Why We Love to Hate

On a perfectly lovely Sunday, Cowboy Fan Hubby (“CFH”) and I packed up the lawn chairs and headed for Latrobe for afternoon practice. I was pretty excited: perfect day, late in camp so we would be able to see more about how the team is progressing, and I was out of the house, which is not to be discounted as a reason for glee. Long story short, I was distracted and not paying close attention to what CFH had on. C’mon, who among us with more than two decades of marriage under our belt really pays much attention to that stuff on a daily basis? Had I been a little more astute, I would have asked him to change, but I wasn’t, and we drove the entire hour to Latrobe, parked and were walking toward campus before I really snapped to it. And then it was only because some woman glared at him so hard it was almost physical and then turned that disdainful look at me as if to say, “You brought that evil here, so you are evil by default.” Then it occurred to me to really look at him. He was wearing a Super Bowl XXX Cowboy shirt. For those of you who may not know, that’s the Super Bowl the Cowboys won over the Steelers courtesy of Neil O’Donnell being color blind and throwing to the wrong team more than once. Trust me, I’ll never forget it. CFH won’t let me.

Once I noticed the attire of choice, I had to worry about him. His role on these trips is to watch my stuff so I can move around unencumbered with a lot of extra baggage. He generally finds a nice shady spot, opens up our chairs, and I dump everything I don’t need with him and run off like a star-struck teenager to watch the players come out to practice. That means he was left on his own for a time, unprotected by my Black and Gold’ness. Turns out he was fine. He got glared at routinely and people were generally not as friendly toward us as they usually are, but no one got in his face, and he seemed content to simply have the shirt on, so he didn’t mouth off too loudly. But ever since the Hall of Fame inductions he has been on a real anti-Steeler jag, and this was one more way he decided to act out. Watching Dermonti Dawson, without a Super Bowl ring, get in before any of the lineman who blocked for the “Triplets” seemed to have sent him over some sort of proverbial ledge.

I have to confess that I understand that because I spent last night watching the Raiders play pitifully against those very same Cowboys and loving it because I dislike the Raiders with such passion that I would rather see almost anyone else look good than let them win a game. Only if they come up against the Ravens or the Patriots will I vacillate on that viewpoint. Why? Because. That’s why. I have some reasons, actually, but they are all fairly lame and outdated, and I don’t care. I am almost as anti-Raider as I am pro-Steeler, and I always will be. Well, maybe not almost, but I am very, very anti-Raider.

There are actually some sound psychological reasons why people are anti-fans as much as they are fans, but I have my own armchair psychology to share. So, here goes:

• Against the force of massive zealousness, it’s a way to keep your own identity intact. This is what I believe is happening in part to CFH. He gets hit with the fact that he is in the capital of Steeler Nation all the time. He is told often that he will “come around”. Like a stubborn teenager, he is trying to put a stamp on his own identity that is unique to the masses and prove that he can think for himself, thank you very much. The more we push him, the more he will push back.
• When your team’s chips are down, it’s at least a way to keep your sense of superiority unharmed. The Steelers got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, but at least they made it. The Raiders didn’t. I can take some lame validation out of that.
• If your team tanks, you can at least root against another one. An example would be, “Okay, so the Steelers didn’t win the Super Bowl again this year. I can survive that blow as long as the Patriots don’t win another one either.” (Also known as: misery loves company.)
• We are contrarians by nature, our country having been born out of revolution. Being “for” something is great. Being against something else is sort of tantalizing in a way that the positive spin is not.
• It is treasonous to be for another team like you are for your home team. What, then, do you do when your team is not playing? How do you pique your interest? Fantasy football stats might work, but rooting “against” another team is a safe way to keep one’s interest strong.
• Jealousy of another team’s success overshadowing your own is undoubtedly the largest culprit. I confess that’s a part in my anti-Patriot bias. We have the six trophies, but they’ve somehow been anointed as the best team on the planet, or so it would seem. For CFH, that’s a definite factor in the anti-Steeler rants I’ve endured lately.

There are my reasons for why we are often anti-fans as well as fans. What are yours?

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