NFL: When Fan Obsession Becomes Harmful
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What is it about modern sports that causes us to blatantly magnify the major gaffes athletes make?
In the recent NFL playoffs, this happened all too often.
Death threats? Yes, some fans felt this was appropriate.
Scorn has been directed at other players as well. Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff and Patriots receiver Wes Welker are also enduring their share of disdain and ridicule.
Cundiff missed a field goal that most viewed as a chip shot that would've sent the Ravens to overtime in the AFC Championship. Welker got two hands on what would've been a game-changing Super Bowl reception.
Williams, Cundiff, and Welker are now all left to dwell upon these mistakes for the coming weeks, months and even years. Such occurrences can't be blotted out from their memory in a couple days. These falters will linger in their minds and most definitely sting.
The reality is that these types of unfortunate blunders are bound to happen. They're attached to sports. Athletes, if you haven't noticed, aren't perfect and even those on the biggest stage make untimely gaffes.
It's understood that certain miscues are going to be scrutinized. That's a necessary part of analyzing sports. What's unnecessary is the excessive scrutiny, in which players literally become objects of wrath, mockery, and hatred.
Unfortunately, this reveals more about the despicable nature of our sports culture than it does the fervency of sports fans.
Kenny Williams, father of Kyle Williams and general manager of the Chicago White Sox, was quoted on ESPN.com, "I'm used to the years of criticism and threats on my life from time to time, but I have to hear about threats on your son's life while you're watching TV, and it certainly makes you question our culture of sports as it stands."
These recent situations are definitely not the only examples in which athletes have received sheer derision from sports culture. This has been occurring for years, but it's increasingly prevalent today because of social media.
Fans no longer vent to themselves, the neighbor, or the dog, but they go public with it (via Facebook, Twitter, and discussion boards).
Heck, fans can even tweet at players these days, giving them the opportunity to voice personal displeasure if they feel so obliged.
There comes a point with this where it doesn't just go "over the top," but ultimately reveals that sports fanaticism can be a harmful thing.
Frustration over untimely sports errors is one thing, but hatred and unceasing contempt over these faults are beyond unfortunate. Such attitudes are travesties and completely disrespect the sports we enjoy and the players we love.
Truthfully, such inordinate mockery ultimately reveals a fan's naivete. It's incongruous to treat athletes the way we sometimes do. It completely overlooks their ability to make mistakes, and it places them on an insecure pedestal in which success is always expected.
So, what is it about our sports culture that causes us to magnify the blatant stumbles?
Well, there appear to be a handful of factors, but allowing one's fan idolatry to trump a respect for the game and its players is disturbing.
It's time for us fans to recognize when we step out of bounds. Players already feel utterly awful for these mistakes, evidenced by Welker's post-Super Bowl comments. According to ESPN.com, he stated, "It's a play I never drop. Most critical situation, and I let the team down."
Athletes already feel terrible about their embarrassing plays and certainly don't need bitter, naive fans adding to the noise.
Fan frustration in moderation is undoubtedly warranted and understood, but crucifying athletes is a sad indicator of the current status of modern sports culture.
Such attitudes extract the fun from sports and warp these events into more than what they are.
Perhaps we actually need to chew on the cliche phrase, "It's just a game."
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