Sports Hate Is A Thing, But What Is It?

by Kevin Burton

   My mother used to get on me for saying I “hated’ certain sports figures or teams. She wanted me to say instead that I didn’t appreciate this or that about them.

  Well OK, call it sports hate then.

   When I say I love my wife and I also love Chili Cheese Fritos, I don’t use the word “love” in the same sense. So it is that my hate for communism and for Duke college basketball is not the same either. 

   Although in the latter case, it might be pretty similar.

   I found a writer online who agrees with my mother about “hating” sports teams. But before we get to him I will have my say. 

   The whole sociology and psychology of sports fascinates me.  Not enough books have been written on the subject. 

   My parents moved the family to southwest Ohio when I was seven, so in baseball I loved the Big Red Machine and I “hated” the Dodgers, their main challenger. 

   What if our family had moved to southern California?  Well I like to think I would have the good sense to root for the Angels instead of the Dodgers. But I sure wouldn’t have known or cared much about the Cincinnati Reds.  Sports hate starts with geography. 

   The baseball divisions have been realigned since then. There is no longer a logical reason for me to hate the Dodgers. I hate them anyway just for fun. 

   When I followed Cleveland Browns football and the team abandoned Cleveland for Baltimore, I did not wish for the new Ravens to lose all their games. I wished for them to be about 8-8, not good enough to make the playoffs, not bad enough to get a decent draft pick. 

   This was an advanced form of sports hate that still warms my heart when I think about it. 

   If there is a team that wins a lot or is perceived to get unfair advantages, fans outside their fan base will hate them.  Did national sports hate migrate from New England to Tampa Bay when Tom Brady made that move?

   If not at first, I say it has now. 

   In college basketball, the most hateable team is Duke.  The next bad call against them in crunch time will be the first.

   But what is a sports hater to do this year when Duke didn’t make the tournament?  I mean it’s OK, but I would rather have them get a bid, then miss key free throws late to lose to an underdog like Western Kentucky or South Dakota.  Advanced sports hate baby!

  OK, so let’s bring in Barnabas Piper.  He helps churches with leadership development. He roots for Minnesota sports teams and had a pretty good sports hate going for Packers quarterback Brett Favre back in the day.

   “Usually the word ‘hate’ means that one person wishes ill on another – injury, misfortune, or even death,” Piper writes. “Hate has no place in the heart of a Christian toward other people. So what does it mean if fans or players or coaches “hate” other fans players or coaches?”

   “In sports it often means exaggeration, the misuse of a strong word to mean something weak. When I said I hated Brett Favre I didn’t want him dead or injured.  I just couldn’t stand how he torched my favorite team,” Piper wrote. 

    Piper says sports hate comes from taking one’s personal identity from the performance of sports teams.

   “When we decide to find our identity in the performance of a team, a player or our own performance, we run a great risk,” he writes.

   “Too often we confuse winning with being superior. The inverse is that losing means we are inferior, and nothing is worse than that,” Piper writes.

   “Wins do matter and so do losses, but neither determine the value of the competitor or any fan wearing their colors,” Piper writes. “Losses sting. Wins exhilarate. Neither defines.”

   “When we lose this perspective we lose all the good that sport has to offer and we devolve into haters.”

   Piper’s approach is grown-up and enlightened and I for one will have nothing to do with it.

   I hate the Denver Broncos, I hate Chelsea FC from English Premier League soccer. When former Shocker Austin Reeves leaves Oklahoma college basketball, I’ll go back to hating them.

   I’ve got a good bit of sweat equity in sports hate and I’m not giving it up.  You gonna hate on me for that?

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