Mundane confession time: The only sport that I really have any emotional investment in is baseball. Specifically the Blue Jays. That might change in the next few months for a bit if the Oilers and Raptors go deep into the playoffs, but when it comes down to it, I would trade away any and all of the Oiler’s Stanley Cup wins for a Jays’ World Series win.
Whether or not you give a rat’s ass about sports or not, I don’t think you can deny that there’s some sort of primitive cultural purpose behind sports fandom. Hell, I’m not exactly breaking new ground when I say that sports have really just become a socially acceptable way to fight wars. Except instead of the regional, cultural and socio-political differences between Quebec and Ontario being solved through one party repeatedly bashing the other’s head in with a tough, spherical object, they are instead resolved through the Leafs and the Habs putting rubber disks into nets and sometimes punching each other, as the Senators sadly watch them from afar, yearning to be one of the two teams that first lept to my mind to use for this metaphor.
But it also goes without saying that this obsession with sports as an outlet for the undying rage that comes with the territory of existing can reach a breaking point. Sports fandom can result in aggression and violence, a phenomenon sociologists refer to as “grown-ass adults behaving like goddamn children because of a f****** ball game”. And nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than on the internet.
The prevalence of forums and subreddits has allowed for fans to create neotribal communities dedicated to their favourite teams and players. There’s nothing particularly sinister about this. At the very least, it gives us some solid gifs.
The phenomena arises when these groups make a habit of dehumanizing entire groups of people because of their allegiance to a group of millionaires paid to throw a ball. These subreddits and forums becaome echo chambers of venom. And it’s awesome.
I’m obviously not advocating bullying or anything, but I think that as outlets for aggression go, tongue-in-cheek cussing out of other fanbases is a pretty harmless way to go about it. Just, as is the case with everything, don’t go overboard with it.
Unless you are, or are associated with, a Texas Rangers fan. In that case, you deserve everything you have coming to you.