly because he's a good writer and partly because he writes about the things I love. There are Mac fanboys, PC fanboys, Bronies, Little Monsters... whatever. And you all feel some good feeling when your preferred object of affection does well.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:33 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


motty i think there may be a big difference between british football and american pro football/baseball - the latter came to mind when i was reading the article. it seems like footy has a more involved fanbase. see even portland and the timbers.
posted by beefetish at 4:36 PM on October 20, 2011


I say "we" about Crewe Alexandra (beat those Wimbledon commies -- no dodgy pork pie magnate on the board and selling off the ground to Tesco? The very idea! -- 3-1 at the weekend, thank you very much). It's where I grew up and I'd watch home games with the lads I knocked around with at secondary school back in the pre-Dario days when we were even more of a joke than we are now and perennial re-election candidates back in the days before relegation to the Conference. Not lived in the town for decades, am abroad now and maybe catch a match or two a year if my visit home is during the season, but it's still a significant part of my life. That said, using "we" is as much a convention as to do with some fanatical identification, as on reflection a) that's how everyone's been doing it as long as I remember and b) talking about the team with other supporters, seems the shortest way of referring to them without using clunkier circumlocutions.
posted by Abiezer at 4:40 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just by buying a jersey, a poster, a foam finger, and/or a ticket, you get to feel like Big Sporty Guy/Girl without breaking a sweat. And sports fans get pissed when you spoil their illusion.

You laugh at me because I'm different; I laugh at you because you're all the same...
posted by downing street memo at 4:44 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The way he introduced his show:
We're bringing you our (for his guys Stu, etc.) Words Eye View from high atop The Fabulous Forum (or later Staples Center) your -- YOUR -- Los Angeles Lakers.
And he presented them to us and he made them ours. Not everybody can do that. Very few people can do it...."

-- Jack Nicholson remembering Chick Hearn
posted by Room 641-A at 4:46 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Internet hipsters and the preening "signaling" of people online has led me to almost totally lose enjoyment in most creative things. I can no longer read a book without thinking about what my lit-nerd high school friend on Facebook might think about my choice, I can't listen to music without wondering whether I'm committing some kind of faux pas with my choice. Fuck, I can't even cook anymore without wondering if I'm using the proper, locally-sourced ingredients or whether I'm using some spice that went out of style in 2005.

That's on you, buddy. Sorry you're so susceptible.
posted by liketitanic at 4:50 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this is something which is (at least in part) different in America compared to elsewhere. Over there's the franchise system, and a team might not be in the same city (or State (or country)) from one decade to the next. Here in the UK (and in Europe), you have clubs that have been in the same suburb of a town for a century. Quite often they were founded by subscription, or by wealthy locals, they've normally gone up and down the leagues a few times, but the community and the club link normally sticks (Franchise FC excluded). Can even look at the popular names of the clubs - United, City, Town, etc. They're about being the symbol of the area and the community.

That's why the "we" feels right.
posted by MattWPBS at 4:50 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are Mac fanboys, PC fanboys, Bronies, Little Monsters... whatever. And you all feel some good feeling when your preferred object of affection does well.

Sure, but there's a difference between applauding somebody's work and self-identifying with them.
posted by LordSludge at 4:51 PM on October 20, 2011


athletics is performance art with an added competitive component. you can like Barry Sanders BC he helps the lions win, or like him BC he was a performer of the highest order.

the communal "we" comes from when you put enough time into watching the team that losing or winning (or performing well and winning and vice versa) actually affect you personally. There's the we.

It's not much different than nationalism, and usually much less violent. In fact, you could argue it's a needed outlet for nonviolent agression against the "Other."

