Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Comes First, the Sports Team or the Fans?

After a particularly brutal weekend of Seattle football (not to mention coming off of the worst year ever for any sports fan), I got to thinking about the relationship between sports and the city. There is no denying that an athletic presence contributes to the identity of both a city and its people.

Seattle has a reputation for good, but not great, professional sports teams. The Seattle Seahawks made a Super Bowl appearance in 2006, but our rings ultimately ended up on the fingers of the Pittsburgh Steelers. We invested in a gorgeous baseball stadium, spent $100 million dollars on star-studded Mariners talent like Ichiro Suzuki, but still boasted a baseball team that lost a heart-breaking 100 games in 2008. And then there was the winless college football season of my alma mater, the University of Washington…

And yet somehow, Seattlites look for something to cheer about. We rally around individual records, monumental moments and the pure joy that comes from the unexpected success of a perpetual underdog. Our fans actually celebrated the loss of UW’s first college football game simply because we held our own with the highly ranked LSU. In the face of defeat, we remain hopeful.

I find this attitude interesting because as a city itself, Seattle is a bit of an underdog. Sure, it has a reputation for being beautiful, but it doesn’t hold the worldwide the recognition of Los Angeles or New York City. And yet, residents are fiercely loyal in the belief that we don't need a title when we know how great we've got it. So are our sports teams a product of our environment, or an example of it? And how much of this resilience, or is it acceptance of disappointment, finds its way into the everyday life of our residents?

Every city’s fans have their own reputations. I’ve witnessed in-your-face New Yorkers boo their own players if they didn’t feel up to their standard of excellence. Still, this was unsurprising in a city that attracts worldwide talent and accepts only the best in every arena. Could this be a contributing factor to the championship ring collection of the New York Yankees? Or a byproduct of it?

Every sports fan I know wants to feel like they make a difference in the outcome of the game. We bring our attitudes, cultures and our personalities into the stadium, I’m simply curious how much of this mentality actually factors onto the field.

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