The ‘Cats command my loyalty

avid Miller

I found myself screaming alone in my room on Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Houston Texans. A few minutes after my delirious, 4-0 inspired joy, I rethought my actions and I had to question, why do people cheer so much for sports?

These days, with coaches and players switching teams as frequently as I write columns, what are people rooting for? Dirty laundry it seems, as the players have to change uniforms frequently.

A football team may be a source of civic pride, but it’s not the players that inspire such loyalty: It’s the idea of the team itself. In some manner, when Cincinnati beat Houston, I felt that Cincinnati the city had shown itself superior to Houston. This is undoubtedly foolish, not to mention nearsighted – what happens to my loyalties when I decide to move?

Sports satisfy an urge we all feel to rank the things we like against the things cherished by others. Comparisons are made on a team-wide basis; the players do not matter.

I’ll admit I cheered Corey Dillon’s on-field performance while despising his off-field comments. Once he was traded to the Patriots, I could despise both sides of him.

Cheering for a team means you support all the other fans of your team. People go to games dressed in game-day specific clothing (see front-row Raiders fans). Fans root for other fans, egg them on to increasingly preposterous extremes. This is why you’ll see fans turn around to encourage neighbors during games, and why signs are directed at others in the crowd rather than players. It’s a circular system of support and loyalty; how you get that first fan to show up is all teams need to solve.

Unsurprisingly, I feel more loyalty to our Wildcats than other teams I support. This is a situation where people truly root for the players. After all, they supposedly represent us directly.

A college team is connected to a specific location in a way no professional team can be. Ignoring the NFL/United Way ads that show players helping in communities, you rarely see players in real life, while student athletes are local to our campus.

Personal contact creates a genuine reason to cheer for someone else. Most students have, at the very least, seen football players around campus. It’s like a larger high school in this manner. Cheering does not just support our fellow, newly-sweatshirt wearing students, but the school as a whole – including the athletes on the field.

Once I graduate from NU, I’m sure my loyalty to the school will have me rooting for the team when I catch them on ESPN5. But the loyalty will become abstract, like my loyalty to Cincinnati. While I can move cities, I’m not going to go to another college as an undergraduate. So for the time being, as my friend who attends Ohio U. and I agreed at the first football game this year:

Go ‘Cats.

David Miller is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected]