I used to think that people in Vancouver were not very religious. That was until I went to my first Canuck’s game last year. My friend won tickets and although I do not know much about the sport, I was happy to go. Though the game was fun to watch, I found all the ceremony surrounding the game much more fascinating. It was a masterfully executed religious event! I would know, I am in a very similar field myself.
Walking to the game, I found the positioning of Rogers Arena significant. In the past, cities were often centered around a place of worship like a cathedral, synagogue or mosque. This tradition continues, only now the temple is the arena. During the game there were many effects aimed at producing an emotional response: special lighting, smoke, and music (complete with an organ!). Most impressive was the sense of ownership that was instilled in the spectators. The announcer repeatedly told us to cheer for “our” Vancouver Canucks. We are all Canucks! It’s like when I tell students in catechism class, “the Church isn’t a building, YOU are the Church!”
This new religion has its own system of morality for fans. The greatest virtue a fan can possess is loyalty. A good fan is a diehard fan, a real Canucklehead. The greatest sin a fan can commit is to only support the team when they are doing well. A bad fan is a bandwagon fan. Now that the Canucks have entered the playoffs, die-hard fans express their displeasure with the bandwagoners’ sudden interest in the team. It’s like Mass on Christmas Eve. The Catholics who come every Sunday start griping that the “Christmas and Easter” Catholics are taking up pew space.
Here’s the thing: supporting the Vancouver Canuck’s is not like supporting an orphanage somewhere in the developing world. Giving your time, attention and money to an orphanage is a good thing to do. Ignoring or withdrawing your support, especially when the orphanage is most in need, would be a bad thing to do.
The truth is, they are not “our” Vancouver Canucks. They are owned by people who hope to make money from the team. It is in the owner’s best interest that we feel the team belongs to us. It is in the owner’s best interest if team loyalty is exalted as a virtue. It keeps the money coming in when people follow the team with a religious devotion. I don’t know exactly how much the players make, but I assume their monetary compensation is enough to overcome the hurt feelings that arise when fan numbers and enthusiasm fluctuates. We are not all Canucks. Those paid by the team are Canucks. The rest of us are just consumers.
Not that there is anything wrong with being a consumer! In the end, supporting the Canucks is entertainment. We all spend our time and money on a variety of things that entertain us. Do you enjoy being a die-hard fan, supporting the team through all its ups and downs? Fantastic. Do you enjoy being a bandwagon fan, only paying attention when the team is performing well? Wonderful. Be whatever kind of fan makes you happy. Be aware, however, that if you attach moral significance to fan loyalty or disloyalty, thinking one is “good” and the other “bad”, you’re the one who got played.