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Tonight, I made a concession to my fundamental being. This is not a typical event. It is rare, but I am a rational being, so it is not entirely unprecedented.
This evening, at a local karaoke bar – yes, I am a karaoke fool/freek - between scathing renditions of “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer”, “Wild Thing” (The Troggs, not the preferred Jimi with a can of lighter fluid version) and Randy Newman’s “Short People” (which went off beautifully and as I, a 6’6” everyday whackjob am now slapping this song into the regular rotation and dedicating to everyone but myself at karaoke events), I had a long, deep and spectrum-wide conversation with another patron. Sure, I was drinking and so was the fellow patron – whom I’ll call Mark, because that’s what he told me his name was – but the flow of the banter was very deep and extremely varied. He was logical, intelligent and seemed intrigued at having atypical bar conversation – as I am inclined to do. We talked current events after the local team, the Red Wings lost in a shootout forcing the topic to disperse quickly from general sports yammer. We went from politics, religion, history, the economy, cooking and food (apparently, he’s a chef), cigars and tobacco (I was thoroughly enjoying a Padilla Obsidian Belicoso this evening) and all without degradation, resentment, closed mindedness or argument. Yes, this was a monumental and very rare event where ideas and opinions were exchanged and responded to over adult beverages without the inclination to “win” or smash mugs on one another’s skulls. It was novel, refreshing and in between making an entertaining ass of myself singing my heart out, enjoyable.
Then the flow of words came back to the inevitable Sports realm once again. That’s when I dropped my famous pet peeve – I hate it when people say “We” when talking about their favorite sports teams. It drives me nutty-coocoo-bonkers and have always been overwhelmingly vocal about how I thought it was stupid and arrogant for people to consider themselves as part of the “We” with their sports alignments.
Mark, the fellow bar patron didn’t take offense to my stance but he simply asked me why I felt that way. I was thrown aback.
Huh? Yeah… why do I feel that way, so thoroughly, so ruggedly, so rigidly?
I took a long slow draw from my round, stout cigar and finally, after choosing my words carefully I decided that it was time to be honest with myself. I knew why I‘ve always felt that way but never truly expressed it properly.
It came from my want, my will and my sweat, my blood and my hours of busting my ass to earn the right to don a uniform and display my all as an athlete defending the team colors and team name and the honor of my teammates in the field of competition. I was simply under the basic understanding of camaraderie. If you’re not part of the team, how DARE you say your meager input is valid? If you weren’t the one out there on the field pouring your heart and soul for the ultimate goal of victory, how DARE you say you’re a part of that unit? You’re just a fan, what is your commitment in comparison to the players, to the people on the payroll?
It came from something I was holding on to from years… many years previous – years that were long gone… I still have the mentality of the athlete inside of myself more than the understanding of a fan.
My fellow patron/word chucker/alcohol-induced philosopher simply asked me…. But don’t the fans have input? Don’t the fans buy tickets and purchase the wares of the sponsors and advertisers and make the form and function of the team occur? Isn’t everyone who contributes their effort – as meager or miniscule as it may seem; even the slightest rooting interest – have some right to feel a sense of ownership in the process?
I conceded. Yes. Yes, they do.
It was foolish for me to arrogantly assume that only the participants mattered in any sporting event. Here I was, blindly swayed by my own competitive spirit that drove me to lay it all out for the sake of the team to overlook the intricacies of what “team” really means. Team isn’t just the players on the field or the business executives that push the beans from one ledger to the next. It’s not just the people that keep the arenas and stadiums in working and operable condition, not just the advertisers and marketers that pump their funding into the organization, it’s not just the vendors, or security, the licensed product hawkers or the ticket disseminators, the producers of good copy, the descriptive wordspewers of the announcing team, the camerapersons, the video editors, the accountants, the lawyers, the secretaries and even the envelope lickers.
WE is anyone who has the will to back the movement with their energy.
The fans, the consumers, the passersby, the non-committal channel surfer who cares even the tiniest bit in hopes of a favorable outcome…the sense of pride, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of relief when victory is won… THEY are the WE.
Just as “WE the people” are anyone who engages in the act of Americanism, just as WE are all human particpants on this mud ball we call Earth. Just as WE are ArmchairGM, no matter what our contribution… we are a part of it – willingly – and that’s what makes us WE. A part of the machine. A cog in the mechanism.
And damn it all. I never paused even a second to think about it that way… not when I was a privileged fan for the Rays - given a uniform with my name and number on it, not when I was week-to-week obsessed kid rooting for the Falcons and Steve Bartkowski… not when I was a nut for the Angels because Wally Joyner was their first baseman, replacing the legend and my deeply loved Rod Carew (I would have totally been a Don Mattingly fan if not for my good friend having him as his “favorite player” first), not even when I was a part-Cubs fan in the early summer of ’89 because Mark Grace gave me the time of day waiting to meet him after a Phillies-Cubs game and buying a Cubs hat because it looked cool. (Though Jim Belushi’s movie “Takin’ Care of Business” singlehandedly was the jinxiest movie I ever saw and absolutely KILLED the 1989 season for me – and screw you too, Chris Sabo)
I always thought that you were who you played for, not with who you gave your love to. (Maybe I should have paid closer attention to the delightfully scribed movie “Adaptation”?) I’m not a flip-flopper, I’m a guy that can grow and learn from the past as good as any of them. There’s no point in me being set in my ways when I know that change is the only constant. I’m on a journey in this life and though I remember where I’ve been all too clearly, I can’t take everywhere I’ve been with me. I can’t drag the past on my back and still go ”further”… (I still miss you Ken Kesey, you delightfully wacky bastard)
I “get it” now (or at least this little bit). I concede the point. I won’t deny anyone their ability to feel “a part of the process” anymore. In fact, I’ll defend you forthrightly! You are what you do and you are a part of whatever you do. Be WE with all your passion. Be WE with all your bliss. Be WE with all your misery (especially if you’re a Cubs fan), Be WE with all you can be WE… be WE and be 100% proud. I and no close-minded bastard like I’ve been can ever take it from you anyway…
Be Loud, Be Proud, it is You and You are WE!!! You root, therefore… You are WE.
And know – though I fully concede this “sticking point” - you still won’t catch me using WE with my fanship!