That is sports as analogous to pornography as a prophylactic against violence.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:59 PM on October 20, 2011


it's just a particularly nasty defense of the owning class narrative of sport in which it's all just about money and winning, and genuine fans are not relevant at all as

Isn't there a difference between defending it as an ok thing and stating that, well, it's sort of true?
posted by naoko at 4:59 PM on October 20, 2011


No, naoko. It's certainly true that there is a problem with too much money in sport warping things, but that's a completely different discussion. Just because various very rich people who (now) own clubs think it's all about winning doesn't mean that suddenly it *is* all about winning. It isn't.
posted by motty at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone who is completely oblivious to sports, the whole "we" thing sounds pretentious to me, but making a point about it to sports fans is just going to make them think I'm a jerk, so I keep it to myself.

They still look at me like I have two heads when they ask me about "the game" and I tell them I don't follow sports
posted by Fleebnork at 5:13 PM on October 20, 2011


Sure, but there's a difference between applauding somebody's work and self-identifying with them.

You don't identify with any bands or brands?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2011


defense of the owning class narrative of sport

Going back and rereading the article with this remark in mind, I guess I see what you mean. (For example, it looks like all the situations where he'll concede that "fan's we" is justifiable are ones where the team has some financial dependence on the fan, which does fit the owner's POV of sports-as-business.) I appreciate your explaining this bit of sports-world politics (and Slap*Happy's similar analysis upthread), because it does shed light on the article.

There's a third constituency here, though, which has surfaced a few times in the thread, namely people who don't really care about sports but find themselves in a culture where caring about sports is to some degree expected. Many times I've had people try to make small talk with me about the local sports teams, and express confusion and annoyance that I'm not interested in the subject. (On preview, see Fleebnork's comment.) Their expectation is, from my point of view, totally unreasonable; I don't expect them to be interested in my hobbies, after all. But they seem to think of being a sports fan not as a hobby but as attitudes and behaviour which are required for full participation in the society.

(It's the same kind of dynamic as being an atheist in a very religious culture, actually, and it can provoke the same resentful response from the nonbelievers, like, "You believe that bullshit if you want, but don't expect me to give it any special consideration just because you and your tens of millions of like-minded friends take it seriously.")

So along comes this article. As a member of the outsiders' constituency, I've often noticed fans saying "we" to refer to the team they root for. I've wondered whether it's based in the same group-identification psychology as found in nationalism and racial hatred and religious persecution and Linux zealotry and such (the "tribal exercise" that Slap*Happy mentioned — approvingly?!). I've wondered if sports provides a safe-ish outlet for such feelings (as mrgrimm just suggested) or if it stokes those feelings, or both. (Football riots argue against "safe-ish", but for all I know, they might be worse without football.)

As an outsider (not as an owner), I agree with the article that "fan's we" doesn't make sense on its face. Unlike the writer, I am ready to believe that it does make sense from the fan's point of view, if one understands how sports functions for fans, which I don't. I wish the writer had tried to understand that and explain it to us. I wish someone in this thread would do the same. (A few have tried, and I'm grateful to you for taking the question seriously.) I know that people identify with sports teams. I would like to understand why, and why it should be considered beneficial.
posted by stebulus at 5:47 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can I mention that, as we near the final of the Rugby World Cup, it seems as though the entire nation of New Zealand is preparing for the final? Granted only 15 of "us" take the pitch on Sunday night, but the game will make a lot of New Zealanders nervous like they were going to lace up their own boots. I've heard comments about people getting too jittery before the Aus/NZ semifinal, and then admit that normally they don't even care about rugby!

I'd say it has a lot to do with how sports get marketed, though. The successful ones will entice fans to feel at one with the players. I've heard comments about how the NFL and NBA are starting to fail at this, while other sports like NASCAR are improving, so that once you get a taste of the sport, you begin to build a relationship with your favourite players. That will certainly create a sense of community, and isn't that what "us" and "them" is about?
posted by Metro Gnome at 6:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at a bar eating dinner during the Aus/NZ game and though I tried to watch it I got bored and read a Louie Theroux book. It turned out I was even a bigger wanker than I imagined.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:10 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just because various very rich people who (now) own clubs think it's all about winning doesn't mean that suddenly it *is* all about winning.

