Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fraternity and the Insanity of Fandom

I love sports.  So do you.  Well, most of you.

And most of us just don’t love sports, we allow sports to make us temporarily insane.  I don’t mean in jubilation for winning or sorrow for losses.  I mean sports make us insane because they alter our integrity.

Let’s admit one thing – we can all be steadfastly opposed to athletes who cheat, steal, do drugs, assault their spouses, make racist or homophobic comments, or generally act like arrogant SOBs…as long as they play for the OTHER team.  If they play for our team…well…?

There are athletes who deserve our scorn, and if they play for the other team, they are a properly labeled as jerks.  If they play for our team, we may actually root harder for them, because they are OUR jerks.

You could carry disdain for someone on the other team for years, but then they are signed by your team as a free agent.  Instantly, he’s matured as a player, learned from his mistakes, fallible like any human being, and someone who should be judged for his play, not his character.  

See – sports make us insane (ethically).

There are some exceptions.  I don’t know that any fan would have truly embraced Barry Bonds.  Or Mark McGuire.  Or Michael Vick (well, actually that one did shift).  And if Ray Rice ends up on another team, what will those fans do?

So, what does this have to do with fraternity – the subject of this blog? 

A fraternity or sorority – like many sports teams – can be prone to differential ethics when it comes to their own “players.”  In other words, when it’s our guy, a behavior or action can easily be dismissed.  When it’s the other team’s guy, we very easily pass out judgment as easily as candy on Halloween.

Consider a scenario.  Imagine you are at a party hosted by some other organization.  At that party you see a guy making moves on a clearly intoxicated woman.  In that situation, we may intervene, or at the minimum, be upset or disgusted by that behavior.  Now imagine if that same thing is happening in your chapter house, and the guy is your brother.  Might the feeling be different? 

The challenge is that we become emotionally invested in those on our team – those we are expected to root for.  It makes us treat them with situational ethics.  But, in reality, that emotional investment is selfish.

If we were truly invested in our players – then we wouldn’t have different accountability standards for them.  Because the best thing for those players is to be held accountable, so that they grow as individuals.  Our members are not served by our protection, or willful ignorance of their screw-ups and misdeeds.  

There is danger in team mentality.  It can cause us to apply our ethics in a schizophrenic fashion.  We should also remember that no single player is greater than the team. Dismissing behavior that should be confronted is gambling with our organization’s future – just like the sports franchise that drafts someone with a history of problems.

We should definitely be fans of our own fraternities and the members who belong to them.  Let’s choose to practice the best aspects of fandom:
  • Fans are patient and loyal, and can survive losing seasons because of hope of what’s to come.
  • Fans are forgiving, and generally will accept mistakes if there is demonstrated intent to make corrections.
  • Fans can bring life to a team when it needs it most, and the best fans do not give up until the bitter end.
At the same time, let’s remember some very important points that may not be reflected in professional sports, but should be true for our organizations:
  • Winning with players you admire and respect is exponentially better than winning with players whose behavior you have to tolerate.  Choose to populate your team with the former, even if it delays winning.
  • No player is entitled to be on a team, nor is any team forced to accept a player below their standards.
  • Any hate or disdain for players on other teams should be redirected towards rigorous accountability for players on our own teams.  
A quick point in closing: it’s not always the miscreants in sports that can make us temporarily insane.  It’s also the exceptional individuals.  Think about the hatred cast upon Tim Tebow.  Or Lebron James for a time.  In sports, we have a tendency to hate people because of how good they are.  Crazy, but true.  Steer clear of that in fraternity as well.  If the other guy in the other organization is doing really good stuff, seek to learn from it, not hate it.  

We can choose who we root for, who we root against, and the reasons why.  I challenge you to stop and consider that for yourself.  Let’s be fans who are loyal, patient, and enthusiastic.  

But not insane.



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