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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY ALLIE DAVISON, Wharton High
Those people wearing the wrong jerseys. Those people standing up for the wrong goals. Those people cheering for the wrong team. Those people are ones we call “away fans.”
I never thought I would be one of those fans, until I found myself at the world famous TD Garden in Boston last week, watching the Bolts take on the Bruins. The trip was my prize for winning the Watch and Win contest sponsored by JetBlue and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bostonians are noted for their ruthless team allegiance, and that’s putting it nicely. So to say I was a little nervous about heading into a crowd of 16,000 with an electric blue jersey target on my back is an understatement.
Some fans made me feel welcome, but it was clear as the game (and the catcalls) went on that others didn’t like an intruder stepping on their territory. I survived, though, and along the way fine-tuned three tips for enjoying an away game without irritating the home crowd.
Learn the traditions
Each city has a history, filled with championships or heartaches or both. Boston has been declared by some as the greatest sports city in the country. The NFL Patriots, NBA Celtics, MLB Red Sox and the NHL Bruins call the Beantown area home and all have been No. 1. As a self-declared Boston “hater,” I still managed to squeeze in a trip to the Sports Museum housed at TD Garden. As I walked down the halls, I saw images of the greats, like Ted Williams and Reggie Lewis, and lots of history. I began to appreciate what this city has done for the world of sports. Boston consistently has produced class-act athletes who epitomize what being a winner is all about. After this history lesson, watching one of the teams live gave me a new understanding of the impact of them as a whole.
Pick your battles
As an away fan you, should expect people to point and gawk at you like you have five heads. Expect the unoriginal “Your team sucks!” or “This is our house” chants. Engaging with the fans around you is part of the whole experience, however, choosing carefully who you banter back and forth with is crucial.
For example, the Bruins beat the Lightning in an epic seven-game series last season in the Eastern Conference finals and then went on to win the Stanley Cup. Touchy subject with me, but I anticipated the cracks. I had no argument, so as fans hollered at me about last season, I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders and walked on. Later, after Steven Stamkos scored two goals putting him up to 55 in the season, a few (quite intoxicated) fans started shouting that he (unoriginal s-word). This time I just looked at the fans and said, “He is laughing all 55 goals to the bank. I’ll be sure to let him know to give you a shout-out when he is accepting the top goal scorer award.” If you have evidence to back up your argument, proceed. If not, take the jabs in stride.
It can be intimidating walking into an arena in a sea of opposite fans. Being the only one standing when your team comes out, and trying to overpower thousands of boos with your faint cheering can get frustrating; sometimes you just want to yell, “You guys are rooting for the wrong team.” Don’t let it get to you, though. You have the unusual opportunity to give your team support on the road and you never know when a player could see a local fan in the stands and be heartened. Even if your team is losing, which the Lightning wound up doing in Boston, never stop yourself from getting up out of your seat and clapping your hands. You are there to represent your team, and you should never be ashamed of what’s on the front of your jersey. You don’t have to be obnoxious, jumping up and shouting for joy when the opposite team gets penalized. Find a balance between fan and antagonist. It will help you enjoy the game even more.