An Essay: Why We Need Our Sports to Make a Comeback

I was driving to work the other day, and I had an epiphany.

Funny thing about epiphanies … you don’t know when you are going to get one.

Not twenty minutes earlier, I had been listening to ESPN Radio while I was making breakfast (I have given up on listening to the news … I like to at least get to my office before my day starts to go downhill), and they were talking about teams which had realistic opportunities to make it to the Super Bowl this season, if, in fact, there was going to be a season.

I didn’t pay close attention to the banter. Then again, that was kind of the idea of having ESPN Radio on in the first place while I had my bagel and read the newspaper … it was just white noise.

But then, as I got in my car and made my 12-minute commute to work (sorry, I had to throw that in), I noticed that the truck in front of me had a large Dallas Cowboys logo in the back window, complete with the large blue star. Seeing the Cowboys’ logo reminded me that Dallas was one of the teams that had been discussed on ESPN as having a chance at winning the Super Bowl this year.

And it got me to thinking … what is my stand on Dallas representing the NFC in Super Bowl LV?

I have had a love/hate relationship with the Cowboys over the decades. I liked them back in the Roger Staubach/Mike Lilly days (yes, I am that old). They were America’s team, and the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders were a national phenomenon (no apologies offered. I was a teenager at the time, and the cheerleaders were … awesome!). Later, I learned to hate the Cowboys as my NFC affiliation drifted between the Packers and 49ers.

But the mere thought of how I thought about the Cowboys the other morning got me to thinking … America really needs its sports to make a comeback.

I’m not going to go all political here. I don’t want the website to deteriorate into mud-slinging rants. I am grateful to those of you who have posted comments the last few months, yet have not strayed from the topics at hand.

That being said, I think we can all agree that the country is divided.

Which brings me back to sports.

I am not a sociologist, but I believe I have a solution to America’s problem …

We need the Nebraska Cornhuskers back on the field.

Not because I want to see the Cornhuskers play, but because I want to see them play … and lose.

It’s primal. It’s us against them. Yankees v. Red Sox. Lakers v. Celtics. The Patriots v. well, everybody.

I would like to submit this basic theorem: Americans will spend less time hating each other when they can spend more time … hating each other’s sports teams.

We are currently lost, adrift in our inability to hate our neighbor’s/co-worker’s/brother-in-law’s favorite teams. We have lost our ability to join as one in support of our team … against all comers.

Sociologists have identified a number of processes by which fans identify with their teams:

  • BIRGing, or “Basking in Reflected Glory”, accounts for fans supporting winning teams. Fans enjoy being a part of a team’s success, possibly because being associated with a “winner” increases fan self-esteem;
  • CORFing, or “Cutting Off Reflected Failure”, comes along when their favorite teams are no longer winning, reducing their affiliation with their favorite team; and
  • BIRFing, or “Basking in Spite of Reflected Failure”, when fans are strongly identified with a team, or have followed a team for a significant period of time, but remain steadfast despite their team’s failures.

While these terms may seem a bit silly, they are real in the world of sociology (See: Sports Fans, Identity and Socialization: Exploring the Fandimonium, edited by Adam C. Earnheardt, Paul Haridakis, Barbara Hugenberg).

And you know you have experienced all of the above.

We were all BIRGing when the Buffs went from worst-to-first in 2016, winning the Pac-12 South and earning a top ten national ranking. We still like to talk about the 62-36 game; the “Miracle in Michigan” game; the national championship quality teams of 1989, 1990, and 1994. Nothing wrong with that – we all do it, as to fans of every other team.

Then there is CORFing, when we try and disassociate ourselves from our team when it has gone south. One of the most commented upon essays I have ever posted on the website came after the 30-28 loss to Sacramento State in 2012. I wrote about my “Shirt of Shame“, the non-CU shirt I packed to wear on my flight home on Sunday, just in case the Buffs suffered an embarrassing loss the day before. The response to the essay gave me solace to know that there are others out there – equally devoted to our Buffs – who have to tone down their fandom from time to time.

And there is no doubt that we are in BIRFing mode right now when it comes to our Buffs. The fact that you are even reading this essay is evidence enough. You are here, in June, with no guarantee of games in September, reading about Colorado football – a program which has rewarded you with exactly one winning season in the last 15 years. “Fans who are strongly identified with a team, or have followed a team for a significant period of time, but remain steadfast despite their team’s failures” … Yup, that’s us.

But it’s not enough for us to just have teams to relate to – We also have to have an opponent we can hate.

We need to be able to play Colorado State on September 5th, so that we can lob ridicule at the Ram Nation … and not our co-workers.

We need to be able to take on Oregon on September 29th, so that we can join arm-in-arm and despise Nike U … instead of despising our next door neighbor.

We as a nation love our winners. We love the underdog. As much as we love to see our teams win, there is something delicious about watching our most hated rivals lose.

We need to be able to vent our frustrations in a healthy manner; a socially acceptable and responsible manner.

No, getting sports teams back onto the courts, fields and diamonds will not solve the world’s problems.

But it will give us the opportunity to yell at the top of our lungs – in either in ecstasy or agony – in a manner which is not hurtful to others.

Bring on the Big Red!


7 Replies to “We Need Our Sports to Make a Comeback”

  1. Yeah this is really frustrating. I got married almost 4 years ago and have had this season circled with excitement. My in laws live an hour outside of college station. I was excited to take my father in law to the a&m game this year and I will be heartbroken if that can’t happen. I need my buffs. Win or lose, and it’s mostly been lose lately, the buffs are family and I miss my family.

  2. Never been a corfer. I sport my cu swag with pride. Even during the lost decade. Which seems to be getting closer to two than just one.

    But, I like William t Sherman’s style. Team led season. If there is one. That is what it takes.

    Go Buffs

  3. Those are all good comments Stuart. I enjoyed your article. I really can’t hate CSU that much (my wife graduated from there) but I surely never want to lose to them ever again. Maybe if we beat them enough more times they will quit playing us and we can again schedule teams that we really can HATE……NU, OU, ND, etc. and there have to be more out there. The only caveat though is that we have to get this program back to where it can compete and be relevant so that we aren’t just “whistling dixie.” Err can I write the word “dixie” right now as it is a real real old old term and I have used it for years not even thinking what it means?

    Oh by the way, doesn’t even take me 12 min. to get to work as I’m retired and down here in Tucson. Also how many more min. does it take when you have some of that wonderful?????? Montana winter weather aka snow?

    1. Yes, it does take longer in the winter time to make the trek into town.
      But no such thing as a “snow day” here … I never even heard that term until I got to Colorado.

    2. Snow is a pain to deal with but what happens down there when the AC breaks down this time of year?
      Head to the library? Bus station? drive round in the car until it boils over? I guess you could sit in the pool with Colorado water until it starts to boil

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