They say sport reflects society. I hope not. Is it just me or has there been a loss of professionalism and respect in sports displayed by both players and fans. Both are showing poor sportsmanship. And, this lack of sportsmanship correlates with a loss of civility in our society. We can debate the reasons why for this lack of civility, but I will not go there. People are becoming increasingly nastier to one another and it is becoming an unhealthy sign of a society increasingly devoid of a moral compass.
This incivility takes place in the workplace, in our schools, at athletic events (players and fans), and in our politics where it has never been more obvious than in this election year. Where has graciousness, decency, politeness, and respect towards others including our opponents – all qualities of sportsmanship – gone?
It was, thus, refreshing to travel to Norman, Oklahoma for the recent Ohio State-University of Oklahoma football game and be treated graciously by the Oklahoma Sooners fans before and after the game – a game that Oklahoma football team lost rather convincingly leaving every Sooner fan disappointed in what was to be a season of high expectations. It is easy to be a good sport when you win. The real test is how you handle losing and the OU (Oklahoma) fans were first class.
Despite their defeat, the Sooner fans remained cordial and gracious towards the Ohio State fans throughout the event. Many of the Sooner fans who stayed to the end of the game wished us Buckeye fans safe travel home. They also enjoyed and appreciated watching The Ohio State University Marching Band perform letting out with many “wow, they are really good.”
My friend and I spent eight hours mingling with Sooners fans before and after the game with most of that time spent in Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium trying to stay dry. A torrential down pour and high winds delayed the opening kick-off 90 minutes (I suspect the 90 minute delay that was a TV network decision as the game easily could have started 30-45 minutes sooner) but it gave us more time to know the Sooner faithful.
One hard-core Sooner fan who went to OU (Oklahoma University and not Ohio University) accurately predicted Ohio State would test the weakest part of the Sooner’s defense, the one cornerback. We were fortunate to be sitting to be on the 25 yard line towards that end zone where Ohio State completed four touchdown passes.
As an aside, I never understood why the University of Michigan is UM and Ohio University is OU, but the University of Oklahoma is OU and not UO. No one from Oklahoma seems to understand that either.
I hope next year Ohio State fans will be cordial and gracious when the Oklahoma Sooners travel to Columbus for a game, but I have some reservations about that. Eleven years ago while living in Dallas I flew to Columbus to watch the University of Texas (UT) play Ohio State in 2005. Texas beat Ohio State that year in a game that could have gone either way en route to winning the National College Football Championship that year.
I obtained my tickets for that game from a Texas connection and found myself donned in my scarlet and gray sporting the OSU Dallas Alumni Club logo (the only OSU Alumni Club authorized by Ohio State to have its own logo) sitting in sea of white and burnt orange – the UT colors). Like the Oklahoma fans the UT fans were polite and courteous. It was a great game – one of those games that neither team deserved to lose.
As a proud alumnus of Ohio State I was disappointed and embarrassed the next day as I boarded my flight back to Dallas along with several UT fans to hear many UT fans say that would never come to back to Ohio State for a game as they were treated poorly by the OSU fans. That should not happen, but it does, not just at Ohio State, but all across the country at college and professional sporting events. It only takes a few unruly fans to create a bad impression, but it appears it was more than just a few fans at this particular game given the number of complaints by the Texas fans.
I have been on the receiving end of some poor sportsmanship by the fans, too, when I attended a Ohio State football game at North Carolina State in 2004. One of the NC State fans sitting next to us just trashed talked the entire game about the state of Ohio. “Who would live there? We have beaches and mountains (apparently he never heard of Lake Erie and the North Coast of America). Ohio has lousy weather. What does Ohio have? You have nothing which is why so many of you move here. We don’t want y’all here. Go back to your crappy state. Ohio State is so overrated.” And, so on.
Now, I would not completely disagree with some of what he said, but it was they he said it , and he said it all never ever having been to Ohio (Ohio State turned out to be vastly overrated that year and certainly the weather could be better for my liking). It’s one thing if you or I say negative things about our home state, but not an outsider especially one who has never been to the state to know first hand, right? Plus, nobody wants to hear their home town or home state or school trashed about. It is still your home. Some other Ohio State fans sitting behind us did not take too kindly to his words and the situation almost got out of hand as our NC State “friend” had a few too many cocktails and was on the verge of becoming violent towards us.
At one point one of the other Ohio State fans said, “We have 19 points, you have 7. I don’t know how you keep score in North Carolina, but where we come from that means we are winning.” That shut him up, but not for long. When the outcome of the game was decided late in the fourth quarter he finally left the stadium (Ohio State won 22-14).
That one fan left a pretty sour taste in all of the mouths of the Ohio State fans that had to sit near him and tainted our impression of all NC State fans. But, he wasn’t the only NC State fan that made it known that we were not welcomed. There were plenty of others who disapproved of our presence at the game.
There’s that old saying that you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and you certainly cannot do that it if you treat people poorly. And, don’t you want to leave people with a good impression of not only you, but also your school or team? It is one thing to joke with the opposing fans ribbing each other in fun, but to get in their grill and be plain right out nasty is uncalled for. When you are the host you should be a great and gracious host even if you are just a fan. As a fan don’t you want the opposing fans to speak highly of your fan base?
Just like athletes are role models whether they want to be or not, so are fans. They represent their university and team as well as themselves. Would it not be wise to leave others thinking highly of you? I hope Ohio State fans will be wise next year when the University of Oklahoma visits Columbus, but I suspect a minority will not. And, that’s unfortunate.
Be the best you. Be a good sport – win or lose.
I attended to Ohio State-Oklahoma rematch played at Ohio Stadium on 9/9/17. Looks like turnabout is fair play. The game was almost a repeat of last year’s game described above but with Oklahoma winning in 2017. Oklahoma was clearly the better team this year.
Though there appeared to be fewer Sooner fans at this game then Buckeye fans at last year’s game the Sooner fans this year were gracious in victory as they were a year ago in defeat once again displaying good sportsmanship. We wish them well and their team good luck for the remainder of the year.