Sunday, February 10, 2008

Just a Game? Like Hell!

This column originally appeared in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle on Saturday, February 9th, 2008.

I was relatively okay this week after watching my beloved Patriots fall to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

Then I read my friend Mark Farinella’s sports column in the Sun Chronicle on Wednesday. On top of everything else, that was enough to send me over the edge.

In said column, Mark advises all Patriot fans to “get a grip”. He decries the reaction of many of us to the devastating loss, and tells us all to get some perspective. He notes winning the game would not have fed the hungry, lowered our taxes, or meant a cure for cancer.

“It’s just a football game, people” Farinella’s prose relates.

Well, I have some equally good advice to my buddy who I covered local sports with more than 30 years ago:

Get over yourself, Mark.

I just love it when the sports media – both regional and national – gets on their high horse and tells all us lowly and ignorant sports fans we are taking these games too seriously. I find their preaching to be the height of hypocrisy.

These nice folks make their living covering games and athletic events. They are only able to do this because people like me care deeply about sports.

Without passionate and even obsessive sports fans, sportswriters would have no reason to do what they do. Without the dedication of this sports-crazed nation, Farinella might find himself covering local selectmen’s meetings and the annual gathering of the Chartley Garden Club.

We devout (okay, somewhat crazed) sports fans know full well the result of the Super Bowl plays no part in the lowering of our taxes, the security of our nation, or the well-being of our brave soldiers. We may not be as smart and worldly as some sportswriters, but we have figured that out.

There is no excuse for anyone to abuse their spouse, their pet, or themselves over a sporting contest – or anything else, for that matter. People who cross the line of acceptable behavior like that, regardless of the reason, need serious help.

And there is no reason for ignorant jerks to write threatening and insulting comments to sportswriters over what they have written or reported. Mark was right in blasting those who wrote such comments about Mansfield native John Tomase’s recent story in a Boston paper.

But sportswriters spend a lot of their time and energy trying to get us involved in the saga of our local franchises. They cover their every move, report on everything they do from preseason to the playoffs, and often delve into the personal lives of the players. They seek to make us care, become invested.

So when they then start preaching about misplaced priorities, it seems a bit disingenuous.

I read Mark Farinella because he is an excellent sports columnist. His understanding of the game, his style, and the way he relates to his readership make his columns interesting and informative.

But does Mark really want us all to become Los Angeles sports fans? Does he want everyone to leave Fenway Park in the seventh inning to beat the traffic? Following the loss, should we have had a parade for the Pats anyway, with signs that said “We don’t care if you lost”?

Good sportswriters take pride in being objective professional reporters rather than just fans. That is as it should be.

But for those professionals to look down their noses at sports fans and smugly remind them “it’s only a game” is irritating and insulting.

We know it’s a game – we are the people who make it possible. Without us shelling out our hard-earned dollars for expensive seats, exorbitant parking fees, outrageous cable television packages and overpriced souvenirs and memorabilia, these games would be played only in schoolyards.

Without us crazies, there would be no need for haughty sportswriters who like to think they somehow have a better perspective on life than we do.

So get over yourself, my friend. All I kicked this weekend was some perfectly innocent furniture.

This was not “just a football game”, it was much more than that. And remember – when we stop caring, you’ll stop working.

Bill Gouveia is a 34-year Patriot season ticket-holder and a certified sports nut, who happens to write a local column. He can be reached at

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