Confessions of a diehard fan

Tyler Gunhus discusses the convergence of maintaining a Christlike attitude while still participating in fandom at sporting events.

Tyler Gunhus, Writer

I had the privilege of getting to see both my younger brothers play basketball for my old high school this past winter. Although making a thousand-mile commute back to Seattle for every game was out of the question and existed only as a fantasy, I made the most of the time when I was home.

While at one of their games, I found myself looking through the program and reading up on the different players. On the back of the program, though, was a list of guidelines on how fans should act during the games. The list included regulations such as “No shouting during free throws,” “Only perform cheers led by the cheerleaders,” and “No booing.” Under the list was a warning that anyone partaking in these actions would be asked to leave, followed by a reminder to show good sportsmanship just as Christ would.

I frowned after seeing this. Sure, it was a high school game, and maybe with issues the school had in the past, it was necessary. The problem wasn’t that the school was implementing these cautions, but rather they implied that these actions of normal fan participation should be avoided by all Christians.

I was overtaken with despair. Was I a bad Christian because I occasionally liked to give the ref a piece of my mind? Did trying to cause a ruckus with my buddies while showing school spirit mean that I was taking away from glorifying God?

Can Christians be true fans?

Now it’s perfectly plausible that I am making a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be. Having grown up in a family obsessed with the game of soccer, I will be the first to admit that getting rowdy at games is something I take a bit too far. Soccer fans are notorious for their booming chants,  and crazy in-game antics riddled with profanities, so it makes sense that I would be so riled up by someone questioning my actions. I would go as far to say that my own passion for attending and supporting athletic teams is borderline unhealthy.

Fandom is an interesting facet of sporting events. Most people will agree there is a proverbial line of respect that you don’t cross. Ever. The problem is not everyone is always aware of that line, and what is more, the line is surrounded by a good deal of gray area. Cheering and waving an oversized head of one of the star players while the opposition shoots free throws may be fine for some, yet morally repulsive to others.

Unfortunately, a divide of passion for sports often exists between these two kinds of sporting event attendees. Some people will tell you that you should cheer for both teams, and in the end, recognize the hard work and determination put forth by everyone. I would be willing to guess these are the same people who constantly say, “Winning isn’t everything.”

As Christians, we need to realize the intent behind our words and actions. Am I screaming out and yelling things out of support for my team, or to bring attention to myself?

In the end, I do believe that Christians can partake in the experience of being a fan. It comes down to knowing your limits. I will be the first to admit limits are important.

So I’m going to continue my fanatical behavior. I’m going to continue my support for fantastic collegiate and professional teams. I’m going to continue my heckling and jovial fanfares.

And I don’t believe I have to sacrifice sportsmanship or respect to do so.

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