Sports fans are an interesting breed.
On one hand you have, of course, the “fanatic” or “zealot”, whom The Free Dictionary defines as “a person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm.” The opposite of a fanatic, according to Yahoo! Answers, is the “troll.” A troll or “hater” as they are often referred, is someone who opposes what you think.
Things can get real interesting when a zealot and troll sit next to each other in the stands.
I’ve just returned from Omaha, Nebraska, where I had the thrill of watching my son compete in the 2015 College World Series. David was six-years-old when he first told me he dreamed of playing in Omaha. Seeing his dream (and mine) come true was a beautiful, amazing experience.
As our team took the field, I was talking with another dad who was also experiencing dreams coming true. “There are over 300 Division 1 baseball teams,” he explained quite excited, “which means with 35-man rosters, there are roughly 10,500 student athletes playing baseball.” I nodded my head in agreement giving him the impression I was able to multiply large numbers in my head.
“Eight teams get to Omaha,” he continued, “meaning out of 10,500, less than 300 kids get to experience this.” Once again I nodded confidently in agreement. But then he asked, “Do you know what percentage that is?” He then just looked at me and waited as if my brain was somehow capable of figuring out his complex mathematical equation.
He must have noticed the blood rushing out of my head as I was trying to do math and mercifully volunteered the answer: “Roughly 2.6 percent.” “Yes, that sounds about right,” I said, stomping my foot trying to get the blood flowing back to my brain. “Think about it,” he insisted, less than 3% of all college baseball players ever get here. This is amazingly special.”
Despite my horrible math skills, I’ve thought a lot about that brief conversation. It was indeed “amazingly special” to get to Omaha. And when you consider the winner of the College World Series represents fewer than half of one percent (0.33%) of all division one baseball players (I figured that out all by myself), you realize how truly incredible it is to win this, or any other championship.
Which brings me back to the fanatics and trolls. You see, most are so focused on the win or the loss, they never take into consideration the incredible journey the athlete must take just to get into a position to win or lose. All that matters is for “their” team to finish in that very elusive half of one percent.
My wife and kids have urged me to not look at social media – the playground for zealots and trolls. For the most part, I have complied. But sometimes, I just have to look. And so it was after our team lost I ignored the warning bells and viewed a few social media posts.
And there they were. The zealots and trolls filling page after page with their unbridled vitriol. The fanatics chimed in on all the mistakes made which lost “us” the championship and the trolls basically suggested blind lame dogs would have beaten “our” team.
“It’s okay,” as my son has said to me more than once. “It doesn’t matter what they say or think.” In fact, like most athletes, he seems to have a basic understanding of the zealots and trolls. “They’re just fans,” he says a bit matter-of-fact. “They cheer and they boo. But they don’t understand.”
Then he looked at me and said, “But you understand, Dad.”
Indeed I do. I know all about the countless hours he spends to hone his skills when no one is looking. I know about his terrible disappointment after a poor performance and his heartbreak with a loss. I understand how hard he has worked to fight back from injuries and overcome way too many surgeries and hospital stays. And I certainly know all the sacrifices we have made as a family to help him get where he is today. Yes, I do understand.
So go ahead with your cheers and boos all you zealots and trolls. We understand.