Sports Blog: On Facebook, Football, and Civility

Dr. Jonathan Millen

Associate Dean, Liberal Arts

Last Sunday I was in San Diego for a conference.  It’s a great city, though my thoughts today really have nothing to do with southern California.  Or maybe they do.  Shortly after arriving in the Mission Bay, I did what most people would do:  I checked in on Facebook.  Now my generation still is split on social networking.  Many of my friends (in the pre-millennial sense of the word) have written off Facebook for any number of reasons.  But here is why I am a big fan:  Not long after I checked in, I connected with a friend from high school (Millis High School, class of ’83 – GO MOHAWKS!) who lives in the area.  Before long, I was at The Tavern At The Beach watching the New England Patriots play the Oakland Raiders.  Had it not been for Facebook, I would have been just another out-of-towner sitting in a hotel bar cheering on my team in a sorry state of solitude.  Instead, I got to hang with Wendy who I had not seen in close to 15 years – thank you Facebook!

But here is what made the biggest impression on me:  Not only were there more than enough TVs at the bar to show every game, but also there were fans from every team gathered around in packs to cheer them on.  It was like being at the The Crayola Factory on adults-only day:  Kansas City fans in red, Minnesota fans in purple, Green Bay fans in green, Dallas fans in blue, and, well, you get the point.  So, it was me, Wendy, and about 10 other fans pulling for the Pats with just as many Oaklanders sitting right behind us.  Maybe it’s an east coast-west coast thing, but to my amazement everyone got along just fine.  With the number of games on, there always was a commotion reverberating from one corner of the Tavern.  But never was there a taunt, threat, or gesture of negativity to another group.  In fact, to my amazement, by the end of the game (Pats 31, Raiders 19) the New Englanders and Bay Area fans had developed a bizarre (at least to me) sense of camaraderie.

I have been to many cities to see my teams play:  I have seen the Sox, Pats, and Bruins all play in Philly; I also have seen the Pats play in New Jersey (as there is no NFL stadium in New York), New Orleans, and San Diego (different trip); and I have seen the Sox play in New York, Baltimore, and Tampa (Tampa Bay is not a city).   And when I go, I proudly wear my colors.  You can just imagine the welcomes I have received at Yankee Stadium, Citizen’s Field, and the Linc.  But nothing was as bad as my visit to Giants stadium (or whatever it now is called) to see the Pats-Jets game last year.  With my son by my side, we were cursed at, screamed at, threatened, and tormented.  And this was long before the Jets won the game.  It was so bad, that I would not go back.  It is a sad day in America, when a father can’t go to a football game with his son to cheer on their team without grown men (and women!) treating them as if they were enemies of the state.  And if you think I am exaggerating, think back to the senseless violence during San Francisco’s home opener.

There is nothing wrong with rivalries and zestful fandom.  But let’s all keep in mind the bigger picture.  A little civility on Sunday afternoons will go a long way.  We all could learn a lot from my new friends at the Tavern.

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