BY PETER DAHL
Wisconsin sports fans are passionate; there is no denying their love and loyalty to their teams, in particular the Green Bay Packers and Badger football and basketball. Their commitment and enthusiasm is admirable and, in some cases, renowned.
However, Wisconsin sports fans can also fall into some of the most repugnant traps of fandom. Too often their love produces hate and their local insight becomes national ignorance. At discouraging rates, good old Midwesterners allow their commitment to sport turn them into a nasty rabble.
Of course, there are plenty of fan bases that I am less acquainted with that suffer from intemperate attention to local teams, just as there are plenty of fan bases that have an equally zealous loyalty. But, if Wisconsin fans are the good honest people they claim to be, and if they are a standard of fan behavior, then they should not stoop to the indecencies displayed by other, supposedly lesser, fan bases.
Packer nation, as a whole, rooted for the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLIX in hopes of exacting revenge on the Seattle Seahawks after the Second Seattle Miracle. Two weeks and one game of disparaging the Seahawks’ players, coaches and fans amounted to one giant “eff you” from the Packer faithful. After the Seahawks lost, Packer fans gleefully took to social media to bash Seattle, their bandwagon, Richard Sherman, Pete Carrol and pretty much everything Seattle-related outside of Macklemore and Pearl Jam. In essence, the Packers gloated over the team that eliminated them two weeks prior.
Interposed in this was the end of game scuffle between the New England and Seattle players, instigated by the Seahawks. The Green Bay fan reaction, with deafening unison, was, “Stay classy Seattle.” That kind of behavior, sore losers defaming sore losers, sounds a lot like a young boy who, after his brother breaks his toy, will only find joy when his parent takes action and breaks one of his brother’s toys.
And all of this came on the heels of the collective smug victory dance that took place after Dez Bryant was denied a great catch by an awful rule, with plenty of fans choosing to mock Dez for his now famous look of distraught incredulity after the official decision.
This is but one series of examples that I have noticed over the years living amongst Wisconsin sports fans. I understand that these reactions are sometimes natural, as I occasionally slip into them myself, but I also recognize how unsavory and potentially harmful they are as well. Do not let anyone deceive you: these actions are not just “what you do” as a fan. They do not come with the territory that cultivates passion tilled by loyalty.
So I challenge you, Wisconsin fans, to step up your game. Balance your fanaticism with realistic expectation. Take the high road now and then. Let your insights temper your zeal. Allow your love of the game to mature your volatile commitment into a steady, strong, gracious appreciation. Drink a little less when you watch games. Step away from the social media. Kindly inform your aunt that the demonstrative African-American man torching your secondary is, in fact, a human being just like Jordy Nelson. You will not lose the highs that come with diehard fandom just because you pull yourself out of the primordial sludge of fanatic ignorance.
I plan, in the near future, to exile myself from the state of Wisconsin. Perhaps I will find the sports fans there to be largely the same, just without cheeseheads and a morbid drinking problem. Maybe I will even find fans that make Wisconsinites look like a gift to the sports world. But, until I find that out, Wisconsin sports fans will be the only ones with which I am thoroughly acquainted. And when my new neighbors ask the Wisconsin expatriate what it was like to live in Packerland, I might not have the nicest things to say. I will present the bad just as I gush about the healthy supply of good. I will talk of the empty streets on Sunday afternoon with the same readiness that I relate the story of Super Bowl XLIX.
If you are reading this and think I am not talking about you, then the impetus is especially on you. Either it means that you really are ignorant of your fan faults, or it means you really do avoid these pitfalls and are responsible for uplifting your fellow fan.