STOP THE BULLYING

pittvsnotredameI wrote the essay that follows two years ago after attending a football game between Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh. This past weekend the two teams once again took the field in Pittsburgh, and I asked my husband if it had been Notre Dame fans who almost ruined one of our few visits to Heinz Field for a game.

“That would be the same team.” And he remembered the game as vividly as I did. Notre Dame fans sitting behind us nearly ruined the whole night for us because of their rudeness bordering on bullying us simply because we wore the colors of Pitt and rooted for our home team. Recently, while going through my files, I found the essay I’d started after that game. It’s still relevant today, so I’ve pulled it out of the archives to share. I hope it gives us all a moment to consider our behaviors, whether it be during a sporting event, a political debate, or a religious discussion. We are a part of the human team, party, and church. Let’s act like it.

From November 2013:

bullyingI like rooting for the home team. I want them to win, but I don’t hate the opposing team and their fans.

We decided to buy last minute tickets to the University of Pittsburgh versus Notre Dame game. Our tickets plucked us right down in the South Bend, Indiana, home base at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. We didn’t care. It would be fun with good-natured ribbing, we thought. We only hoped it was a game, and that Pitt didn’t lose horribly as they did to Florida State at the last game we attended.

In the first quarter, a Notre Dame player ran into the lowered head of a Pitt player, and the Irish guy was thrown out of the game. While the Pitt player lay on the field, a group of five Fighting Irish fans behind us starting yelling, “Get up off the ground; you deserved that hit.” My husband tried to reason by saying any hit on the head was a bad hit. They yelled back that our player put his head down so he should expect to get hit. They continued their tirade every time a Pitt player was tackled or hit.

The ugly remarks continued behind us as Pitt kept one touchdown behind or tied. My husband tried another time to reason with them, and I told him to stop because they weren’t the reasoning kind.

They made fun of our dancers, cheerleaders, and band. They called anyone who lived in Pittsburgh “stupid.” There was more, but all stayed in the same vein until in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when Pitt scored the winning touchdown. They became quiet, but we moved into empty seats away from them, just in case. They seemed to be the types who might do something more than hurl insensitive and cruel words. I saw bullying firsthand in those fans.

If we can’t be friendly with our rivals over a stupid and meaningless game, how can we ever expect to live in a peaceful world? Take the behavior of these fans as one snippet from the world in which we live. Take the stone walls in our lawmaking bodies for another. When did we stop listening to one another and leap into a world where only one view—our own—is accepted?

It depressed me on so many levels; I’m still attempting to absorb it all. The worst part was the struggle both my husband and I experienced as we fought not to respond. It felt far too easy to shout back about the “stupid Irish” or some other ridiculous epitaph. Sitting and tuning it out required a great deal of deep breathes and closing of our ears.

Right now, I have no desire to return to a game because of five young folks, both male and female, sitting behind us on a cold night in Pittsburgh. I have to remind myself not to let them represent all people from South Bend or Notre Dame. Next to me sat two lovely young women dressed in the green of the fighting Irish. They said little but clapped when their team did well as we did when Pitt did the same. We were polite to one another, and they did not enter into the nastiness of the folks behind us.

I implore all of us to overlook our differences and concentrate on our similarities. Act with kindness toward others. Don’t lower yourself to the baseness in others. And most of all, save your battles for the big ones in life, which will come at some point when least expected. Make sure you have the energy to fight the important stuff rather than on a football game that really doesn’t matter in the first place.

But maybe most of all, enjoy what you’re doing without venom, without spite, without violence. It can’t be enjoyable to yell angry f-bombs at the field and at the people sitting in front of you just because they’re wearing blue and beige with a Pitt Panther logo on the front. If we don’t start with us, there’s little hope that religions, political divides, and countries can ever pull together for the betterment of humanity.

peace_sign_rainbow_3.png

#Bullying and #Football

I like rooting for the home team. I want them to win, but I don’t hate the opposing team and their fans.

We decided to buy last minute tickets to the University of Pittsburgh versus Notre Dame game. Our tickets plucked us right down in the South Bend, Indiana, home base at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. We didn’t care. It would be fun with good-natured ribbing, we thought. We only hoped it was a game, and that Pitt didn’t lose horribly as they did to Florida State at the last game we attended.

In the first quarter, a Notre Dame player ran into the lowered head of a Pitt player, and the Irish guy was thrown out of the game. While the Pitt player lay on the field, a group of five Fighting Irish fans behind us starting yelling, “Get up off the ground; you deserved that hit.” My husband tried to reason by saying any hit on the head was a bad hit. They yelled back that our player put his head down so he should expect to get hit. They continued their tirade every time a Pitt player was tackled or hit.

The ugly remarks continued behind us as Pitt kept one touchdown behind or tied. My husband tried another time to reason with them, and I told him to stop because they weren’t the reasoning kind.

They made fun of our dancers, cheerleaders, and band. They called anyone who lived in Pittsburgh “stupid.” There was more, but all stayed in the same vein until in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when Pitt scored the winning touchdown. They became quiet, but we moved into empty seats away from them, just in case. They seemed to be the types who might do something more than hurl insensitive and cruel words. I saw bullying firsthand in those fans.

The story about the Miami Dolphins and team bullying reared its ugly head just before that game. I wondered if the claims could be true, and after our experience, I have a feeling some of the charges against Richie Incognito might have some validity. He says he used racial slurs as a form of love. Sorry, but that’s no love I’ve ever heard of and hope I never experience. It’s abusive behavior.

