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I know full well that Randy McRoberts’ Wednesday column dealt with the Pittsburgh Steelers being invited to North Harford High School for a fundraiser, but I’m going to write about the same thing, mostly because the recent weather has made it impossible for local softball and baseball teams to play any games for a week. Also, there was so much negativity generated by the event at North Harford that I’d really like to offer my two cents. I’ll start by rambling a little bit.

Two events occurred in my early 20s that made me reassess my opinions on sports fandom. The first came on Jan. 27, 2001, when I was a student at the University of Maryland. I had managed to score one ticket to the Terps vs. Duke men’s basketball game at Cole Field House, and with less than a minute remaining in the second half, the Terps were up by 10. The Blue Devils staged a miraculous comeback to tie the game, then went on to win, 98-96, in overtime. When the final buzzer sounded, the friends and family members of the Duke players, who were sitting courtside directly in front of the student section and had been taking a pretty good amount of verbal abuse from the Maryland faithful, jumped up and celebrated the victory. A few Terps fans, having just watched their team choke horribly, took umbrage and threw pieces of trash at the celebrating Duke fans. A few empty cups and pieces of wadded up paper turned into dozens, and pretty soon it looked as if the entire student section was hucking trash. I was, and am, a big Terps basketball fan, and I hated Duke with a burning passion back then, but seeing hundreds of people whipped into such a state that they’d pelt others with trash, made my stomach turn. Later on, I heard people saying things like, “they should have known better, celebrating like that on ‘our’ court.” As much as I disliked Duke and its fans, it occurred to me then that committing violent acts, or even talking about them, in the name of a sports team is beyond dumb.

A couple years after the incident at Cole Field House, I was having a conversation with two friends, one of whom was not a serious sports fan. When the conversation shifted to baseball, I said, with seriousness, that I would take a bullet from a small-caliber gun to a fleshy part of my body if it meant that the Orioles would win the World Series that year. The friend whose interests were outside of sports said, “how would your life, or the world, be any different if the Orioles won the World Series?” I didn’t answer, and they said, “that would be a silly thing to take a bullet for.”

It would be silly to take a bullet to ensure a sports team won a championship because, as my friend was trying to prove with his pointed question, the world keeps right on spinning no matter which team wins. If the O’s magically rose out of the cellar that year and took it all, I’d be ecstatic, sure, but I’d still have to get up on Monday and go to work, the hungry of the world would not be fed, American soldiers would still be getting shot at and killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. You see, no matter how much of your life is tied up in being a sports fan, no matter how many years you’ve followed a team, no matter how much money you’ve spent on season tickets and replica jerseys, no matter how much you dislike your team’s rival, it’s just a game, pure and simple.

It’s a game, it isn’t war, and the Steelers coming to North Harford for a fundraiser shouldn’t be treated as a marauding army invading enemy territory, nor should the people who invited them be treated like traitors. So, to the guy who likened the Steelers to Osama Bin Laden on his blog, to the people who supposedly threatened the fundraiser’s organizers, to anyone who thought the Steelers should have had their heads cut off and placed along the Harford County-Pennsylvania border as a warning to other NFL teams, I just want to say this: lighten up. It’s just a game, folks.


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