Jeter, St. Louis fans and Michigan Football: Making sense of our need for sports to mean more
On Twitter there exists an account called “Baseball’s Best Fans” (@BestFansStLouis) that is quite possibly the best thing on Twitter or at the very least my favorite thing on Twitter. Its name comes from the self-appointed title of St. Louis Cardinals fans, a title they awarded themselves based on the idea they are the nicest and most knowledgeable fans in all of baseball. The aforementioned Twitter account serves to retweet and display racist, misogynistic, homophobic and overall downright awful tweets by Cardinals fans.
The Michigan Wolverines are currently 2-2 which is only noteworthy in how unsurprising it truly is. The team is 23-25 since firing Loyd Carr seven years ago. They have not been a particularly relevant football team on the national scale in a long time, a fact that upsets their fan base who believe that Michigan football is the shining light for which all other collegiate athletic programs should aspire, an impossible combination of athletics, class and winning football that sounds like something out of a fairy tale. Basically Michigan has the same problem that Notre Dame football has except all things considered, Notre Dame football has been considerably more successful nationally in my lifetime than Michigan has. Regardless, both schools are disdained by other fan bases for well, being boughie as fuck.
In case you don’t have television or internet and therefore may somehow not be aware, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter played his final home game this week. He drove in the game winning run with a walk off single and Yankee stadium turned into a 50,000 person orgy give or take a few people. I actually have had to avoid social media for a day, less I be inundated with not only posts crediting Jeter’s courage and class and timing and “clutchness” but equally as many posts deriding anyone that didn’t agree and questioning the very fabric of their soul for not recognizing that the world’s greatest human had played his last game in New York City and for being a “hater”. With the Legend D2J leaving us, it wasn’t enough for his extensive fan club to applaud him, they had to make sure that anyone who didn’t agree (including ESPN’s Keith Olbermann who did a scathing 7 minute segment on the Yankee star) was marked with the Scarlet H for Hater because how could you not appreciate a baseball player with the class of one Derek Sanderson Jeter.
These three items either have nothing to do with each other or everything to do with each other.
Anyone that has read my work before has bared witness to me spelling out my overt love of sports and its characters. I spend more time thinking about and discussing them than anything else in my life, including my job. While they admittedly mean too much to me, the way we discuss them drives me insane. Professional and even more so collegiate sports are a game, played by adults to serve as a distraction from the rigors of everyday life for other adults. That is all they are and these crazy ideas that they mean more than that are dangerous.
We do not need sports leagues or the men who run them to serve as my moral compass. I know right from wrong, regardless of whether or not Roger Goodell and the NFL do. These men are not heroes or inspirations and “classy” seems like the strangest possible adjective to assign to an athlete or a fan base. The Cardinals fan base is not quantifiably better than any other fan base on the planet. It is made of human beings that are a direct subset of society in general in that some are pretty good people and some are pretty shitty people and most of them are probably a little bit of both. Michigan Football is not a higher deity than any other collegiate football program. They are trying to win football games using unpaid college athletes and are held to the same set of standards and regulations that every other school within their governing body is. Derek Jeter is not Mahatma Ghandi, his retirement does not leave a void in society or even the game of baseball itself. You can be personally sad that he is leaving but nobody else is under any obligation to feel any such way.
Hero worship in itself is not the worst thing in the world but we have to remember something; these are just humans we are worshipping. Two years ago I wrote about the perils of this, questioning why we keep building up these incredibly fallible men only to tear them down later. That’s the flip side of holding a player or team or fan base to a higher standard, up on a pedestal as a shining beacon of light, it exposes the world to their flaws and suddenly we are shown that the thing we believed was better than us all is really just the same.