It's because winning, when running a sports franchise as a business, equals money.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 6:24 PM on October 20, 2011


Have you heard the new Stephen Malkmus album? We are a great songwriter.
posted by The World Famous at 6:30 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guess you don't need to understand the purpose of pronouns to work at Grantland.
posted by lubujackson at 6:43 PM on October 20, 2011


Seen the new MacBook Air? Damn, we make great laptops.
posted by LordSludge at 6:54 PM on October 20, 2011


Read that great AskMe? We are a great internet community.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:06 PM on October 20, 2011


Have you heard the new Stephen Malkmus album? We are a great songwriter.

Nope, not a damn one of you.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:13 PM on October 20, 2011


More pretentious crap from people who don't understand the joy of sports. Sure, being a sports fan is a tribal chest-thumping ritual. We know. We get it already. If it's too tribal and stupid for you, then just go sit around reading poetry while listening to noodling indie-rock guitar wankery.

First of all, "we" is there because of the connection that's there. In pro sports, if fans don't care and connect, there is no sport to watch. With no "we," there are no Lakers or Yankees or Packers.

Furthermore, "we" sure as hell fits when it comes to something like college sports. My favorite college team is "we" to me. Those kids go to classes in the same place I did, eat at the same places I ate at, hang out at the same places I hung out. The kids on the team now aren't kids I know, but we share a common experience. Everywhere they go and everywhere I go for the rest of my life, we will identify with that school, because that school is family.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a third constituency here, though, which has surfaced a few times in the thread, namely people who don't really care about sports but find themselves in a culture where caring about sports is to some degree expected. Many times I've had people try to make small talk with me about the local sports teams, and express confusion and annoyance that I'm not interested in the subject. (On preview, see Fleebnork's comment.) Their expectation is, from my point of view, totally unreasonable; I don't expect them to be interested in my hobbies, after all. But they seem to think of being a sports fan not as a hobby but as attitudes and behaviour which are required for full participation in the society.


I don't know that I would ascribe this to a whole culture as much as individuals with a narrow scope of interest. I've run into this with people who are big TV watchers, and when I can't discuss the latest happenings on Friends or Survivor they just don't know how to make small talk with me, which causes them discomfort as that's about all they can talk about in that sort of situation. I suppose it can seem cultural as sports-fandom is so ubiquitous.

As to the why. I identify with my team because I've spent years following them. Even as they struggled greatly I cheered them on and hoped against hope that they would succeed, knowing every moment that they were doomed to fail. That investment of time and hope is what makes it ok for me to use "we", even though I know as I say it that it isn't strictly grammatically correct.

Why do I tear up when Othello realizes his error? It's just an actor on a stage reading scripted words and moving in a carefully rehearsed manner across the stage. It's not about rational adherence to the rules of reality, it's about letting go and being swept up by the grand drama being presented. It's about being entertained.
posted by calamari kid at 7:15 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The royal we, you know, the editorial. We dropped off the stadium money, exactly as per... Look, I've got certain information, certain things have come to light, and uh, has it ever occurred to you, man, that given the nature of all this new shit, that, uh, instead of running around blaming sports, that this whole thing might just be, not, you know, not just such a simple, but uh...you know?

"Never mind "Me, we." That makes us, them."

What Manning said was true. But only in the context of what Jones was asking. When he's old and sitting on his porch the glory will have faded to just those guys and the intimacy of the moment. And it's true that you remember just those guys you strived with.
But that brotherhood is forged under pressure. More people are afraid of public speaking, that is, failing to perform under pressure and being disgraced in public, than they are of death.
Jones has clearly never stood on the field and looked up at a crowd of fans and been inspired. There's no "they" about it, it's most definitely "WE."

And you can tell that following any team. The best teams, the ones that win, have a character that is a gestalt of their environment as well as the players.
Any set of the most brilliant individual players will lose to a less brilliant but cohered and united set of players.

This is not to say the criticisms of professional sports aren't apt. But they're misdirected. In the front office, the b.s. that the makeup of a team is indicative of a region, all that, yes, it's "they." But on game day, entirely different story.

