Fairweather fanhood be gone

Published 12:39 am Saturday, October 31, 2009

You probably go to the bank once or twice a week. You get your money or leave your money and go on about your day. Does that experience qualify you to manage a bank?

You probably eat out every now and again. You order your food. You pay for your food. You eat your food. You leave. Does that experience qualify you to run a restaurant?

You probably like to go out to the movies once in a while. You pay for your ticket. You sit through the previews. You watch your film. You go home. Does that experience qualify you to make a good movie?

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For rational people, the consensus answer to each of the above questions is a resounding “no.”

You probably go to a football game from time to time. You pay for your ticket. You find your seat. You yell for the home team. You go home. What about that experience qualifies you to be a football coach?

It is funny what the game of football does to otherwise intelligent people. It can make them suddenly begin vomiting mindless dribble.

“Well Paul, I know we lost 21 out of 22 starters, but I think we’ve got a real chance to win the national championship. This year. What do you think? I’ll hang up and listen.”

That’s kind of the beauty of the game. It commands passion in a way that no other sport can. The line that must be walked is that a fan must be a respecter of persons where the game itself is not.

Fans must be able to differentiate between levels of the game. At the collegiate level, yell and scream about how bad your team’s coach is all you want. He pulls plenty of money. And you pay upwards of $50 to the game or send your kid to that school or support the program. That’s fine. In the NFL, if your favorite team is terrible, fire the coach. After all, the NFL is about nothing but winning.

But can you really apply the same philosophy to lower levels?

Think about it. Do you send your child to school to win football games or to learn how to overcome? When he has a setback in college, will you demand his professor be fired? If he is reprimanded at work, will you call for the head of the boss?

Such practices would be ludicrous. Why then would you question the competency of his coach when his team loses a football game?

At its lowest levels, the game of football is not all about winning and losing. It is about persevering. It is about developing character. And here in Demopolis, there is no question that the young men in the high school football program are developing character.

The question is, are the fans? With plenty of time left on the clock in a one-possession game against rival Thomasville Thursday night, droves of fans began piling out of the Demopolis stands.

What message does that send to players? “Our support of you is contingent upon you winning football games.”

Perspective must be maintained. These young men are high school kids. They are in the most crucial part of their formative years. And support, especially in the difficult times, would do much more to help them grow as people than basing affections on their win-loss records.

It is an unfortunate truth that their head coach is one of the few consistencies they see. He loves them. He loves them when they win. He loves them when they lose. He loves them after good practices and bad. And because of it, they believe in him and themselves.

But sometimes, it is all too easy to watch a game and hurl criticisms.

“He can’t win with that offense.”

“He’ll never win a state championship here.”

“What is he doing?”

Making a withdrawal doesn’t make you a banker. Ordering a steak doesn’t make you a restaurant operator. Watching a movie doesn’t make you a producer. And buying a ticket to a football game doesn’t make you a coach.

But being there for your team and coach — from kickoff to conclusion — makes you a fan. Patting a player on the back, regardless of the scoreboard, makes you a better one. And doing it consistently makes your team and your community better.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of the Demopolis Times