The Hate U Give (by Rooting for Your Favorite Football Team)


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The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and, for the 11th time, the Patriots are in it. You may feel one of three ways about this: very excited, very annoyed, or very indifferent. In a big picture sense, I’m indifferent, but as a football fan, I’m pretty annoyed, and my kids have probably caught on to this. We’re a Steelers household and as interconference rivals with the Patriots, we’ve been competing against them for quite some time. The fact that they’re in the Super Bowl again means our team lost… again. Boo hoo. No fun.

Football fans and sports fans, in general, use some pretty strong words when talking about their opposing teams. I’m guilty of this, too. For college football, I have a short list of schools I hate. I hate their teams and when I hear that someone graduated from that school, they go down a notch in my book. It’s utterly ridiculous, I know, but anyone who’s gone to a big, sports-centered university can relate.

This idea that we build team spirit out of hate for the other guys instead of on pride for our team is a slippery slope. It’s the same playbook used for really dangerous kinds of hate — the prejudice that leads to discrimination and violence against people who are different from us. One day I will write a dissertation about it, but for now, I’ll say this: 

Healthy competition and the “us against them” mentality are not the same things. This is pretty basic stuff we teach our kids — to be kind and to not judge someone for superficial things — but somehow we forget this lesson when it comes to the “harmless” past time of watching sports.

While we’re watching the big game, though, our kids are watching us and how we react to the victories and losses we share with our favorite teams. 

Even though I will most definitely be rooting against the Patriots on Sunday, I won’t be calling them names as I do it. Instead, I’ll focus on cheering for the Rams (even though I’m actually pretty indifferent towards them and interference definitely should have been called in the NFC Championship game). 

If someone asks, “Why don’t you want the Patriots to win,” the easy answer would be, “They’re cheaters,” but a more constructive answer will be, “There are at least two significant times that they have been caught cheating (Spygate and Deflategate) in the recent past. While there’s no doubt they have a lot of talent on their team and on their coaching staff, I do not want to cheer for a team like that. Also, they’re jerks.” Kidding about that last part! But do you see how much easier it is to slide in an immature jab than give valid reasons for feeling the way you feel?

And if you can’t think of any legitimate reasons for your biases — in sports or in the world at large — then maybe you should think about the Hate U Give



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