Sports Hate is something every sports fan understands. It is that irrational feeling that takes hold of you whenever your least favorite athlete, team, college, official, or sport shows up. It is vital to fandom. Sometimes it is even stronger than sports love. You aren’t a real fan unless you hate something.
A few months ago, I broached the concept of Sports Hate in my award-winning article “Sports Hate: Why I Hate Lebron James.” * Since that time, I have entered into countless conversations about the topic of Sports Hate. [These usually consisted of me saying, “Have you read my article on Sports Hate?” and a random stranger running to find a police officer.] Clearly, this is a topic that needs further exploration.
Hatred is a bad thing. If you don’t believe me, just tell someone that you hate another person. “Man, I hate Jarrett,” you might say to your friend, Daniel. I almost guarantee that Daniel’s eyes will bug out. He will look shocked. “That is pretty strong, man. Why do you say that?” You would have to have a pretty good reason to justify that statement. “He dresses weird. He looks like a weasel. He has fleas.” Those won’t cut it. It needs to be something REALLY bad. “He stole my identity and took a vacation to Cabo with my credit card.” [Well, unless you post it on Facebook. Then you can just say anything you want. But that is a different post.] This is not the case with Sports Hate. Sports Hate doesn’t need a good reason. It doesn’t need justification. And it is perfectly acceptable and understandable to sports fans everywhere.
Let us take an example that should resonate with anyone who has ever watched ESPN or has any working knowledge of the sports universe. You have the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. If you are a Yankee fan, you hate the Red Sox. If you are a Red Sox fan, you are a moron. Sorry. See?!? That is exactly what I’m talking about. I grew up a Yankee fan and have hated the Red Sox for as long as I knew that team existed. Even though I no longer cheer for the Yankees due to the fact that they are a bunch of dirty steroid popping cheaters, I still detest the Red Sox. I loathe them. There is no good reason for this, aside from the fact I used to cheer for the Yankees. When Boston won the World Series in 2004, that was a great story. A casual fan would have been thrilled for a team to shake “the curse” and get a title. I wanted someone to break news that the Red Sox were caught in the locker room jamming needles full of steroids into the baseballs and filling their bats with HGH infused cork so that they had to forfeit. I wanted them to keep suffering. I didn’t want to hear about it. I wanted them to suffer forever in silence.
Now I am a relatively reasonable guy. I function well in society. I don’t fly off the handle in traffic and go beat some dingbat who misses a green light with a tire iron. I teach young people about test preparation. That is a respectable job. I stay home with our three kids. People trust me. But when it comes to sports, there are certain teams or athletes or executives or sports that make me lose my mind. I turn into a shark that smells blood. My eyes roll back in my head, my logic sensors shut off, my teeth bare. It is like I almost black out. Then I attack. I come to like Bradley Cooper in Limitless. I have no idea what I just did.
I grew up in the state of Florida, where we have some very deep Sports Hate veins running. The biggest is Florida/Florida State. But there are also several others: FSU/The U, UF/UGA, UCF/USF, The U/Notre Dame (1980s & 1990s), Miami Dolphins/The Month of December, Jacksonville Jaguars/Relevance. Aside from the UF/FSU and the UF/UGA battles, the rest of those pale in comparison to some of the big Sports Hate pairings out in the sports world. Michigan/Ohio State, Auburn/Alabama, Clemson/USC, Redskins/Cowboys, USC/UCLA, Lakers/Celtics. These are legendary showdowns, like the Hatfields and McCoys of old. You have to pick a side. I always find it ridiculous when someone tries to pick both sides of one of these battles. You can’t do that! If you like the Raiders, you CANNOT like the Chargers. It doesn’t work. If you do that, you aren’t really a sports fan.
