Sports Fans and the Importance of Nationalism

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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23 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    Nationalism is why we enjoy the Olympics so much.

    This last time, I was enjoying watching a US women’s beach volleyball duo (for their athleticism. Get your mind out of the gutter!), when the announcer mentioned that one of them was married to a Dodger. I immediately started rooting for the North Koreans.Report

  2. Matty says:

    Nationalism is why we enjoy the Olympics so much.

    I’m atheist and regard monarchy as an anachronism but I have to admit when Farah stepped onto that podium on August 11th I was screaming “God save the Queen”.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Matty says:

      And The Fascist regime!*

      *In the States, NBC had a CGI intro that played a bunch of British rock and pop songs. One was Johnny Rotten snarling “God Save the Queen” but they cut off the obvious follow-up line of the song. This made really annoyed me. Possibly more than it should.Report

  3. George Turner says:

    The University of Kentucky had a more interesting season (like watching a train wreck) and brought far more joy to opposing fans than U of L. Heck, one ESPN commentator likened Robert Morris’s court celebration to the Zion rave scene in Matrix Reloaded.Report

  4. DavidT says:

    For Orwell’s classic essay on sports and nationalism (“sport is an unfailing cause of ill-will, and that if such a visit as this had any effect at all on Anglo-Soviet relations, it could only be to make them slightly worse than before.”) see

  5. KatherineMW says:

    Nationalism is certainly a big part of the reason I love the Olympics. Some sports (gymnastics, BMX and white-water canoeing/kayaking in summer; hockey and snow and ski cross and figure skating in winter) are just fun to watch regardless of who’s winning, but cheering on Canada is what makes all the other events fun.Report

  6. Miss Mary says:

    We are more the sauerkraut and elephant garlic festival type around here. Did I just admit to that?

    If I had understood this about sports when I was growing up, I think I would have been better off. It’s always nice to feel like you belong, but I think a lot of kids (probably more girls than boys, but I could be wrong) aren’t taught the value of identifying with a larger community through the vehicle of sports.Report

  7. krogerfoot says:

    I was taught to distinguish between nationalism and patriotism, with patriotism [good!] being a loyalty to one’s culture and a willingness to defend it, and nationalism [bad!] being a belief that one’s culture is superior to all others and a need to retaliate against anyone who expresses otherwise. It’s a pretty unsatisfying distinction; just as being a fearless teller of hard truths one day makes me an asshole the next, one man’s patriot is another man’s nationalist. At any rate, I totally do not mean this to quibble with your choice of words. What you’re describing obviously doesn’t fit my notion of nationalism, but “patriotism,” the way we usually use it, doesn’t seem entirely apt either.

    It comes up sometimes here in Japan because the word for patriot in Japanese has a wholly negative connotation for everyone except the far-right thugs and clowns who embrace it. Cheering on Japanese national teams in baseball and soccer is complicated – all the flag-waving and chanting was uncomfortable. Being able to root for the home team, when the home team is your own country, is something that many Japanese thought was reserved for “normal” countries, and is taken as a sign that Japan is beginning to put its darkest history behind it.

    I never read Orwell’s essay, but I have found it useful to describe Good Patriotism (as Americans understand it) by comparing it to sports fandom. You root for the team you’re born with, you’re elated when they win and crushed when they lose, you’re irrationally proud of their strengths and coolly lacerating about their weaknesses.Report

  8. Michael Cain says:

    “In 2011-2012, Louisville was the only Division I school to have…teams in the NCAA postseason in football, volleyball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, and softball.” What this has done for the self-esteem of the city and for a sense of community is unbelievable.

    I’m wondering if this theme will show up in any of the “College Education in the 21st Century” symposium that starts tomorrow. That’s not a sarcastic remark — colleges do play a role in the community that goes beyond education. It’s much easier to get the city/state/whatever unified behind a sports team than, say, behind the math department. “Yes! New advances in Galois field theory!”Report

  9. Chris says:

    and Kentucky fans are (mostly) insufferable

    As a Kentucky alum and a Kentucky fan, I resemble this remark.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Chris says:

      Last year the UK fans at my house were so drunk that they started fighting during the final game and many left in a huff. The two remaining were so drunk that they started celebrating our victory by standing on a truck parked in the front yard and screaming across the road. Then I had to gently tell them that it was only half time. They actually thought the game was over. The next day they didn’t remember a thing about what happened on the court.

      BTW, did you see that John Wall scored 47 points in a single game a few weeks ago? I think he’d be a senior now.Report

      • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

        Kentucky fans are, in my experience, like most southern sports fans (including Louisville sports fans, if Louisville can be considered the south… it’s pretty much in Indiana). Loud, drunk, loyal but quick to criticize, and prone to obsession. In junior high, my school had a “fan day,” and the amount of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Memphis State (it was Memphis State back then) gear that kids had in their wardrobe was staggering. There were people who owned Tennessee shoes, Tennessee shoe laces, Tennessee socks, Tennessee pants, Tennessee t-shirts covered by Tennessee sweatshirts, Tennessee jewelry, Tennessee hats, Tennessee hair gear (scrunchies, berets, ties, and so on), Tennessee buttons, Tennessee wrist and arm bands, and Tennessee paint on their faces. Ugh… that orange is a color that doesn’t occur in nature, and in my hometown, it was everywhere.

        And yeah, Wall is having a really good season since he came back from the injury. I follow most of the ex-Cats in the NBA. I’m a big Boogie Cousins fan, and Tayshaun Prince is still one of my favorites. Also: “Hello! Where did that last six inches come from?”Report

  10. Reformed Republican says:

    All the talk about nationalism, patriotism, and sports fanaticism makes me wonder of my inability to really get into sports is related to my inability to drum up any strong feelings of nationalism.

    When everyone was talking about the Olympics, I could not figure out why it was such a big deal. How am I affected if someone from my country is a faster swimmer than someone from another country?

    Sports teams, countries, states, etc.; I just do not find myself emotionally invested in any of these institutions.Report

  11. George Turner says:

    I’m guessing the sense of community in Louisville is running pretty strong about now. Congrats!Report