The joy and pain of being a sports fan

Two pretty remarkable things happened in the world of sports over the past week. Perhaps the most remarkable part about each of the two was how little they had to do with actual sports.

The first, which happened Sunday night, involved the fans of the Seattle Seahawks breaking the world record for loudest stadium noise ever, which is just obscure enough of a record to be easily believed. Fans at CenturyLink Field actually broke the record twice, eventually reaching a decibel level of 136.6, which is certainly loud.

The second, which has been largely happening all summer, was the way the Boston Red Sox and their fans decided to honor Mariano Rivera, the New York Yankees’ all-time great closer, who is retiring at the end of this season. Rivera was presented by the Red Sox organization with a treasure trove of gifts, and the stadium gave him a long ovation set to his theme song, “Enter Sandman,” a tune long-feared by many fans of the Yankees’ opposition.

Why are these things so remarkable?

Because they show just how much sports can mean to the people who love them.

For the Seahawks fans, setting that record was about much more than just proving to the world that Seattle is a loud place. They wanted to prove to everyone, themselves included, that they are among the greatest and most loyal of fanbases, and that they deserve to be recognized. Don’t forget, this is the same group of fans who recently lost their NBA team without good reason, and are currently being used by the league as leverage against any teams not doing very well. Seattle fans wanted more than a goofy world record—they wanted to earn a little respect.

As for the actions of the Red Sox, their treatment of Rivera was all about showing respect. Remember, the Red Sox and Yankees have one of the most heated and storied rivalries in all of sports, and the last thing any true-blue Sox fan will ever be expected to do is pay homage to a Yankee great. But the fans felt that Rivera transcended the rivalry, and I’ve yet to encounter a single Red Sox fan who thought Rivera deserved anything less.

I guess the point is that sometimes the actions of sports fans go beyond the outcomes on the field. Sometimes, being a fan is about something bigger than the team.