“Are you a sports fan? Tell us about fandom. If you’re not, tell us why not.”
I grew up in Central Illinois. My county of residence was considered part of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Being a St. Louis baseball Cardinals fan came with the territory. I idolized sports figures like Stan Musial, Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabowsky, Ernie Banks, Joe Garagiola, Yogi Berra, among others. While stationed overseas, I listened as Jack Buck announced Cardinals West Coast games against the Giants and Dodgers on AFN (Armed Forces Network). Prior to 1969, I listened to the late great Harry Carey. Harry Carey, Joe Garagiola, and Yogi Berra came from the same south St. Louis Italian neighborhood, known as “The Hill.”
I follow the other St. Louis sports teams, but baseball is my favorite sport. My hometown region was evenly divided between Cubs and Cardinals fans. I consider myself a baseball fan and not a sports fanatic. There’s an important distinction between the two. Until I moved to the Gulf Coast, I didn’t understand the true meaning of sports fanaticism. Following a favorite team is a “religion” to a sports fanatic.
Here on the Gulf Coast there’s a proliferation of sports fanatics and fanaticism. Favorite SEC football teams are supported “come hell or high water.” Those favoring non-SEC teams would be well advised to proceed with extreme caution when discussing sports with SEC fans–things could get ugly in a hurry. Harvey Updyke, a fanatical Alabama fan, poisoned revered live oak trees near the arch-rival Auburn University campus. Fanatical SEC dads have skipped out on being at the hospital, when children were born, to be at playoff games. Sports fanatics put all else aside to follow their passion.
SEC fanaticism is tame, compared to the extreme actions of World Cup soccer fans. If killing trees weren’t bad enough, a Brazilian referee, recently killed a soccer player; irate fans, in retaliation, murdered and dismembered the ref. In this instance, sports fanaticism crossed over into mob action, and became sports lunacy. That’s where I draw the line. I’m a sports fan without intentions of ever being a sports fanatic.
- Yogi Berra, Some of his famous sayings and quotes (doninmass.com)