"It's just a game." How many times have we fans heard this statement? It's just a game, snap out of your mood, realize that people are dying and the ice caps are melting and for goodness sake you have an exam to study for. And even as we try to avoid hyperpartisanship, there's no denying that our feelings, moods and emotions are often tied to the performance of our team. And while everyone's ok with a supporter whose team just won 6-0 (ah, to know how that feels), there's only about five seconds that someone will stand for the black raincloud above your head before pulling out that famous phrase...it's just a game.
And so you'd think that when a supporter -- and I'm talking about fans who emotionally invest in their club, not just check the scoreline while out for a drink -- manage to find another supporter who experiences the same trials and tribulations, it would be thrilling. Here's someone who finally gets it. Let's hold hands and walk off into the sunset.The problem occurs when the colors don't match up. When yours are claret and blue, and theirs, bright red. When they've got on the black and white stripes and you're wearing light blue. I mean, for one thing, you're never going to manage to decorate a living space. And don't get me started on what happens when rivals date. Sounds appalling, really.
Anyway, you'd think someone that follows a club so passionately, who gets it, who gets you, would be the perfect person to have around when times with your team get tough. Au contraire. Fandom, after all, is what is in our head, and we know how we feel and perhaps what the feelings of our fellow supporters might be. To try to put yourself in someone else's colors simply doesn't work. You might be able to understand, briefly, why your other half is upset. You'll realize they need time to cool off. To drink a little. To meditate on a horrible game, a shitty season, a lifetime of frustration.
But because your team didn't lose out on a title or drop out of the running for the Champions League or even simply fail to beat a relegation bound side, you start to lose the empathy. It's time to go out for a drink. A pleasant conversation might be nice. Hey, even a smile. But your partner is still snarling and you feel those four dreaded words start to form on your tongue...It's. just. a. game.
And somehow, it's even worse to hear those words from a fellow sufferer. You can remember what their mood was like when they got knocked out of the Cup to their rivals. You know they drank at 8am when their manager walked out on the team. You know their pre-match rituals, the way they sleep in the same shirt before a game, the glass they broke after the equalizing goal. And yet if it's not your team...it's just a game.
There are enough real issues that divide us in this world -- the actual color of our skin, the religion we practice or choose not to practice, the language we speak, our views on Honduran economic policy. If you've been lucky enough to find someone you can stand, you probably shouldn't walk away based on the colors they wear. But know this: "It's just a game" could very well be a deal breaker...and those four words are very hard to bite back when its not your colors that have gone dim.