I’m not a particularly neat person. My apartment is not tidy. Yet there is something about cleaning that I find very satisfying. This is a simple observation. But watch me take it world-widely: There is a certain part of me that wants to clean the entire world, especially those places that do not really belong to anyone, like highway the grass strip between highways (although prisoners sometimes clean these), or the grass growing in sidewalks.
A large part of my childhood was waiting for my mother to pick me up. After a game or a practice, I’d wait in the parking lot for my mother to arrive in her wood-panel station wagon. The waiting-for-mom places often had imperfections: A wood fence with a whole section missing and a worn path through the gap, a building’s foundation that had raised several feet above the earth, an edge of a parking lot that had become a collection of asphalt puzzle pieces. Being a kid and not understanding how ownership of public places worked, the decay of these areas left me feeling helpless. Who was responsible for the necessary repairs and improvements? Where was the accountability?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was starting quarterback for the second-best team in the state of Connecticut. The best team was a school named Xavier, and they wore all-black uniforms with a simple white “X” on their helmets. They didn’t have names on the backs of their jerseys. When the team arrived before a game, they exited the bus soundlessly. They each wore the hood on their black hooded sweatshirts up. All the teams that I’d been on had stragglers and jokesters and disorganization. I was always amazed and a little intimidated by Xavier. I knew their coach was in control of his team. His players had bought into his message. And I knew that they would be tougher to beat because of it.
The most intimidating fans are the ones that are organized. When thousands of people are shouting something in unison, it can be very convincing. Although I am not a fan of anything Duke, I did go to a Duke v. Davidson basketball game a few years ago and left amazed by how organized their fan-base was. As has been well reported, they stand the entire game and the crowd chants "clever" cheers in unison. I felt like someone must feel when they go to a Catholic mass for the first time. And this was against Davidson, not exactly a basketball powerhouse.
Tangentially, I disapprove of all in-game post-accomplishment celebration. When I see a post-touchdown/post-dunk/post-sack celebration, I can’t help but think that the coach of the offending athlete is not completely in control of his team. If I were a coach, I think to myself as Warren Sapp waggles his body in some absurd way after a sack, I wouldn’t allow these sorts of celebrations. Sapp-like celebrations communicate to the other team that your team is not on the same page. Your team is not the sort of team that repairs its broken asphalt or mends its fences, so to speak. Your team doesn’t believe in collective accountability. Your team is disorganized. And as a direct result, your team is not as intimidating or as good as it could be.