If there wasn't that grain of truth there, you couldn't sell the thing as a package.
I mean I watch the Bears play, and people keep talking about how tough they are and the defense and style of play - running up the center, gut ball, Grabowskis, all that, and it's what Bears fans expect. Watching the games it just isn't so. If anything the Bears now look like the 49ers did a bit ago. Completely different fan concepts and 'attitudes' but ask people what they saw and they saw guts ball.

A lot of things are about self-delusion and feeling a part of something but those are pretty big empties as well.
But not everyone is a big fan.

In sports terms, there's a collective and participatory wisdom there that doesn't exist in other mediums. You can't call in a talk show and ask a director why he wants to go a certain way in a scene. Or demand you favorite band play a song with a different attitude.
With a sports team there's this participation element, which is to some degree self-delusion, but also carries with it the message of what fans expect.
There aren't any other products that come to mind that are customizable in this way.

For example, a bit ago, the Bears quarterback (Jay Cutler) took himself out of an important game. Well, in Chicago, that's just not done. You tough it out. Nevermind whether it's a good move or not.
So a few weeks later there are articles that talk about Cutler being "Bear tough" and blah blah blah. And to some degree his style of play changed to a bit more in your face, bold play, for a bit anyway.
So if nothing else, there are expectation sets that teams are supposed to fill that fans clue them in in.
Fans can also call in talk shows, parse out what it is they saw, and coaches do listen. The game is managed to death, but fans can be very insightful on occasion and the input prevents the coaching staff from doing too much navel gazing and getting jacked on groupthink.

Films certainly do have audience input. But sports has it from the inception and foundation to the end game. You don't consult an audience before you write a film and ask "What kind of movie do you want? Who do you think should star in it?" etc.

And most certainly in the stadium, there is nothing like 70,000 fans screaming their heads off for inspiration. That manic intensity on game day might be lost in memory and all you remember is where your mind was (your guys and your job) but there's no question that energy is there.

Marketing sort of sabotages that while supporting it. You get the premier guy whos name gets on all the t-shirts and then the several other nameless scumbags who support him.
Which is why I too love rugby. It's a very team centered sport.
Although U.S. football has pulled this off sometimes (Patriots come to mind).
posted by Smedleyman at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sports viewingReading fiction is inherently a narcissistic form of voyeurism, the industry relies on us all ignoring that and watching reading other people do what we wish we could.

Ftfy.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:38 PM on October 20, 2011


More pretentious crap from people who don't understand the joy of sports. Sure, being a sports fan is a tribal chest-thumping ritual. We know. We get it already. If it's too tribal and stupid for you, then just go sit around reading poetry while listening to noodling indie-rock guitar wankery.

Exhaustive list of ways to live: 1. Tribal. 2. Pretentious.

Thanks for the insight.
posted by stebulus at 7:43 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Read that great AskMe? We are a great internet community.

If you contribute to AskMe, the "we" is entirely appropriate. See the difference?
posted by LordSludge at 7:47 PM on October 20, 2011


I've wondered whether it's based in the same group-identification psychology as found in nationalism and racial hatred and religious persecution and Linux zealotry and such (the "tribal exercise" that Slap*Happy mentioned — approvingly?!). I've wondered if sports provides a safe-ish outlet for such feelings (as mrgrimm just suggested) or if it stokes those feelings, or both. (Football riots argue against "safe-ish", but for all I know, they might be worse without football.)

There was a time, during one of the apexes of human learning and culture, where the progenitors of Western Civilization would stop what they were doing, and strap on armor, and go and fight and kill and die for their city. It was called the War Season, and these titans of learning and culture would engage in all manner of barbarity against each other, to prove which city was the most powerful, the richest, the most influential, the best.

This was Greece.

Once every four years, they didn't have a War Season. They went to a competition where all the cities sent their best and brightest to recite poetry, run footraces, and wrestle and box with each other, to prove which city was the most learned, the most cultured, the toughest and the fastest and the best.

