Some Strange Values in the World of Sports

The Curmudgeon is a sports fan who doesn’t particularly like writing about sports in this space and seldom does so, but sometimes something happens in the world of sports that captures his attention.

This is one of those times – and as is almost always the case, this isn’t really about sports.

James Harrison is a professional football player. He is 39 years old, positively ancient by pro football standards for anyone whose job isn’t to appear on the field three times a game to kick a ball. He has played 15 seasons, 14 of them for the Pittsburgh Steelers. and is beloved by the team’s fans.

A little more than a week ago Harrison was “waived” by the Steelers. “Waived” is sports euphemism for “fired.” One day he was a Steeler and the next the team’s management decided it didn’t want him anymore and showed him the door.

In fairness to the team’s management, Harrison is no longer the player he once was and has played very little this year. Management decided to bring in a replacement who could help the team more.

So there Harrison was, a football player who still wanted to play football, and he was available to any team that wanted to hire him.

And one team came calling: one of the Steelers’ archrivals, the New England Patriots. They said they wanted to hire Harrison, to give him a job, so Harrison joined the Patriots.

Which sounds like a pretty simple and straightforward proposition, except for one thing:

Many Steelers fans were livid – livid! They think Harrison is being disloyal to the Steelers, and to them, by playing for a team that probably stands between their beloved Steelers and a trip to the Super Bowl.

A few examples of their anger, from a web site called (with apologies in advance for the language you are about to encounter):

Dig that hat and jewelry

You’re a bitch for going to them

wow…. fucking traitor. To the fans especially. I thought it was a stupid terrible decision to let you go. But didn’t think you’d retaliate against an organization like that.

u can’t be that serious smh u could have just retired as a Steeler man

…you are dead to me as a @Steelers player Jimmy and so is all your history.

If you actually sign with the Patriots the whole city of Pittsburgh classifies you as a trader and you are no longer in the heart of Pittsburgh

And for you @jharrison9292, you’re a fucking trader and a bastard. After all ‪#SteelerNation has done you, you go and disrespect us and go to the damn Pats. Fucking joke.

You disloyal ass bitch

 Respectfully, fuck you [Curmudgeon’s note: leaving one to wonder what this particular fan might have written if he had been less respectfully inclined.]

Hope you tear an ACL

(One quick aside: many Pittsburgh fans referred to Harrison as a “trader” in their comments instead of, presumably, a “traitor.” Someone needs to take a closer look at those Pittsburgh public schools.)

In fairness to Pittsburgh fans, many were highly critical of their team for firing Harrison.

But to recap: a guy gets fired by his employer, which no longer wants him, and one of that employer’s competitors decides to hire him. The team wasn’t loyal to the player – it could have kept him – but decided that it was in the best interest of the team to kick him to the curb and hire someone else instead.

And when people get fired, don’t they usually look for another job – without others begrudging them for doing so? And if they have a somewhat specialized skill in a somewhat narrow field of endeavor, isn’t their pool of prospective new employers pretty much limited to the competitors of the employer that just fired them?

Despite this, many Pittsburgh fans think Harrison was disloyal to them – to them – and should have just retired rather than continue playing football elsewhere.

What’s wrong with this picture?

And more important, what’s wrong with the Pittsburgh fans who feel this way?

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