Has it always been this way or are we becoming a less peaceful and more aggressive society? If we can’t be friendly with our rivals over a stupid and meaningless game, how can we ever expect to live in a peaceful world? Take the behavior of these fans as one snippet from the world in which we live. Take the stone walls in our lawmaking bodies for another. When did we stop listening to one another and leap into a world where only one view—our own—is accepted?

It depressed me on so many levels; I’m still attempting to absorb it all. The worst part was the struggle both my husband and I experienced as we fought not to respond. It felt far too easy to shout back about the “stupid Irish” or some other ridiculous epitaph. Sitting and tuning it out required a great deal of deep breathes and closing of our ears.

Right now, I have no desire to return to a game because of five young folks, both male and female, sitting behind us on a cold night in Pittsburgh. I have to remind myself not to let them represent all people from South Bend or Notre Dame. Next to me sat two lovely young women dressed in the green of the fighting Irish. They said little but clapped when their team did well as we did when Pitt did the same. We were polite to one another, and they did not enter into the nastiness of the folks behind us.

As I write this, I’m trying to figure out the point of this post. An editor once told me my columns didn’t always have to have a point. I disagreed, and I still do. What’s the point of me complaining if I don’t have a solution?

I implore all of us to overlook our differences and concentrate on our similarities. Act with kindness toward others. Don’t lower yourself to the baseness in others. And most of all, save your battles for the big ones in life, which will come at some point when least expected. Make sure you have the energy to fight the important stuff rather than on a football game that really doesn’t matter in the first place.

But maybe most of all, enjoy what you’re doing without venom, without spite, without violence. It can’t be enjoyable to yell angry f-bombs at the field and at the people sitting in front of you just because they’re wearing blue and beige with a Pitt Panther logo on the front. If we don’t start with us, there’s little hope that religions, political divides, and countries can ever pull together for the betterment of humanity.

#Pittsburgh Made Me A Sports Fan Once Again

myPittsburghSportsBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

Sports Fan? “No way,” she said before she moved to Pittsburgh.

This is a tale of a woman who rebelled against her upbringing with four older, and athletic, brothers.

For years, I hated sports because they took most of my family away from me on weekends and holidays. They might have only gone as far as the living room floor, sprawling out in front of our black and white television set adorned with rabbit ears. (For those of you too young to know, the rabbit ears were antennas, pointed toward the nearest television stations.) My brothers and father focused solely on the game at hand. Sports also took my parents away as they attempted to attend every sports event of each of my brothers.

Yes, I hated sports, with certain conditions. I loved the Detroit Tigers because one of my brothers signed with them in 1965, and we went to many games during his two-year stint in the minor leagues. I only loved them live – not on the television.BigBrotherTigers

My first husband was not an athlete, and he didn’t share my family’s obsession with professional and college football, basketball, golf, hockey, and baseball. I buried my head in the sand when we moved to Florida to the land of Gators. I worked with folks who wore orange and blue underwear, and still I resisted through the Spurrier years and Tebowdom.

Then something miraculous occurred. I moved to Pittsburgh and married a man who’d grown up with my brothers in Michigan, yet lived in southwestern Pennsylvania for more than three decades. He indoctrinated me when he took me to a driving range for my first attempt in forty years at swinging a club. I missed and nearly spun myself around on the fake grass. Embarrassed, I looked at my Pittsburgh man.

“Come on,” he said. “You come from a long line of athletes. You have this in your genes.”

At first, it ticked me off. And then, it clicked. I swung and hit the ball more than 200 yards.

Thus began my re-indoctrination into the sports world.

The training continued with my first Steelers game at Heinz Field on downtown Pittsburgh’s northside. How could I resist a stadium where the glittering lights of downtown skyscrapers reflected in the three rivers of Pittsburgh? How could I resist the giant Heinz ketchup bottles at one end of the stadium that open and pour out ketchup when the home team makes it to the red zone?

My rebellion halted the first time I saw a giant plastic bottle with fake red ketchup pouring out of its top.Steelers Fans

We went to an August 2009 Pirates game at PNC Park, which is rated as one of the top baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball. It was a Friday night at the end of yet another losing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We were nearly alone in the seats and moved as close as we could to the action. I saw Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in action and wondered why the team couldn’t do better. We went to more games in 2010, 2011, and 2012 as they continued to lose, with short glimmers of hope when the bats of Pedro Alvarez and “Cutch” slung balls into the bleachers. I slowly became a fan.

PNC Park

PNC Park

Then there were the Penguins. We went to several games each season. Last year, they were contenders once again for the Stanley Cup only to lose badly to Boston in post-season play. I was sad for Crosby, Malkin, and the rest of the young men who played so hard for Pittsburgh.

To put salve on the wound, expectations began rising for the Pirates in spring 2013. I refused to hope for anything but a win at the games I attended. We went four times this season, and they lost each time. We waited for two months, and then couldn’t resist heading down to PNC Park for one more try a few weeks ago. This time – four years after my first game – the stadium was filled with cheering fans, and they won.

A few weeks ago, the Pirates and their fans could boast about their first winning season in twenty years. They most certainly will be in the playoffs once the regular season ends next weekend.

I can’t explain how it happened, but it did. I’m almost a bigger fan than my husband because I always hope for the win. He gives up early in the games, but I hold on for the miracle. In my miracle, the Steelers beat the Bears despite a two-touchdown deficit; the Penguins win at least one game against the Bruins in the playoffs; and the Pirates make it to the World Series.

If my miracles continue to occur, the Tigers and the Pirates will slug it out for the top honor in October.

If this happens, there’s no way I’ll lose.

My husband was right this one time. It really is in my genes.golfpros