The 'us vs. them' mentality

Friday, January 16, 2015

One thing that has been on my mind recently is what I will refer to as the "us vs. them" mentality. Meaning the arbitrary lines drawn between people of different countries, cultures and -- on a much smaller scale -- sports teams.

Because I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and am barely qualified for the job I currently have, I'm going to focus on the latter.

Growing up playing sports in the Estherville Lincoln Central school system, there were two things I knew for sure:

First, I have the goofiest mascot in the history of sport. And second, I HATE Emmetsburg.

I didn't know why, or even what it really meant to "hate" anything, but I knew that we were the good guys, they were the bad guys, and good needed to prevail.

I distinctly remember before our first-ever football game against the E'Hawks, everyone was freaking out over the game. There was this ridiculous hype that simply wasn't there any other week of practice.

I even brought it up at a family gathering early in the week.

I remember talking about how all of my teammates were losing their minds and saying how tough Emmetsburg was and things of that sort, when one of the adults at the party went off on how much he hated Emmetsburg and how we HAD to win the game and represent our town.

I was in seventh grade.

Obviously, we got smashed. I felt like crap for disappointing everyone, and I began to buy into the rivalry.

As I went through middle school and high school, my hatred for opposing teams only continued to grow.

By the time I was a senior, I hated -- legitimately -- every team and every athlete in the Lakes Conference. It got to the point that losing felt like my soul was being ripped from my body and the rare win provided no more than a slight sense of relief.

Fast forward a little more than a decade and I can't believe how absolutely silly it all was.

The teams and people that I hated were no different than my team or myself. They were just goofy teenagers trying to work up the nerve to talk to that cute girl in biology and having fun with their buddies on a Friday night.

More than that, we both needed each other to play the games that we were supposed to enjoy.

The fact that I hated them, now, seems so ridiculous.

Why, as human beings, do we feel the need to choose sides in something so arbitrary as a sporting event? Why can't I go to a Vikings game wearing Bears gear and -- at the very least -- not have people hurl insults at me? My fiancee once went to a Chiefs game in Cleveland and had a Browns fan slap her in the face -- AND SHE'S A BEARS FAN! He didn't know her. She didn't insult him. She was waiting in line for the ladies restroom. He was drunk and apparently didn't like her face, so he slapped her. How crazy are you?

Watch the games. Enjoy the games. Root for your team.

Just realize -- whether a Bear or a Viking, a Hawkeye or a Cyclone, an E'Hawk or a Midget -- we're all the same.

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