In the USA, we have rival cities, rival regions, and some of us hate each other. We don't have War Season, we have Baseball Season, Football Season, Hockey Season and Basketball Season. We teach our kids to run and tussle and play instead of how to strap on armor and kill.

In this, I think, the United States is a more noble and enlightened place than ancient Greece. Yes, we still war with outside, but inside... we root for the Red Sox instead of taking a tank brigade to shell the Bronx over a minor diplomatic insult. That's some progress, in my opinion, and why the "we" is important in sports.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:34 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think this is something which is (at least in part) different in America compared to elsewhere. Over there's the franchise system, and a team might not be in the same city (or State (or country)) from one decade to the next.

I'm not sure this necissarily follows since it's a pretty safe bet that the St. Louis Cardinals don't have a living fans who were around when they changed their name, much less when they started in St. Louis (111 years and 129 years respectively). And WE are in the goddamn World Series!!!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:09 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just by buying a jersey, a poster, a foam finger, and/or a ticket, you get to feel like Big Sporty Guy/Girl without breaking a sweat. And sports fans get pissed when you spoil their illusion.

You realize that when sports fans use "we" and wear jerseys, we aren't pretending to actually be on the team, right? We're participating in a shared community among fans. If you don't want to participate, that's fine, but please don't try to tell us how we feel and then think that you're "spoiling our illusion".
posted by auto-correct at 9:22 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Taken to it's logical extreme, this line of reasoning fails: The guy on the bench, who doesn't play a minute of the game, has no right to say "we won the game".
posted by blargerz at 9:58 PM on October 20, 2011


Also, the efforts in this thread by sports-haters to make excuses for various kinds of non-US sports fandom give the lie to the genesis of anti-sport sentiment: it's elitism, not some sort of principled disagreement. You think you're better than American sports fans.

But, for the record, I'm not sure how it matters that Arsenal and Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur and the like were once community-run teams; they aren't now. And why does it matter that some franchises are more transient than others? If you can accept that a team-to-human bond is reasonable in the case of "neighborhood" English soccer clubs, it's not a stretch to conceive of a team-to-human bond in a brand new or 36-year-old team, either.
posted by downing street memo at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2011


Taken to it's logical extreme, this line of reasoning fails: The guy on the bench, who doesn't play a minute of the game, has no right to say "we won the game".

Ad absurdum, but still: the benched player provides a strategic option in case an active needs replacing.

And flip the "logical extreme" argument around: If I have any tie to the team, whether geographic, collegiate, ethnic, eye-color, gender, species, I am totally on the team. Yay team. I rock.
posted by LordSludge at 12:12 AM on October 21, 2011


Why?

Honest question


(sorry this was a billion comments ago, but I don't check MeFi as much as I used to...)

It matters because it gives a sense of belonging, of being a member of a tribe. That you and sixty thousand other people dragged yourselves out of bed at 7 am on a Saturday and you're all pouring down through the city centre to the Millennium Stadium to watch your team play on the other side of the earth, because all those years of watching them fail, and watching 15 people play like they'd never met, and Mike Phillips taking longer than my 95-year-old grandmother to get a ball out of a ruck and and and...and it's all paid off and we've all paid our dues, and now we get to watch our boys* get the glory.

(Well, for 15 minutes anyway. Yes, I'm still bitter.)

In short -- it means I belong somewhere, which I find deeply comforting. And it means I belong to a tribe with people who agree that this is a beautiful game, and that these things matter, not because they necessarily make the world a better place, but because they're practice for the things that really do, deeply, matter -- practicing for a deeper joy, and a deeper devastation. And celebrating hard work, and innovation, and the magic that happens when something goes perfectly right.

*it might help that these are, very much, *our* boys, as everyone in the team must be either Welsh-born or have lived and played rugby in Wales for several years.
posted by kalimac at 1:26 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If a person creates a fantasy team and root for it with the same intensity as a fan root for the team of their city, is that weird to you sport fans?
What if he specifically create a team with only members who were grew up in his city, how would you guys react to that?
posted by bluishred at 5:39 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exhaustive list of ways to live: 1. Tribal. 2. Pretentious. Thanks for the insight.

