Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sports can be a separator rather than an equalizer

Sports culture in Massachusetts makes forming relationships difficult
Photo by Mick Haupt via Unsplash.

Meeting people is hard. To some, this is a statement so obvious that it seems like a waste of breath to even imply it, while to others, it seems like an abstract thought that only crosses the antisocial minds. Prior to attending the University of Massachusetts, I didn’t identify with either of these thought processes. These past few weeks, however, have proven the contrary.

It’s not that I haven’t met people; I have individuals and groups I talk to on a regular basis, in class and on my own. Yet, it’s week four of the semester and it’s only now that I’ve begun to have this feeling of security with others, and even then, that “feeling of security” could be seen as a little bit of an overstatement.

There are a few reasons why I might feel this way. Odds are, it’s probably because I haven’t had to consciously try and create a group of friends since sixth grade, but I feel there are other lingering factors that contribute to this everlasting struggle of mine.

I come from a small town in southern Connecticut called Orange, at most a two-hour train ride from New York. Due to the geographical nature of my upbringing, I grew up in a household run almost entirely by New York football and baseball fans. Phil Simms-signed memorabilia graced the walls of our garage-turned-hangout-spot, where during the winter my father and his buddies would sit and watch NFL games every Sunday, praying that Giants head coach Brian Daboll wouldn’t let them down.

I’d sit in our basement during the summer, avidly watching every Yankees game on our plasma TV, eagerly awaiting the day Aaron Judge would break the American League record for most home runs in a season. I was brought up in a house that bled blue and wouldn’t want it any other way.

Which, of course, brings me to my former point about meeting people — at a college in Massachusetts.

Sports, by all accounts, has been described as “the Great Equalizer;” an American pastime that can create bonds with individuals you would never meet otherwise. Prior to entering college, I wholeheartedly subscribed to this belief. Even when I found out a friend was an Eagles fan, I got over it quickly and went on liking the person just fine, like any reasonably sane person would and should.

The big difference between a scenario like that and the scenario I find myself in now is that I already had a basic idea of who the person in question was before I learned of their sports affiliations. When I heard a friend was an Eagles fan, I disregarded it completely because I knew that person wasn’t driven by animosity towards my team. Here, learning somebody is a Patriots fan or an Eagles fan before anything else inevitably creates negative connotations in my mind. I in no way feel any hatred towards these people, but learning they like a rival team obviously makes it a little harder for us to connect.

Of course, there are some people who can take their hatred for a franchise and turn it into a talking point. A professor of mine, an avid soccer fan, made it explicitly clear on the first day of classes that certain fan bases would be frowned upon because of his affiliation with a certain club. Of course, there were fans of the aforementioned “frowned upon” club, but he managed to turn the disagreement into a talking point with these students.

I remain in awe of my professor’s ability to take a rivalry and turn it into something positive. I grew up in a house that despised the New England Patriots more than anything in the world (other than the Eagles, of course), so maybe my upbringing has affected my psyche. Of course, though, I have been able to meet people who like teams I hate and build a connection. And, with the recent tragic death of a fan at a Patriots game this past week, rivalries have been put into perspective by all sports fans.

At the end of the day, an organization’s actions don’t reflect a fan’s thoughts, and keeping this in mind does help sports keep its flattering label as “the Great Equalizer.” Though suffice it to say, I will never like the Patriots or the Red Sox. Sorry, Massachusetts.

Michael Perrone can be reached at [email protected].

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  • K

    Kelly McMahanSep 28, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    Awesome first column Michael! To your point: in the most respectful and diplomatic way possible, GO BIRDS.