After watching the Red Sox defeat the Colorado Rockies Sunday night to become World Series champs, I came to this realization: I can’t stand it when people refer to a team’s fan base as “_________ Nation.” I must have heard the phrase “Red Sox Nation” a dozen times during the celebration after the game.
I know that the phrase “Red Sox Nation” has been around for a long time (according to an article about it on the always-reliable Wikipedia, it was coined by a Boston Globe reporter in 1986). I also believe that “Raider Nation” – fans of the Oakland-Los Angeles-Oakland Raiders – has been around for a long time, maybe longer. But lately, things have just gotten ridiculous. Every team has their own nation now.
Why do I hate it when people refer to a team’s fans as “_____ Nation”? Well, here are a few reasons:
1. First, I hate it simply because it is so widespread. If only one or two teams did it, perhaps it would be tolerable. But a few quick Google searches today have turned up the following:
A. “Hokie Nation” – a documentary about fans of Virginia Tech.
B. “Volunteer Nation” – a phrase found in a book title about Tennessee football
C. “Packers Nation” – a blog about the Green Bay Packers
D. “Tiger Nation” a phrase that could refer to the fans of, among others: LSU,
Clemson, Massillon High School or Fort Hays State University.
2. In my experience, teams whose fans like to use this phrase the most often have the most obnoxious fans. The Boston Red Sox, to take the most obvious example, are the biggest road attraction in baseball. That is, more fans go to see the Red Sox play outside of Boston than any other team, even the Yankees. This is probably in large part because it is so hard to get tickets for their home games. I saw the Red Sox play the Mariners in Seattle this summer, and a few Boston fans (who had flown out from New England) were seated right behind me. It’s OK, if you grew up in Boston but have since moved to a new city, to go to the park when the Red Sox are in town to cheer them on. But flying across the country from Boston for the series, and in some cases outnumbering the hometown fans is, in my opinion, obnoxious. The only exception to this rule of calling yourself “nation” and being obnoxious is the Yankees, whose fans (though still obnoxious) don’t refer to themselves as “Yankee Nation,” but instead as “Yankee Universe.” I think this helps make my point.
3. Finally, Why the need to be part of a nation? Isn’t the United States good enough? And why define yourself against others in such an absolute-sounding way? Isn’t the United Stated divided enough on more political issues? On the one hand, this complaint might seem kind of silly. But on the other hand, I think that there has to be something more fundamental lurking behind this tendency, since it is both so recent and so widespread. Are people just looking for a place to belong? Something to be part of that is larger than themselves? If this is so, is “Burnt Orange Nation” really the best they can do when it comes to shaping their identity?
I was watching a little college football this past weekend and was particularly struck, when watching the Georgia-Florida game, by how similar college football is to a religion – the rituals, the reverence for coaches and players who have reached godlike status, the codes of conduct, etc. Now, with every fan base calling itself “Nation,” it is starting to appear like not just a religion, but a civil religion.