When two tribes go to war a point is all that you can score.

My stock reply to "How about those ___ ?" is "How about them!"
posted by octobersurprise at 6:28 AM on October 21, 2011


Old Man McKay: "Furthermore, "we" sure as hell fits when it comes to something like college sports. My favorite college team is "we" to me. Those kids go to classes in the same place I did, eat at the same places I ate at, hang out at the same places I hung out. The kids on the team now aren't kids I know, but we share a common experience. Everywhere they go and everywhere I go for the rest of my life, we will identify with that school, because that school is family."

I agree with this. The only "we" I use for sports are the ones I'm actively doing, and my college. The kids at my college are part of my collective group (Sooners) so I feel comfortable using "we".
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:20 AM on October 21, 2011


That's some progress, in my opinion, and why the "we" is important in sports.

This defense of sports fanaticism — that it's better than war, which of course it is — seems to assume that people have a need for violent rivalry, a need so strong and so deep-seated that we can't hope, as a society, to just teach ourselves not to feel that way, but instead the best we can do is to channel it into relatively harmless forms like sports fanaticism. And Apple-bashing, I guess.

Do you believe that?

(Of course this has nothing to do with positive defenses of sports fanaticism, such as kalimac's eloquent one a couple comments ago, and several others upthread.)
posted by stebulus at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2011


Tribalism is profitable. I don't know if it's universal to human experience, but it'll be common for just as long as fans spend a lot of money.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:53 AM on October 21, 2011


Furthermore, "we" sure as hell fits when it comes to something like college sports. My favorite college team is "we" to me. Those kids go to classes in the same place I did, eat at the same places I ate at, hang out at the same places I hung out. The kids on the team now aren't kids I know, but we share a common experience.

Disagree. You don't train for hours every damn day, rain or shine, closely monitor your diet, suffer repeated injuries, repeated knee surgeries, etc. You've done none of the work it takes to be on the team. Specifically, what bristles me about fans using "we" is that I don't think they've earned it.

Funny that pointing this out is seen as "pretentious" -- on the contrary, it's pretentious and wrong to use "we" to include yourself in something you didn't work for. Hell, my ex-wife was a semi-pro athlete, and there was no "we" when referring to her efforts -- and I do believe we shared more "common experiences" than most fans do with their favored teams. She was a hell of a runner, and she worked her ass off for it. Of course I supported her where I could, drove her to events and cheered her victories, but it would be presumptuous and incorrect for me to claim equal credit for her hard work.

This is all very similar to waving a flag and calling oneself a "patriot" without having actually done a thing for one's country.
posted by LordSludge at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2011


Up next on the "Jokes Sports People Take Too Seriously" show:

American Football media commentators should stop calling the ball "The Football" so much. We know it's a football. We're watching football. We know which ball the football players are using. We are not confused, and we didn't think that perhaps the quarterback had accidentally thrown the baseball, the hockey puck, the lacrosse ball, the golf ball, the basketball, or the golden snitch. Just call it "the ball," please.

Preview Response: "Why are you getting after John Madden like that? When he was our coach (i.e. the coach of a team that I like), he coached us (i.e. the team I'm not on) very well and taught us to throw the football effectively. We (i.e. the fans of Mr. Madden's former team) do not always remember what type of ball is used in the game of Football, and therefore must be reminded by Fmr. Coach Madden on a regular basis of which ball is in play." (NOT RAIDERSIST [well, maybe a little])
posted by The World Famous at 9:40 AM on October 21, 2011


There's a concept in law called "standing" -- at its core is the idea that some people or entities have the right to raise certain grievances, and others do not.

Its application here? Beyond joking about this, which is fine so long as it's actually funny and not recycled, I'd be interested in whether athletes (the core "we") are bellyaching about this. Everyone else getting exercised (ha!) about this should just simmer down. That includes "us."

