Sports have always been fascinating because of their individual quirks. Baseball players will sometimes only chew sunflower seeds on one side of their mouth, and a quarterback might roll out on the same side of the bed every game day. However strange each sport is, most of the athletes funny habits are nothing more than superstition to ward off bad luck.
Soccer is a little different. Sure, it has its own set of weird terms and goings on. Referees are referred to as sir. The field is the pitch, the goalie is the keeper, and a tie is only called a tie until the final whistle blows, at which point it becomes a draw.
But of all the strange things that make soccer – or football – special, theres one tradition which stands out above any of the others.
At most games, the players line up in front of their bench, and proceed to jog across the field and thank the friends, parents and other assorted fans who made the trip to support them. Its not a long thank you, but the fact is, nobody else does it.
The volleyball players might toss candy into the student sections before matches, and the football players (usually the third-stringers) ask for the fans to stand and make noise, but rarely do you see a team make the concerted effort to thank the fans for simply being fans.
Its a small and simple gesture, and even though it can seem like more of a tradition than a conscious thought, it really means something to the players to have people on the sidelines cheering. Even the coaches have noticed the impact of the fans. Scappoose girls coach Nicholas Heffernan mentioned crowd involvement several times after the Tribes first-round win, saying the girls might play with a little extra adrenaline on Saturday knowing there were more onlookers than usual. In fact, the Scappoose Soccer Club will pay admission to Saturdays home playoff match for any club member (the kids, at least) wearing their orange and black jerseys.
In other sports, though, the thankful attitude doesnt seem to be as present. Ill pick on football for a moment, as they get the biggest turnout. When was the last time the football team threw t-shirts to the loudest fans? How often does the football team run up to the stands to applaud their parents and friends for sitting in the cold on a metal bench for three hours? Ive never seen it. And if I did see it, Id be blown away because it simply doesnt happen.
Thats not to say football players arent appreciative of the support they get. Im sure they are, and they do express it, but not in a way the fans can really see.
Its time to break down that wall. Football has traditionally been all about brawn, toughness and adrenaline, but pigskin and the other sports have something to learn from soccer. It doesnt have to be some big pre-game hullabaloo, but at least take a moment to turn around and say Hey, I appreciate that youre here behind us.