Sports fans are a weird bunch. I know this, because I am one. As we grow, it’s important to analyze our own thoughts and biases, and why we feel the way we do about things. The way we feel about teams and players should be no different. How many times have you had a conversation about an athlete or a team and the person you’re talking to you responds with, “Ugh, I hate them!”? It happens all the time — but, why?
Growing up, I watched sports with my dad. By the time I was probably ten years old, I very firmly knew that I hated the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Boston Celtics. I couldn’t tell you why. I had no idea. All I knew was that we hated them. Bill Cowher would be on the sideline with his sharp jaw and his moustache and my dad would mutter, “Ugh, I hate that guy.” Yeah, that’s right, dad. We hate that guy. Here’s the thing – I grew up in Portland, Oregon. Why did I (we) hate teams from Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Boston?
My dad is from Los Angeles. He is and always has been a lifelong Lakers fan. Even decades after the clashes of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the rivalry remained in his heart, and he made sure to pass down that hatred for the Kelly Green. He formed his own hatred for the Steelers and the Cowboys, likely because, at one point, they were both dominant franchises that his Rams couldn’t get past. Again – he made sure to pass that on.
As the years went on, there became other teams – and players – to hate. The evil empire began to build in New England, promptly earning the disdain of my father and I. Tom Brady with his sideline antics and hissy fits, and Bill Belichick with his stoic douchebaggery, on top of beating my father’s Rams (who he continued to support after they moved to St. Louis) made them an easy target for his ire.
Why would I dislike the Celtics, for instance? My Blazers have never been affected by them. I have no reason to dislike them. So, why was I holding onto the biases of my father? That’s a dislike that I’ve let go of. The other ones, however, I’ve formed my own opinions on. I dislike the Steelers supporting a rapist quarterback for the last 17 years. I dislike Jerry Jones being an ignorant stooge who is against racial injustice.
Rivalries aside, which make total logical sense to be competitive with and are a cornerstone of American sports, and putting aside disliking individual players or teams because of individual wrongdoings (which I’m all for), I find sports hatred to be fascinating. There is massive general hate for Tom Brady, LeBron James, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Lakers, etc. That hatred, in my opinion, is because we as sports fans hate anything that doesn’t support our biases.
We hate greatness, because we as sports fans feel this weird sense of protectiveness over our idols. We can’t possibly embrace LeBron because he’s viewed as a threat to Michael Jordan. (Please, save the LeBron vs MJ debate for another space. It’s tired.) We hate Tom Brady because he stood in the way of or directly punished our favorite teams for nearly two decades. We hate the New York Yankees in large part because they were at one point dominant and seem to have the ability to buy or assemble whatever roster they choose. We hate everything from Los Angeles, because Los Angeles is Los Angeles.
Instead of hating greatness, we should revel in it. A week from this Sunday, the old guard of the most hated player in the league, Tom Brady, will face off with a young phenom that has already won an MVP, and a Super Bowl, and is on his way back for another opportunity. I can already feel the tide turning on Patrick Mahomes, and the voices of the masses are starting to sour on him. Chirps of “he’s overrated,” “he can never do what Brady has done,” and “it’s only because of his team” are already starting. Patrick Mahomes and the greatness he displays is a threat to the idols and the records of old, and the hatred is starting to grow.
If he beats Brady for his second Super Bowl, the once-beloved electrifying young talent will become a polarizing conversation piece. At some point, I just know that I’m going to get an, “Ugh, I hate that guy.”