Rivalries in sports are as old as the sports themselves. We love cheering our team on to victory and (on occasion) smashing the other team’s dreams. There is a line though which is crossed a lot which (at the least) is unhealthy. The line I am referring to happens with our children in the arena of sports all the time. Specifically, when a parent teaches their child to hate a rival.
I live in the state of Kentucky. As a Wildcats basketball fan, I am in an interesting position because our arch rival (Louisville Cardinals) is playing tonight in the National Championship against the Michigan Wolverines. When I was young, single and carefree, I would have had no problems cheering for Michigan loudly simply because I am not a Louisville fan. Seeing the Cardinals lose would have brought me pleasure. Now though I have to be cautious. I have a 9 year old who nearly worships my every move. The messages I send can potentially last a long time.
Rivalries exist everywhere. It could be Notre Dame/ Michigan, Florida/Florida State, USC/UCLA. There are too many to name but some people push these rivalries way too far. The problem expands though when children are involved.
In most areas except sports, it’s really taboo to hate. Think of what it was like for African Americans before the days of Martin Luther King. It was acceptable to not like blacks and for white people to discriminate against them. That attitude was certainly passed along to children. I would say today there is still racism but it’s better than it’s ever been in our history and I only look for that to improve with future generations. Why people ever hated blacks is beyond me as it will be to my children because this hate will not be taught or tolerated in my home.
Today, people who are gay are making this climb such as what black people experienced albeit in a different way. The difference though is that some of the vitriol is based on the Bible which is something blacks didn’t have to experience. Regardless, it’s becoming more taboo to make fun of someone gay. Discrimination is completely illegal. Though people may not approve of the life style, outright bigotry (even considering the gay marriage debate) is less tolerated. (I know it can be easily found- especially in schools. I’m only saying it’s better) I have a feeling that with many of our children and grand children, the trend of toleration and acceptance towards gays will only continue. This only happens though when enough parents enforce the toleration. No matter what a person believes about the lifestyle- hopefully the hate will end.
The reason I bring up the blacks and gays are that there is/was a time they brought up strong emotions within people. It took strong people and many years for hearts and minds to change. So, the question is why on earth do we have to bring back this negative emotion of hate to any sports team and teach it to our children? The only reason it seems is that it is accepted.
One answer to this problem may lie within the coaching fraternity. Last year, the Kentucky Wildcats were in the same position to Louisville this year. When Kentucky beat Louisville in the Final Four, Coach Rick Pitino made it very clear that he wanted Kentucky to win the National Championship despite the devastating defeat. This was very noble. Pitino also refrained from making any public derogatory comments about Kentucky this season due to the troubles that the basketball team had. Reporters tried to goad him into it but he never took the bait. I guarantee you that some hearts and minds softened because of Pitino’s classy moves.
Sports are meant to be fun. Cheer your hearts out the next time your team takes the field. Boo the referees when they make a bad call. But, remember that your children are watching so take it easy on the opponent!
Feel free to include your email in my Feedburner. You can also check out my Facebook fan page at claytonpaulthomas. Stay classy and I’ll write to you again next week.