Hate is Good

Early September again, if you can believe it, that time of year when, for a brief month and a half, two major sports seasons–baseball and, now, football–collide. I love them both for vastly different reasons. And I have my favorite teams. But at this particular juncture some baseball teams are being eliminated from the post season while some college teams–and that’s what I mean by football–are already being stricken from championship contention.

Every game counts, right? In most sports, you get eliminated toward the end of the season. In one particular sport you can foul it up right off the bat. That is to say, from the first game–and for your entire conference. Last year, Washington’s season opening 21-16 loss to Auburn not only killed the Huskies’ playoff hopes, but also dimmed the nation’s estimation of the Pac-12 as a whole.

Last Saturday Oregon–another Pac-12 team–found a way to lose its own season opener, again to Auburn, 27-21. For the conference, the ramifications of the game will like as not be akin to last year’s.

I hate this. But I have learned, over 51 years of being a fan, that hate–like greed, famously, according to Gordon Gekko–is good.

I don’t mean this conference-killing nonsense. When I began as a fan in 1968 it was the Pac-8. Four more teams have only made the conference stronger, despite reducing my team’s chances by what seems 50%. Despite the nation’s estimation.

When you root for your team and it wins–jubilation; but, should it lose, heartbreak. That’s the rollercoaster of being a fan.

And if you’re not a fan? What if you hate a particular team? When you hate-root against a team and it wins–meh–disaffection; but, should it lose, jubilation. No rollercoaster. There’s only ever an upside. Ergo, hate is good.

But only in spirit. As an anti-fan, and strictly concerning the play on the field, diamond, court, pitch or rink. Not in any physical manner regarding the players. And certainly not in parking lot assaults on rival fans. Dodger Stadium comes to mind, 2014 specifically, when two Dodger fans beat and permanently disabled a Giants fan.

I’ve always hated the soulless Dodgers. For several years now they have been among the elite teams in major league baseball, assembling an enviable roster and amassing an impressive record. I can live with this–especially since it’s been 31 years since their last World Series victory. Their losses in the last two Series were particularly delicious. Had they won? Meh.

The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. This will last me a lifetime. But I’ll always tune in to hate-root against the Dodgers.

Hate is not just a strong word. Hate is good.

Now, in football, I don’t like Notre Dame because it doesn’t seem fair to me that, lo these many years, NBC should have awarded it an exclusive television contract. And I dislike Brigham Young because many of its players seem to have gone on their mission before playing, thus securing a level of maturity surpassing their opponents.

But I hate USC. I’ll give them their 11national titles. Still, I hate their plodding fight songs; I hate their gaudy colors, their smarmy culture, their cheating elitism, their self-entitlement–you name it. An example: In 2005 we took our oldest off to college–to the University of Oregon–and it just so happened that, that weekend, the Ducks were hosting USC. Mercifully, we had planned to spend that Thursday and Friday night well clear of Saturday’s action by treating ourselves to a stay at the Heathman Hotel in Portland. It’s an Occasion, taking your oldest off to college. Sadly, we didn’t escape. Who do you suppose had taken over the place? Yes, on their way to Eugene, a contingent of drunken Trojan supporters and even the school’s marching band–which played, hideously and too loud, in the hotel lobby. What was a celebration for us was merely a staging point for them.

Top-ranked USC went on to crush the Ducks 45-13. Meh.

Ever hear of a sore winner? This lot lacked the least smattering of graciousness. If there were a national championship to be had for gloating in advance, for conceit, these people would have exceeded the 11 titles their team has actually won. Some consolation, then, that a few years later, because of NCAA violations, USC was forced to vacate the last two wins of its 2004 national championship season and all of its wins for 2005. Go Ducks!

Hate pairs well with sports. I wish it didn’t with politics.

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