I live in Seattle, home of many unique things including the Space Needle and the Seattle Seahawks who are said to be the best team in the NFL. Yesterday, “our team” beat the New Orleans Saints to advance one step closer to the Super Bowl, and Century Link Field was packed with rabid fans even though Seattle was experiencing what can only be described as an onslaught of terrible weather. The wind was blowing up to forty miles per hour and torrents of rain were pouring down, while the “12th Man” fans did their best to help the stadium live up to its distinction as the loudest such place in the world.
Meanwhile, lots of the citizens of Seattle and the surrounding area have been “supporting our team” by wearing the jerseys, hats and other expensive paraphernalia that the Seahawks marketing machine have convinced people are important. In many local stores, clerks and managers alike were decked out in Seahawks blue and green. It’s almost as it were a religious event, and everywhere people were talking about how great “we” are and how what “we” will do to win the game.
I continue to rhetorically ask, “What do any of these people have to do with this team of oversized, semi-mature, just-past-adolescent young males (I would not call them men) who are willing to sacrifice their health and well being for a large, short-term paycheck?” The 106 (53 per team) males who took to the field yesterday in Seattle are not committed to anything in the local community of the team that they play for, except when they land an endorsement for a local bank, car dealership or other commercial venture.
They don’t play for Seattle or New Orleans because they are loyal devoted sons of the community. Most of them don’t live or settle permanently in the communities that they play for, and they are willing to transfer to another team that will pay them more money.
For professional sports players, it’s all about the money, and in an ironic twist of fate, the majority of them will be broke or bankrupt within a few years of completing their “professional career.” Still, these players are entitled to say, “we won, we made the plays” and perhaps “we are the champions.”
That is not true for the millions of fans who do the same. People who sit at home or on a bar stool, drinking beer and yelling at a TV screen have no authority to say the same - but they do. They continually and loudly proclaim, “we did it, we won, we are the champions” when they have nothing to do with the events that take place on the field. In fact, most of these sports champion wannabes probably couldn’t sprint the length of the football field if their lives depended on it.
They are spectators, not participants, and if the old adage “how you do anything is how you do everything” is true, they are probably doing the same thing in other aspects of their lives. They sit in the bleachers observing the world and making a commotion, but they rarely do anything to contribute to the world or make a difference.
This is the context of what’s happening in America, and the sports field is simply one more example of how a bunch of passive, loud people have taken center stage in Seattle and the rest of the country. Nowhere is that more evident than on the younger sports fields where loud, obnoxious parents sit in the stands screaming at their participating athlete children and the adult coaches. The parents don’t participate in getting the job done, but they feel that they have the right to come to games and “sideline coach” with embarrassingly boisterous commentary and actions.
And this is what we are teaching our children, as so many of them aspire to be professional athletes and wear expensive copies of their sports hero jerseys, shoes and anything else that sports marketing can convince them is a necessity to be in and cool. Sports were created for participation, not for entertainment. If you want entertainment, read a book or go to a play.
However, the next time that you feel inclined to put on that baseball cap or t-shirt “supporting” your favorite team, consider what you’re really doing. Unless you play on the team, own it or work for it, it’s not your team. Paul Allen has earned the right (actually he bought the right) to say, “we won” when the Seahawks win. So do all the players on the Seahawks as well as Pete Carroll and the coaches.
People who fly a “12” flag (representing the marketing ploy of the “so important” 12th Man on the team) on their car have not earned or bought the right to claim ownership of the win. And most of these folks are very silent when “their team” loses or doesn’t even make the playoffs. That’s the usual environment in the small market city of Seattle.
People here don’t usually get all excited about such things because the pro teams here rarely win. So, it’s naturally easier to get people excited when the rare winning team occurs - even if the spectators have nothing to do with the team other than buying a cap or t-shirt.
So, remember, win or lose - it’s not your team. Sports were not created to be watched. Sports, like all aspects of life, is about participation, not sitting on the sideline watching and criticizing. Perhaps, it’s time we all get off the couch and do something to make a difference.