Especially, I think, sportswriters. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

P.S. If we really want to press the point, I'm not sure why team officials and employees, or even second-stringers, get the right. I mean, I can easily imagine some battered player, hearing from one of those quarters, saying "What's up with this 'we' stuff?"
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:40 AM on October 21, 2011


I'd be interested in whether athletes (the core "we") are bellyaching about this.

Who qualifies as an athlete?
posted by The World Famous at 9:46 AM on October 21, 2011


Who qualifies as an athlete?

Sorry. To be more specific, I am interested in complaints of the following kind: "I, a member of a team, have taken genuine offense -- or I know others on my team who have taken offense -- when others have affiliated themselves to my team by using 'we.'"

Not others objecting, not members of a team imagining they would be offended if someone said "we" about the Mudtown Maulers like you hear people say "we" about the Cowboys, etc.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:54 AM on October 21, 2011


I, a member of a team, have taken genuine offense -- or I know others on my team who have taken offense -- when others have affiliated themselves to my team by using "we."

How's that?
posted by The World Famous at 9:57 AM on October 21, 2011


I, a member of a team, have taken genuine offense -- or I know others on my team who have taken offense -- when others have affiliated themselves to my team by using "we."

How's that?


Good enough. So now the issue is, should you demur when someone does that in your presence? Or should we say that self-help isn't enough, and respond by seeking to alter the norms relating to its broader usage, with what otherwise seems like a reasonably pleasure-enhancing, community-building, kumbaya kind of practice, in deference to the N team members with legitimate grievances, and also the peevish?

I have cast my vote.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:04 AM on October 21, 2011


Oh, I don't care if the norms change. I think it's a funny phenomenon and just one of myriad weird and often annoying things about the culture of sports spectatorship.

I just think your standing argument is weird in that it seems to assume that somehow the people ind this thread who have expressed some annoyance or opposition to use of the term "we" by non-teammates have somehow lived their entire lives without ever having played any sort of team sport.
posted by The World Famous at 10:10 AM on October 21, 2011


The World Famous, I think we have roughly the same view. I did not mean to assume anything about each and every one of those expressing annoyance, but I do harbor the suspicion that many whose rights are being defended don't care or embrace the weirdness, while some objecting have never bristled at hearing the "we" used in connections with their teams.

It's a helpful way of thinking about whose ox is being gored, and whether they're the kind of people who are kind of into their oxen being gored. Wow, this just became kind of unpleasant.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2011


What LordSludge and others still don't seem to understand is the community aspect of the whole thing. We aren't talking about my dad driving me to a track meet and then saying "we did great today kid" when I came in first. That would be stupid.

We're talking about thousands or millions of people sharing a cultural experience. The relevant "we" isn't me+players, it's me+other fans. "We played great last night" isn't congratulating ourselves on a job well done, it's communicating our happiness with a shared experience.

A great surrealist art exhibit was in my city recently. No one would jump down my throat if I said "we were lucky to get that exhibit", even though I did no more to help the success of the exhibit than pay for admission. Ditto people saying "we sure put on a great Olympics last year" even if all they did was happen to live in Vancouver, or even Canada.

I don't really care if sports fans disagree on this stuff; I don't personally use "we" to refer to my teams, even though I'm on board with the sentiment. But I really hate that people who don't dig on sports for whatever reason have the temerity to tell us how to interact with something we love. We really, honestly aren't all a bunch of fat ex-jocks drinking budweiser and fantasizing about being part of the team. We're mostly just a bunch of nerds who really like watching sports.
posted by auto-correct at 11:41 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bullshit.

From the article - "Sure, they might require your money somewhere down the road"

Might? These teams exist to make money. The money comes from the fans.

Saying the fans aren't part of the team is like saying the owners aren't part of the team.

Go Pack
posted by Bonzai at 12:12 PM on October 21, 2011


So they're not "really" connected with the team? (Whatever that means?) Who the fuck are you?

I'm the guy who doesn't try to imply that I've accomplished something when all I've really done is sit on my ass and drink beer.

You must be the other guy.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:26 PM on October 21, 2011


Saying the fans aren't part of the team is like saying the owners aren't part of the team.

I'm part of Chevron because I bought gas this morning. GO CHEVS!!
posted by coolguymichael at 12:27 PM on October 21, 2011


I'd be interested in whether athletes (the core "we") are bellyaching about this.

The athletes, specifically pro athletes, are definitely NOT bellyaching about this at all. They know who really pays their salaries.

Also, how many times do you hear, "We wanted to win it for the fans," etc.

I can think of several baseball players who have reacted very strongly (i.e. tears) when learning they had been traded or not re-signed by their teams. They're crying because they love the community, and the fans are the #1 part of that.

If you don't play for, or you are not an employee of, the team in question, "we" is not the pronoun you're looking for. "They" is the word you want.

I know a million people have debunked that idiotic statement by now, but it's just so stupid.

There are myriad ways in which fans can contribute to the success of the team as a community, not just to its competitive success. Attending games and cheering is only the most obvious.

Detroit Baseball Fans Clean Up Site Of Tiger Stadium

It's like saying if you're not gay you can't say "we" when talking about gay rights. "We" is simply an indicator of your allegiances. If you use it with another person of undefined allegiances, sure, it's pretentious. But the overwhelming use of "we" is with people talking about a team that they both/all root for, and to pretend it's not is disingenuous.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:28 PM on October 21, 2011


I'm part of Chevron because I bought gas this morning. GO CHEVS!!

If you buy Chevron gas exclusively, then yes, you are a Chevron fan and can use the term "we" with my full support, regardless of whether or not you own part of the company.

You have a Chevron allegiance, if only by your implicit public statement that Chevron gas is superior. You have a vested interest in the company's success.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:31 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Researcher Ryan Boyko came up with the equation that for every extra 10,000 people in the crowd, the advantage for the home team increases by 0.1 goals.

Fan support offers a clear and measurable advantage to the team supported. Chris Jones is equating going to a sports game and going to the movies, but you generally get kicked out of the movies if you start yelling at the screen, and the events are predetermined so there's no reason to yell.

Fans say "we" because they are invested in the sporting process as it's happening. It is the uncertainty of the outcome that provides a sense of connection and hope and despair all at once. Hoping for a movie to turn out a certain way is futile, because it's always going to turn out one way whether you hope or not. Sports don't turn out differently because you hope they do, but those hopes aren't irrelevant either.

Telling people who are enjoying something that they're enjoying it wrong is pretty stupid.
posted by Errant at 12:46 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like saying if you're not gay you can't say "we" when talking about gay rights.

Could you give an example of the kind of statement you're thinking of here?

I would absolutely expect to offend if I implied I was a member of an oppressed group but hadn't undergone the same oppression. Solidarity notwithstanding.
posted by stebulus at 2:17 PM on October 21, 2011


Ditto people saying "we sure put on a great Olympics last year" even if all they did was happen to live in Vancouver, or even Canada.

FWIW, I have the same reservations about that usage. I wouldn't jump down your throat about it, but I would think it's weird, and if the context permitted, I might well want to ask you about the implications.
posted by stebulus at 2:31 PM on October 21, 2011


"We -- for clarity's sake, that excludes you lazy assholes in the stands -- are Marshall!"

I'm kind of coming around on this one.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:40 PM on October 21, 2011


Telling people who are enjoying something that they're enjoying it wrong is pretty stupid.

Oh, I don't know about that as a general rule. In this context, I think it's more a joke than anything else. But in other contexts, I can imagine a lot of scenarios where it would be totally appropriate to inform someone that they are enjoying something wrong. Putting skis on backwards, for example.
posted by The World Famous at 2:47 PM on October 21, 2011


But I really hate that people who don't dig on sports for whatever reason have the temerity to tell us how to interact with something we love.

If you're referring to me, you are making a false assumption. I love sports. I just don't have the temerity to take implied credit for work that I haven't done -- hence no "we".
posted by LordSludge at 4:08 PM on October 21, 2011


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