The Rev. Jonathan St. André, TOR
I thoroughly appreciated the recent Sports column by Christopher Dacanay from Oct. 29 entitled, “Let’s stop harassing our opponents.” Dacanay asks the fundamental question of whether jeering and yelling at players or any other negativity expressed towards opposing teams should be tolerated, both within our wider culture and on this campus. I believe he argues convincingly that a countercultural element of sportsmanship is desperately needed in our culture and we can be on the forefront of this at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
I speak to this issue as a friar priest, a proud supporter of Baron Athletics and a man who is blessed to be the chaplain of our FUS men’s soccer team.
While I’ve been so excited by the incredible support of our university teams, various actions by our own fans — albeit I believe a small group of individuals — have left me embarrassed and disappointed.
Whether it is verbal expressions of negativity or profanity, inappropriate signs or any behavior, I think that we have to face the reality that there are some ways we have not conducted ourselves well, even perhaps when provoked by the behavior of the fans of opposing teams.
You may say, “Fr. Jonathan, I wasn’t a part of those actions.” My response is, “Thank you. But whatever is done both positive and negative on our campus and beyond is seen by others as representative of Franciscan University. We have to find a way to individually grow in ongoing conversion and influence others to ongoing conversion as well.”
Could this be an opportunity to not lower ourselves to the behavior of others but to raise the bar and the standards by our own behavior?
Let’s be honest: ongoing conversion might be a harder thing to express as a fan. We are passionate about our teams — you should see the friars when we’re watching football in the friary — and we think we see every bit of the playing field and have the best judgment of the call to be made.
These moments of intense competition are moments where adversity is strongly felt and passions run high; in other words, moments where virtue and vice can become readily apparent. To exercise self-control and self-restraint can be an exercise of heroic virtue.
Christopher Dacanay puts it well in his article when he says, “I’m not asking people to be emotionless drones at games. … If the comment you’re about to yell denigrates someone’s dignity as a human, you probably shouldn’t say it.”
I would go a step further because the Gospel calls us to it. I would encourage us at Franciscan University to expend our fan energy on positive cheering and let go of the negative.
I say to you, “Get loud, Baron fans” — boisterously, passionately loud with a positive, united voice. Not only will this help our teams, but it will also achieve something of greater value. Everyone who leaves our campus will recognize that we are different, and hopefully they’ll see that this difference is because we live in Jesus Christ.