Tragedy strikes on a random Tuesday sports night

On Tuesday night a variety of fan bases were on display in Denver, Nashville, San Antonio and Philadelphia. Another fan base was thrown into terror in Manchester, England.

These were my two worlds on Tuesday night—the world of tragedy in Manchester and the world of sports from my couch. While I waited for news on Manchester, I forced myself to focus on the only escape route in front of me—the sports world. When the sports night ended, I returned to Manchester and the grief I felt for the victims.

In a lot of ways, it was just another sports night in May, but it also served as a window into what makes each group of fans unique.

* * * * *
The identity of Philadelphia sports fans is solidified. They are the crowd most critical of their home teams of any city in America. For some reason, the city that houses the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall wants freedom of expression to be loud and inward facing.

I’m sure it’s not easy for road teams like the Rockies either, but on Tuesday night, Colorado cruised to an 8-2 victory. They won the series and outscored the Phillies by 17 runs.

The Phillies have been bad for a half-decade and Philadelphia sports teams are struggling in general. The constantly tanking Philadelphia 76ers highlight this field. The Phillies’ identity is shaped by being the first team to reach 10,000 losses. They cheer on outlandish antics by the Philly Phanatic, and every fan believes they could run the team better.

On Tuesday night, Root Sports commentator and former Colorado Rockies star Ryan Spilborghs told a story about his impressions of Philadelphia. He said it was the first place he heard loud boos against a home team player. It wasn’t even when the guy stepped up to the plate, but the moment he came out of the dugout to step into the on-deck circle. He was still shocked by the Phillies fans’ vitriol when describing it many years later.

They fight like a family in Philadelphia—the city of brotherly love.

* * * * *
It’s agonizing to hold a one-goal lead in a pivotal hockey game. One mistake and it evaporates. For the Nashville Predators, they had a one-goal lead twice in the third period while trying to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The Anaheim Ducks scored to tie the game and then Nashville regained the lead after a penalty kill. Knowing that Nashville has never reached the Cup Final made the final sequences even more nerve-wracking.

The Nashville Predators fan base is an enigma in the NHL. It is a southern U.S. hockey fan base so enthused it feels Canadian. They should be the models for all fan bases that don’t hold a city’s imagination captive (including the Colorado Avalanche). The Predators have put the fans first. They even organized events for fans during the NHL’s last lockout. The team’s embrace of the city’s “country” culture and party atmosphere has helped ignite the fan base in Nashville.

The Avs may be in the Predators division, but Nashville is the team to root for this year. They have P.K. Subban. He is my favorite hockey player right now after leaving the Montreal Canadiens in controversy. They have former Avalanche player Cody McLeod. Fillip Forsberg is a personal favorite. He is not related to Peter the Great, but looks like him the more his hair grows.

Anaheim pulled the goalie late in the game and the Predators capitalized—tallying two more goals. The stadium erupted. No one was sure the Predators could make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The fans dressed in yellow rose to their feet and didn’t sit down.

* * * * *
Tuesday saw the end of the San Antonio Spurs 2017 campaign. Even in the blowout sweep by the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs fans were determined to give its team a proper sendoff. With only five championships in their 20-year playoff streak, Spurs fans know some seasons end in games like this. Every fan stayed until the end. I’m not sure when that would happen at the Pepsi Center.

Manu Ginobili hit a three late in the game and the Spurs crowd exploded. The fans wanted Ginobili to know how much they cared for him. At one time my least favorite flopper in the league, Ginobili may have played his last game. He was treated like a king by fans, teammates, opponents and commentators.

San Antonio’s identity is wrapped up in the Spurs. Legends like Ginobili are part of everyone’s family.

* * * * *
There are so many communities we move through, recognize and are a part of in sports and entertainment.

The Colorado Rockies are on fire right now. I’m working to come to terms with a team that currently doesn’t fit into my identity as a Rockies fan. They aren’t winning without a shred of hope or losing with incompetence.

Golden State fans, after the Western Conference Finals victory, now turn their attention to seeking redemption in the Finals. They want the 3-1 series lead jokes to end. They want to feel validated for their support of a team too good to fail.

This past weekend my friend Rose became part of the University of Minnesota Softball team community. She didn’t care about them at all a few weeks ago. Then the NCAA selection committee cheated them. Rose was indignant about the team not being given a home series in the NCAA regional softball tournament despite being ranked first in the country (in theory, the top 16 ranked teams should have received home regionals). Minnesota lost in the tournament and will have to wait a year for redemption. I think Rose will be watching.

My friend Leandro is a huge Chicago Fire fan. The Fire are a soccer team in the MLS that is nothing special—he just loves soccer and loves the community it has to offer. The same goes for the real Colorado Rapids fans rallying against management’s decisions and the crazy Seattle Sounders fans who stand for the whole game and sing. They want to be a part of a community—and are probably a little envious of Manchester United fans in the Premier League.

* * * * *

That’s the thing about fandom. Each group is a little different. It finds each of us in different ways. Maybe it’s sports. Maybe it’s a movie franchise. Maybe it’s music.

Maybe you want to gather with people to celebrate the Pop Music that is a part of your teenage experience. It’s your initiation into the world of culture and being a part of a like-minded community.

No one should invoke terror and harm you in a place that you love. It could have happened in Philadelphia or Nashville or San Antonio or Denver on Tuesday night. This time it was Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert

Now people in Manchester find themselves part of a new community. One no one wants to join. It’s the community of people who lost something in an act of terror. This time is was at a concert instead of at a school, a movie theater or a sporting event. No matter where it happens the scars of such an inexplicable act run deep into every part of our lives.

We need communities. We need to be able to care about something with a group of people. It gives us shared purpose. It makes us brave. It allows us to recognize the good in the world when we face horror we would never inflict.

We may not be Ariana Grande fans, but we’re fans of something. It’s through these communities that we try to heal and create stronger bonds. We strengthen those communities through shared experiences. We vow to find our seats again and cheer.

This post originally appeared on 5280 Sports Network, now a part of Mile High Sports

%d bloggers like this: