The best part about being a sports fan is the territorial nature that comes with it. Most White Sox fans hate the Cubs. Most Mets fans hate the Yankees (but so does everyone else). Every Eagles fan hates the Cowboys and vice versa. The rivalries and contempt that several fanbases have for one another are an enormous draw. It makes being in the crowd more fun for everyone. Are you telling me that participating in the songs that European soccer fans sing to heckle their opponents wouldn’t be fun? Are you telling me the tradition of San Jose Sharks’ fans yelling “Hey (insert opposing team’s city/state here)! YOU SUCK!” during the national anthem isn’t fun for the fans? Sure, it might be a little immature, but it’s harmless fun that — as long as it doesn’t elevate to the point of harassing opposing players or teams — makes the environment at any sporting event that much more enjoyable.
The best part about heckling is finding something that gets under your opponent’s skin, something that makes the opposing fanbase’s smiles turn upside down and their brows sweat — but like I said, only as long as it is not harassment or perpetuating harm. Mocking the Astros for what happened in 2017 — totally respectable. Heckling Tom Brady by yelling “SysTom” — hilarious.
But apparently, making the “Horns Down” symbol against the University of Texas is going too far.
“Horns Up” is a common phrase used by the Longhorn faithful to express support for their team. The gesture involves making horns with your hands. “Horns Down” is merely an inverse of the “Horns Up” gesture meant to express dismay toward the Longhorns. It’s a classic inversion of another team’s war cry used to mock them — you know, normal fan activities. However, college football season hasn’t even started and the Big 12 is already bowing down to UT. To imply that one team can do something, but the moment their opposition does a slight variation of that something — which doesn’t insight violence, mind you — it’s wrong?
That makes about as much sense as the plot of The Last Jedi.
Instead of getting so upset at a hand gesture that doesn’t mean anything, why not just beat your opponents so badly that they can’t make fun of you? Huh? If Philadelphia Phillies’ slugger Bryce Harper wants people to stop yelling “o-ver-ra-ted’’ at him, he’ll need to hit some more dingers in front of people who shout it at him. As Max Muncy once said, if Madison Bumgarner doesn’t want him to stare and watch his moonshot home runs, then “go get it out of the ocean.” After Tyreek Hill flashed the peace sign to the Bucs while scoring a touchdown last season, Tampa Bay’s Antoine Winfield deserved an opportunity to flash that same sign back while his team was crushing Kansas City in the Super Bowl. The NFL fining Winfield for doing so was not only hypocritical in every sense of the word, but just plain weak.
Texas needs to stop being so soft. Forcing your opponents to shut up will only do more harm than good. You think it’s done the Astros any favors that they’ve been so adamant about not deserving all the hate they’ve been getting? You think it’s done them any favors that their ballpark staff has confiscated signs and shirts making fun of their team? No! That has only fanned the flame and made the contempt for Houston stronger.
The Big 12 made a huge mistake with this new rule. If they are trying to protect UT, this will only make everyone go after them harder. This decision only limits trash talk on one side. It shows favoritism and encourages fans to treat the Texas Longhorns differently than other teams — exactly like the Big 12 is doing. Let the fans have some fun. If you’re a Texas fan, don’t be mad at opposing fans for making the gesture. Be mad at your team for not being a serious title contender since 2009, because let’s face it, if the tables were turned and it was Oklahoma getting upset at something Longhorns fans were doing, those same fans wouldn’t hesitate to laugh at Oklahoma’s expense.