We All Hate Derby… Or Maybe Not

Passion is not Hatred

(Image ©Waywardeffort)

I thought Derby played well tonight. Looked solid defensively and play a lovely style of football, showing flair whilst controlling the game convincingly. Am right behind them in the play off final and hope that they can once more reach the premiership.

According to many, I’m not actually a real football fan because I watch the MK Dons (read about that here). That aside though, I’m a Forest fan. Forest hate Derby, Derby hate Forest. So why the paragraph above?

I really don’t understand the hatred of football teams. Sure I get the human nature to belong to a pack, to follow their football team above all others. But to hate other teams and automatically hope they lose because they…exist? No I don’t get that bit. If Forest are playing Derby I want Derby to lose. I vehemently want them to lose. I know that at work on Monday I will feel the consequences of that 5 nil drubbing. I know that when we win 5 nil I will be just as bad. I want Derby to lose If during the season we are contesting the same elusive promotion or relegation spot. But that goes for any team in the division. If Forest aren’t directly involved I don’t care. In fact, given that I have several friends who are passionate Derby fans, in a neutral game like tonight, I will back Derby.

I have a real issue at the moment with following football. (Blog post to follow). This unconditional hatred is just one example. I woke up this morning to various premiership fans being asked what their club’s best moment of their season was. Fulham, Liverpool and Man City fans all answered. The Man Utd fan said his best moment was Gerrard slipping and subsequently seeing him in tears. So nothing to do with his team then. Just hatred of another. Hatred purely because this season they have been outclassed. To any proper football fan, what Liverpool have achieved this year is pretty impressive. To that person, the fact that one of the most talented English players we have seen in the last decade made a mistake outshines anything else he has seen this season from his and (I assume) any other team.

Sport is greatly enhanced by rivalries. It adds the extra edge to competition. Local rivalries and derbies add banter in the classroom, the office and social media. But that’s what it is. Banter. Not hatred. This banter means that when my team isn’t involved, far from wanting the other team to lose, I want them to win. I feel far more connections with the rival, far more empathy with their fans than teams that are just regular participants in the league.

So I’ll be backing Derby County in the play off final. Wearing my Forest top, but backing Derby. 

Sharing The Love of The Game

Have we forgotten the Love of the Game?
(Image © Richard Matthews Richard_Of_England)

I was recently lucky enough to take in a Chicago Cubs baseball game whilst on business in the US. The game was against their ‘local’ rivals St Louis Cardinals who hail from just down the road (by American standards anyway!). My evening started with an hour train ride into central Chicago which was an experience in itself. The carriage which rapidly filled up as we journeyed through the suburbs contained both Cardinals and Cubs fans and it was like being in a cosy village pub. Everyone chatting to each other (even the solo Englishman in the corner), passing around beer and some pretty knowledgeable light hearted banter between the two sets of fans. In the stadium I sat between a group of Cardinals fans and Cubs fans and the banter and chat continued. By the end of the night, fans were exchanging details and buying each other beer. The result – a uncharacteristic drubbing of the Cardinals – was passionately celebrated but didn’t get in the way of a great evening of social interaction. Don’t get me wrong, these were not part time fans. They loved their clubs, the support had  in some cases been passed down from generation to generation as it is in football. Often, they were more knowledgeable in the history, stats, strengths and weaknesses of their players than the average football fan is here. Yes, they definitely love their team. What also struck me though was that they loved Baseball.

It put me in mind of a conversation I had at work last season with  a Chelsea season ticket holder. This is an intelligent man, a man significantly higher up the food chain than the average mortal. He was talking about his disbelief that an opposition fan was sitting next to him during a game. He was angry, no furious even, that this had been allowed to happen.  It had all started, he said, when the guy next to him had the cheek to stand and applaud his team as they were announced. You can imagine how that made him feel he said. It got worse. On the first attack of the game, he shouted the strikers name and issued the standard oooooohhh as the ball was blazed wide. Luckily, said my subject, at that point someone behind him told the alien fan to “shut the f*** up!” and he retook his seat. Unfortunately, when the opposition scored, the fan was unable to contain his excitement and leaped in the air. A stand up confrontation, started (with full admission) by my work colleague led to a steward being summonsed and the fan was ejected. “It was a good job ‘cos I was ready to hit him. Could I believe that this has happened?” I was asked.

I’m afraid I cannot get my head around this sort of manic tribalism. I understand the passion of the football fan. I understand that the majority pick (or are handed down) the support of one club and embrace that for life. What I don’t understand is how two grown adults, intelligent grown adults, cannot sit next to each other and accept that the passion they hold for their team might not be the same as their neighbor. I find it incredible that two people who in theory should have the passionate support of football in common cannot get past the sole focus on their own club. 

I generally sit in the area of the ground where the contents of my sandwich are inspected rather than my ticket and the fans are slightly more mixed. I admit to a thrill when I see opposition supporters sitting around me. It generally means an afternoon of banter, of background and assessment of both teams with the rivalry between the two teams thrown in for good measure.

The occasional event to a certain extent restores my faith in human nature. I noted that in both the Forest and MK Dons playoff finals that, with very few exceptions, the invading and celebrating fans of the opposition teams consoled the defeated players rather than taunted them. The community on Twitter that on the whole  engages in lighthearted and well informed banter makes me see light at the end of the tunnel. It makes me think back to Chicago and reminds me that we do share a love. Not of individual teams but of football itself.