Teachers Find Balance In Deep-Rooted Loyalties To Sports Teams


Louise Ba

Maggie Bowman, Jim Mahoney and Patrick Barry supporting their respective teams, the Minnesota Vikings, the Boston Red Sox, and the Green Bay Packers

Extreme sports loyalties run deep, deriving from family traditions and childhoods in communities where sports are front page news. From fire hydrants painted green and yellow for the Green Bay Packers, batteries being thrown at Red Sox fans at Yankee Stadium, and loyally wearing a Vikings jersey every gameday, loyal sports fans will go to great, even obsessive lengths to support their team.

Many teachers have a variety of sports loyalties derived from their past communities and childhoods. But as more seasons pass, they have learned not to be envious, contentious, or so profoundly invested into a game to the point where a loss impacts personal life.

“It is easy to get very sucked in, or emotionally invested, I reached a point where I was like this doesn’t make sense. I am investing so much of my livelihood and wellbeing, my mood, into a game that I do not control the outcome of. A Monday morning after a loss is distinctly different than a Monday morning after a win,” explains dedicated Green Bay Packers fan and English teacher Patrick Barry.

Childhood community shapes the emotional commitment of their fans. Although Minnesotans are devoted to our sports teams, for example being viewed as being nice about losses and other teams coming to the state to watch the Superbowl, there are different sports teams with fans that are known for being rude or too intense.

Jim Mahoney,  college counselor, English teacher and avid New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox fan, describes, “I think sometimes people are envious [of the Patriots] and I don’t know how annoyed they are, but I try to not be obnoxious. Boston sports fans though are known to being obnoxious, so that is projected upon me. I deflect it to some degree, but I also embrace it because I think it is funny.”

Mahoney admits to  “Not really [being] a conflict seeking type person in those ways.” However, team loyalty sometimes overtakes mannerisms. He explains, “When I lived in Boston, the Red Sox, Yankees were a super intense argument. My brother went to Yankee Stadium with a Red Sox hat and got batteries thrown at him.”

Much fun is to be had with sports loyalties, examples being having Aaron Rodgers head on a stick in their classroom, like Barry, or make bets with students, like Mahoney. These teachers with passionate sports loyalties have learned that while it is fun to watch the teams season unfold and cheer on your favorite layers, it is not fun to watch students or coworkers seek pain in their favorite Minnesotan team losing.  Barry describes, “It can get contentious, but I’ve reached a point where I realize, you know the term shottenfroid, it’s not good to take pleasure in other people’s pain.”

Instead of abandoning his love for the sport and the team, Barry decided to change his attitude about cheering on the Packers. He said, “So I reached a point, where I thought I had a really good balance where I loved watching the game and reading about the team, but I had some distance… Its all kind of internal.” Moving past the possibility of losses, he found his love in watching the season unfold and sharing the love of the game with his family.

“Being a father has better helped me to understand, like hey, a fan is a fan, their allegiances are with different teams with different colors and cultures, you can’t fault anyone for that,” states Barry, describing his culminated view on sports loyalty.

Ever since his upbringing in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Barry has had an intense sports loyalty to the football team, the Green Bay Packers. He learned from the passionate football community that “[t]he town is the team. [And] the team is the town.”

While Minnesota’s “Minnesota Nice” motto result to local civility regarding sports teams, exceptions to this rule, such as Barry and Mahoney, remain. While Mahoney and Barry acknowledge their somewhat ridiculous loyalty, their love for the sport remains. Mahoney concludes, “I mean it’s just fun, sports are games, and games are fun, and it should be taken lightly. But I can’t deny that I love it and I truly care about it.”