Just prior to the Houston Texans inaugural season in 2002, Sports Illustration wrote an article that opened with, “When I was born the first thing my mother said to me was ‘You hate the Dallas Cowboys.'” It was a quote from a fan of the newest NFL team. His mother had been a fan of the Houston Oilers before they moved to Tennessee and were renamed the Titans. Despite the team’s move, this fan and his mother continued to hate the Dallas Cowboys. They were delighted that professional football was returning to Houston.
My son read the article and then asked me, “Was that the first thing you told me? ‘You hate the Dallas Cowboys'” I responded that it was not the first thing, but it was something that I said to him soon afterward and often. The Cowboys are division rivals of our beloved Redskins. Our hatred is not limited to the Dallas Cowboys; we also hate the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants for exactly the same reason.
Football fans are a passionate bunch who wear their loyalties proudly. Some paint their faces, while others paint their bodies. Packers fans wear cheese-shaped hats and refer to themselves as CheeseHeads. Steelers fans wave Terrible Towels, while Saints fans hold signs reading “Who Dat?” The Redskins’ best known fans are the Hogettes, a group of men who wear dresses and hog noses to each game.
With such devoted fans, it is to be expected that emotions run high during games. Sometimes this passion carries into everyday life, and fans start to hate not only their biggest rivals, but also fans of their biggest rivals. I have a friend Larry who is a passionate Dallas Cowboy fan. We attend the same church and enjoy ribbing each other. One week Larry’s daughter overheard her father say that he hated me. Larry’s daughter is one of the girls I teach at church and one of the lesson I teach is to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27, 28) Larry’s daughter was horrified that her father could hate her teacher. Of course, Larry quickly explained the difference between ‘sports hate’ and real hate and that he only hates me when it comes to football.
Occasionally passionate sports fans get confused between ‘sports hate’ and real hate. When this happens, frustrated fans tend to take out their disappointment on their sports enemies, better known as the other team’s fans. This type of violence is not limited to football fans.Tragically, this happened last year at Dodger Stadium when a Giants fan was badly beaten on the opening day of the baseball season.
As a new football season begins, I hope that all football fans will remember to leave the tackles and blows to the players on the football field. Cheer your favorite team on with gusto and passion, but remember when the game is over, it’s time to treat your enemies with love and respect. This year let’s modify the words of Christ to say, “Love your football rivals and treat with respect to the fans of the teams who compete against your team, bless those whose teams outscore yours, and pray for those fans who taunt you after a victory.”