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Sports Fans, Please Stop Using The Word “We”

Calum Hayes |
January 9, 2013 | 9:10 a.m. PST


Sports fans too often use the word "we" in discussing their favorite teams. (Ingy The Wingy, Creative Commons)
Sports fans too often use the word "we" in discussing their favorite teams. (Ingy The Wingy, Creative Commons)
“We won the world series this year.”

If you’re like me, you would assume that this is a quote from Buster Posey or one of his San Francisco Giants teammates. If you’re like me, you would also be disappointed every time it actually leaves the mouth of a fan.

If I have one pet peeve in life that has no impact on the real world, it is the use of the word “we” by fans. Living in L.A., it is something I hear all the time from the fans of any of the six major professional franchises in the city (male sports).

Call me cynical, but it makes no sense for a fan to refer to an organization as “we.” As a fan, you are not on the court, in the front office or even one of the young boys mopping sweat off the court after every free throw. You have no direct impact on the game, no matter how much you may enjoy telling yourself that by chanting “defense” you are intimidating a grown man making millions for ignoring you as you do just that. Too often you hear how “we are having a good stretch” or “we lost tonight; this sucks.” While I may agree that your favorite team losing does in fact suck, by no means does that justify claiming that you are a part of that team.

The argument I hear all the time about this is that as fans, you have put money into a franchise and invested yourself into that franchise so the use of “we” is justified. I readily admit that I am a fan of Apple products. I own an IPhone (thanks, mom!) and am currently typing this on a MacBook (before you feel the need to leave an anonymous “spoiled” comment, just know that I paid for that one myself). I have arguably put far too much money into Apple products, and have even gone so far as to have ridiculous debates with PC advocates. By all means, I have put as much money and time into Apple as most fans have into their teams (if you have a team logo tattooed on you, feel free to not include yourself in the “most” category).

Yet, I have never once looked at the share price of Apple and said the words, “gosh we had a great quarter.” You know why this is? Because I had no impact on that quarter! I don’t work for Apple or make any decisions for the company! Although, I would be willing to argue that my purchases had more impact than anything a fan can do.

The usual response is something like this: “but sports are entertainment, it’s entirely different than a product like the IPhone.” While I would love to channel my inner Bill Simmons and spend the next 10,000 words debunking that, let's keep it semi-brief. If you own a smart phone, my first question is this; did actual cell reception have anything to do with why you bought your phone? If yes, feel free to stop reading, because this no longer applies to you. If no, you clearly picked that phone for a different reason, such as how much entertainment it offers outside the convenience of phone calls?

If you still find yourself unconvinced, let me offer you this. I am a Tom Cruise fan (if you feel I just lost all credibility, I mostly understand). He gives me all the entertainment I look for when I go to the movies; let's even go so far as to say that I am incredibly disappointed when he releases a sub-par film. As a law-abiding citizen, I pay good money to go see Mr. Cruise’s movies. Having said all of this, I have never walked out of a theatre and said, “you know, we made a great movie there.” I paid my money to be entertained, had no discernable impact on how the movie itself was shot or produced, and therefore have no right to claim any stake in that film with the word “we.”

But Calum (if you’re still reading after finding out I like Tom Cruise, we’re on a first name basis), Calum, you say, part of being a fan is investing yourself in a team. It brings you community. That may be true, but I ask you this: what is the plus side of that? You are subjecting yourself to a franchise and being used by it (why do no Burger King fans say “we”?). You are spending more money and creating more stress in your life, all for something that will leave you disappointed 95 percent of the time.

There is no justifiable, logical reason to refer to a professional sports team as “we.” By using the word “we,” you are knowingly acting irrationally, and even promoting that behavior. For the sake of this country, I can only hope you didn’t wake up this morning wanting to be irrational; and if you did, you may want to email Mr. Cruise and let him know that the two of you made a great film in “Jack Reacher” (just make sure he knows it was “we” who acted those scenes).


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badwiring (not verified) on December 6, 2013 7:37 PM

Go into their locker room after a game. If they let you in then you're "we." If they don't let you in or catch you and remove you or call the police, you're not "we." End.

Anonymous (not verified) on September 9, 2013 10:01 PM

Fans are a little more invested in teams than they are in products, or actors. When the team a guy roots for wins, hist testosterone level rises, and it falls when they lose. So, you know, people are physiologically invested in seeing their team win.

Oh, wait. Can I still say "their team," or is that wrong because I don't mean to say that they actually own, or possess the team. Maybe you can do a follow-up article.

Greg (not verified) on September 28, 2013 3:49 PM

There's nothing wrong with saying "my team" or "my boys" to describe the team that you have invested emotionally if not financially into. There is a big problem with saying "we" when you aren't actually part of the organization. "We" implies taking credit for something "you" had no part in whatsoever. I'm a big Steelers fan, but they didn't go to three Super Bowls in the last decade because of anything I did no matter how much fans want to say they are just as much a part of the game as players. Likewise their three losses have nothing to do with how much I wave my Terrible Towel. No team has ever said "We would have held them on 4th down if Jim in section 108 had gotten up to get nachos." The only way to make saying "we" with respect to pro teams worse is if you are one of the fans that only says "we" when it's a win but very quickly changes to "they" after a loss.

The only time someone who doesn't work for a team should use "we" is when it relates to college teams and that person attended the school. A person's college years are such an important part of life that it forms a permanent bond between them and the school. It is the reference to the school in which the alumni use "we," and the football team is part of that school.

Anonymous (not verified) on February 28, 2013 9:06 PM

I'm glad i'm not the only one that feels this way. It's understood that "fan" stands for "fanatic" but us "fans" are in no way entitled to use "we" when speaking about our favorite sports teams. Only marginal exception is a college sports fan who actually attended said college. Great column!

Anonymous (not verified) on February 14, 2013 8:57 AM

There is a psychology term called Basking in Reflected Glory (BIRF). Most humans maintain a self-image based on their perception of how others perceive them. If their team does good, then that success (glory) will somehow be reflected to them by their association with the team. It is irrational but obviously helps many people cope with their lives.

Anonymous (not verified) on January 9, 2013 4:53 PM

Get a life and write about something real.

pdawg (not verified) on January 9, 2013 1:46 PM

screw u

Anonymous (not verified) on January 9, 2013 1:09 PM

You're such a hater. just let people enjoy being fans. There's nothing wrong with having a stake in your teams success and feeling connected to them.
Your argument means that no one could say "we" when talking about the U.S. because we don't get to determine its laws or policies or things of equal absurdity.

Greg (not verified) on September 28, 2013 3:53 PM

Of course, we can talk about "we" with respect to the country, since we elect the government and provide the work force that leads to the nation's productivity. In that sense, we are in the same position as a player who doesn't make team rules or call the plays but is relied on to execute them. The better analogy for you would be an American Anglophile who refers to England as "we" even though they never lived there.

Anonymous (not verified) on March 27, 2013 12:32 PM

In that case "we" would be the fan base,, still not the team.