I was inspired by this glowing post by Julian Sanchez to read Chuck Klosterman IV.
So far, it’s a lot of fun. Klosterman is a really good writer, and he’s both thoughtful and funny. I’ve only been reading the book for a short while. I skipped most of the first part (Things That Are True) with pop-culture profiles, and jumped into the second part (Things That Might Be True) that has more opinions and speculations (kind of like blog posts). I suspect that the writing is so good that I’ll probably go back and read the entire first section, too, even though I’m not currently fascinated by the people profiled nor am I in the target demographic.
One of the opinion articles struck a familiar chord with me. He was writing about the Olympics and described the strangeness of being expected to root for athletes based on geography. Klosterman’s writing is so much better than my ability to paraphrase it, I’m going to do some fair-use transcribing:
The only thing the Olympics ever do is reinforce my dislike for a particular kind of American sports fan: people who like the home team simply because the home team is, in fact, the home team.
This is when I started to realize that the Olympics are designed for people who want to care about something without considering why.
In order to enjoy the Olympics, you can’t think critically about anything. You just have to root for America (or whatever country you’re from) and assume that your feelings are inherently correct. It’s the same kind of antilogic you need to employ whenever you attend a political convention or a church service or movies directed by Steven Spielberg. When Savannah, Georgia, power lifter Cheryl Ann Haworth tries to clean-and-jerk the equivalent of a white rhino, we (as Americans) are obligated to pray for her success, despite the fact that we know nothing about her or any of her foes.
This is what I can’t stand about the Olympics, and it’s also what I can’t stand about certain sports enthusiasts: I hate the idea that rooting for a team without any justification somehow proves that you are a traditional, loyal, and “a true fan.” All it proves is that you’re ridiculous, and that you don’t really consider the factors that drive your emotions, and that you probably care more about geography and the color of a uniform than you do about any given sport.
This is how I’ve always felt about blind support for the home team. I understand that there’s a tradition there, and that many people enjoy the shared experience of being in a united crowd.
I’ve always been uncomfortable with the mob mentality that I encounter at large sporting events. Mobs are stupid (and sometimes dangerous). It’s the kind of behavior one finds in over-zealous nationalism, and I’d prefer it if people tried not to cultivate a taste for it.
So, I prefer thinking for myself and choosing whom to root for.
If you’d like to enjoy watching a game, and you can’t think of a reason to root for one team over the other, but you think that such a preference would make the game more interesting…May I suggest: gambling?