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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


OPINION: Gatekeeping, riots and rivalry: I was lying when I said I like sports

Eli Rahamim

A man in the stands of McKale Center rests his head in his palm during the Arizona volleyball game against Utah University on Nov 12. 

“Another day, another dollar” is what I tell myself as I smile at a random 20-something man at the bar talking my ear off about his fantasy football league. 

I let him yammer on as a reward for paying for my tiny $7 vodka soda, but I have no idea how fantasy football works and frankly have no intention of finding out. I’m thinking about how to get myself a free green tea shot next. 

Here’s the thing: Why would I care about a bunch of sweaty men in bulky padding running around chasing after a pointy ball when I can spend my Sundays doing literally anything else?

Have you ever tried to tell a sports fan that you don’t like sports? If you haven’t, imagine telling one of those extremist religious groups heckling people on the streets that you’re atheist. It’s like that. 

I am taking a stand: I will no longer be pretending to be interested in sports just so that certain sports fans don’t nail me on the cross. 

In a poll of the United States, Morning Consult found that 25% of the nation reported being an avid sports fan, and another 47% self-qualified as an average fan. 

That means we, the remaining 28% who are uninterested in the great American pastime (which I know is technically baseball, but I am hereby considering it to umbrella-cover all sports) are surrounded on all sides by a certain type of foaming-at-the-mouth sports fans ready to jump out from under your bed and tell you how patriotic it is to drink beer at a ball game. 

I think one of the most problematic things about these types of people who like sports, though, is the fact that they want you to like sports, but at the same time, they gatekeep it. 

If you show even the slightest interest in sports to a sports fan, they can spend hours telling you about the details of a specific basketball game in which this player scored this point using this move. Honestly, who can blame them? Clearly, if you get me talking about disliking sports, I’ll also go on and on. That’s how passions work. 

The problem is that when you do like sports, but maybe you aren’t a super fan, you run into the gatekeeping sports fans. 

“The Steelers are cool,” you might say. “I’m from Pittsburgh.”

“Oh, really? Then you know that Troy Polamalu was the best safety that ever played or did shampoo commercials,” says a random guy named Brad from Southern California who has never left the West coast. 

I will take time to qualify that there is definitely a specific genre of sports fan that I’m speaking about here, and the vast majority of fans, though still way too eager to discuss their favorite teams, have not earned themselves quite the same kick in the shins yet. 

Those fans who have earned a shin-kick, however, have another problematic trait to answer for: rioting. 

In 2018, Metro reported a list of five American cities whose sports games’ conclusions caused fans to take to the streets and riot, including major cities like Philadelphia, Detroit and Boston, most of them with multiple occurrences. This has actually happened enough times that there are compilation lists. 

As far as what makes people so furious over a game that they cause actual property damage, I will never know the answer, but I do know that if me and my friends were to ever overturn cars and vandalize a city over Taylor Swift or cup pong, like 10,000 Broncos fans did in Denver at Superbowl XXXII, we would cause a lot more controversy. 

It’s so bad that people get violent. In 2014, San Francisco 49ers fans had a brawl in the bathroom at Levi’s Stadium and were beaten so badly that one had to have part of his skull removed and was partially paralyzed, according to The Guardian

It’s close to home here for the Wildcats, too. In 2014, Arizona fans rioted on University Boulevard after the basketball team’s loss by one point to University of Wisconsin, Madison. The game, which took place in Anaheim, California, was broadcasted in the university bars, and fans took to the streets following the game, chanting and throwing beer bottles and fireworks at police. The Tucson Police Department responded with pepper balls that had Arizona fans vomiting in the street — and still, the crowd persisted, carrying on with their profane chant about Wisconsin.  

Something about team rivalry just makes fans so heated. Growing up in Tucson, when my school would have an “ugly sweater” themed spirit day, we’d all show up in Arizona State University t-shirts. The school rivalry alone is so deep-rooted that literal children, who think that being 18 is “old” hate ASU. Just think about the animosity when our teams play each other. 

Long story short, I don’t understand sports or these aggressive types of sports fans — and I don’t care to. Let me hide in the corner at the Superbowl party and eat my snacks in peace. I’m begging.   

Follow Amanda Betz on Twitter

Mandy (she/her) is a senior studying journalism and public relations. She spends her free time shopping, writing and hanging with friends.

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