Why do we love sports?
Why do we love sports teams?
Or more importantly, as another column in The Daily Californian pointed out a few weeks ago, can we love the team in the same manner if the owners’ actions are contrary to our value system?
The answer to this complex question, probably doesn’t exist. But it also brings about another question — are the owners (or governing body, for that matter) the team?
Again, as I previously mentioned, there is no definite answer. What makes a sports organization so interesting is that it is not just a corporate holding but something far bigger. The owners might be the entity that has all the decision-making in its hands, but the fans are equally important, or in some cases even more important.
Let’s be honest, it’s the fans that make the team. The owners will never earn the kind of money they earn if fans don’t show up to the games. The networks and the leagues won’t make their advertising money if the fans don’t tune into Monday Night Football. Hell, players don’t become global icons if not for the millions and millions of adoring fans.
That’s not to say there is no dilemma, however. I’ll relate a personal story that explains this moral quandary very well. As an Indian national, there is no other sports team that I support more than the Indian National Cricket team. The Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI, the body that governs it, has been involved in multiple controversies.
Very recently, I saw a documentary, “Death of a Gentleman,” that showcases how the BCCI has kept a vice grip on the operations of the International Cricket Council, or ICC, through its, for lack of a better expression, financial and political muscle. In short, the BCCI, along with Cricket Australia and the English Cricket Board, has had complete control over the scheduling of international tours and matches in a way that it favors this triumvirate.
Yet still, I make it a point to watch my country’s team play whenever possible. Yes, the fact that the huge television revenues will be going to the already bloated pockets of the BCCI brass, by hook or crook, does play on my conscience. It still isn’t enough to stop me from supporting my team, even though the circumstances through which it is playing is shady to say the least.
The answer to all of this is pretty much raw emotion. We love sports because they allow us to experience joy, anger and despair through a different medium altogether. The essence of every sport is the competition and the emotions it brings out. Most importantly, however, a sports team is the embodiment of hope in the most hopeless of times. Ask every Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and they will probably tell you the same.
These emotions and sense of community are what bring fans together. They allow us to be each other’s anchor of support, if only for two hours. Supporting a sports team is very much like being part of a family. This, for me, is the essence of a sports organization. Not the owners and their pockets, not the star players. Arsenal is Arsenal because of the Gooners, Francesco Totti is Francesco Totti because of the staunchly loyal AS Roma fans. The team exists because of the fans. The players become stars because of the fans. It is not the owners who make them. These small but important things are probably what allow fans to overlook the activities of a team’s owners or not care too much about them.
That is not to say, however, that fans should not be caring about important issues. The sports world is filled with rampant sexism, an issue that needs to be addressed in the most effective of manners. If the fans have been able to create multibillion-dollar sports teams, then it is through them that we must address the prevailing social issues. It is only through the fans that we can look to a more inclusive and equal sports world.