Howard's Rock, Toomer's Corner...What's Next, Sooner Schooner? Touchdown Jesus?
Clemson revealed to the world Wednesday that Howard's Rock had been vandalized, including a piece of the rock being broken off as the vandals broke the surrounding casing. The centerpiece of one of college football's most visible traditions has been damaged.
Here is where you're supposed to say it is a shame. That you hate that this happened. That this radical fan does not represent the vast majority of fair-minded supporters of college athletics..
And that is all probably true. But it doesn't hide this fact. A real problem exists and the problem is fans. Although we do not know just who vandalized Howard's Rock, now is as good a time as any to point out that fans are a problem in and of themselves.
It is not the spoiled athlete or the coach who makes too much money that is ruining the game. It is the entitled, self-important fan who takes it upon himself to become a part of the story. It's the fan who injects himself into the mix because just reading and watching the game is not enough.
It's understandable. You get pumped up on the Internet anonymity fuel and all of a sudden your voice matters as much as anyone else's. You get to be ugly because, well, because why not?
Of course, Harvey Updyke and the Alabama "teabagger" are the extreme. They act on the things that so many fans just say behind the safety of the Internet. They poison trees. They do the unspeakable to the opposing teams fans. They do it. It is those guys.
Yet, in the grand scheme of things, they are speaking from the same place as ranting YouTube guy, drive-by Twitter angry lady and malicious-talking Internet poster. A place of hate. A place where sports, in this case college football, become about more than teams competing for a win.
A place that is rooted in hatred.
Being labeled a "big sports fan" has become something some folks want to avoid. Not because the majority of sports fans are lunatics, but because the lunatics have tainted the term. By berating athletes on Twitter and Facebook or going to the extremes like Updyke, they have wrestled control away from the masses.
If you're a sports fan, the time has passed for merely saying this is sad. Stand up. Take sports back from the hands of the lunatic fringe. Grab control of the wheel. Make sure people know that being a lunatic is not acceptable. That is it not cute or funny. That it certainly does not mean they love that sport or that team more than anyone else.
Look, if you revel in hating a player or a team more than you enjoy the game itself, that's a problem. If you take more pleasure in someone else's team losing than in your team's winning, then perhaps sports aren't for you.
As for Howard's Rock, here's to hoping it was not an angry fan.
Sports are supposed to be an escape, but a lot of times the crazed fans just make us want to escape from sports.
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