Beyond the obvious, starter-set Sports Hate pairings, a true sports fan will also develop completely random hatreds for other entities that do not have a logical connection. I am a UCF grad and fan. Our natural rival is USF. I grew up as Georgia fan, so naturally I hate UF. But why do I hate Duke basketball so much? (That will be a later post.) Or why do I hate Ohio State or Alabama football? If I say I hate the Miami Heat (which I do), people would understand because I am an Orlando Magic fan. But if I say I hate the Atlanta Braves, well, that is just weird. It is a little bit more understandable with a team. A lot of people have developed intense Sports Hate for the New England Patriots because they are so successful (plus the fact that they are like toddlers, testing every rule as far as possible before getting their hands swatted). A person with a particularly negative experience in a city may hate the teams from that city. “I got mugged in San Antonio one time. So I can’t stand the Spurs.”
But then there is the Sports Hate for an individual player. As I have already confessed, I hate Lebron James. I wish that was the extent of my list. Nope. I have a very long list of athletes that I cannot stomach, and an even longer list of former athletes that irritated me no end. I couldn’t stand John Elway, Bill Lambier, Joe Montana, Larry Bird, Jeff Hornacek, Karl Malone, Dale Murphy, George Brett, Christian Laettner, or Larry Bird. (I really hated Larry Bird.) In the modern ranks, I would put Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriquez, Johnny Manziel, Eli Manning, and Alex Ovechkin (he plays hockey, people) on my Hate List. Then there are those players who I used to love and then was betrayed by. This is the worst kind of Sports Hate. A betrayed sports fan turns into an angry ex-spouse. Shaq and Dwight Howard are two scumbags that fit into that mold. As I mentioned in my Lebron piece, my hatred is not because these are bad guys. They just are irritating players. And this position is not unredeemable. I could not stand Reggie Miller his entire career – from UCLA on through Indiana. But now, I think he’s a great analyst and really funny guy. He is on The Dan Patrick Show every week and I look forward to his segments. I used to hate Peyton Manning and now I only dislike him.
To really be a sports fan, you have to have Sports Hate. I would even go so far as to say that sports fans are even more defined by the teams, players, and executives they hate than the ones they like. Most sports fans have had to go through a lull, where their team is terrible. I definitely have experienced this. In those lean years, sometimes they only redeeming event is when your hated opponent gets beat. I remember when I was growing up and the Dallas Cowboys had a terrible year. They ended up 1-15. What was the one win? Against the Redskins. That made the year better. Yes, the Cowboys were terrible, but the Redskins were humiliated by the loss. When I was in high school, our football team was putrid. They lost every game my senior year except one. We won our last game against Palm Beach Gardens, which knocked them out of the district playoff race. You would think we had won the title. Watching someone else be miserable is the next best thing to being happy, when it comes to sports. We love our teams, but we HATE our Sports Hate targets. Someone needs to take advantage of this and develop a line of “anti-jerseys” for players. A player like Kobe or Lebron would be thrilled to make twice the money. A player like A-Rod would melt down. Even better!
Sports Hate is a necessary element of sports fandom. It makes the experience richer when you have both a rooting interest in who wins AND who loses. NFL Sunday becomes so much more fun when you can watch the 1pm game to root for Jaguars and then the 4pm game to root against the Raiders. Let’s be honest, the Olympics haven’t been nearly as fun since Communism died. That was part of the fun. When some East German choked in the hammer toss and you could scream, “Take that you roided up Commie turd!” That made you feel alive, didn’t it? The 1980 “Miracle on Ice’’ was so memorable because it was against those Soviet pinkos. No one remembers that the gold medal game was AFTER that match because it was against some Nordic country. It was beating the Soviets that mattered. For the Red Sox, beating the Yankees in the ALCS was 100 times harder than winning the World Series. The Series was almost an afterthought. Winning a title is great; beating your Sports Hate target to win it is better; winning it on the enemy’s home turf and watching their sniveling fans cry is perfection. So let your Sports Hate consume you. Learn to love the Hate.
* Award Winner for the Josiah Staples “That Was Pretty Good, Dad” Award, 2015