Dan McQuade of The Guardian looks at an overlooked cliche in the sports discourse: “blue collar.”
The team you root for is “blue collar.” The fans are “blue collar.” That makes them and you way better than all of them fancy-pants white collar teams and fans that dare to compete against the lunch bucket crew of your hometown. It’s even gotten to the point where “blue collar” fans are described as “taking their clients to games.” Which, um, what blue collar people have “clients?” The phrase has lost all meaning.
But so too has “small business” and “middle class” and any number of other descriptors which are designed to make people seem simple and humble when, in reality, we live in a society where actual blue collar workers have more or less been given the shaft for several decades running now. Indeed, poll the folks who can afford season tickets in most pro stadiums these days and you’ll probably find that a pretty large number of them love the idea of “blue collar” when it comes to sports but aren’t really fans of blue collar folks when it comes to deciding things that actually impact the lives of real blue collar workers.
But that’s sort of who we are as a people. Polls have shown that wealthy Americans tend to understate their incomes and their economic class (while overestimating the incomes and economic class of actual poor people). And those who are well off are quick, when identified as being well-off, to state their poor, working class bonafides. Or that of their parents. Or grandparents. There’s a strong tendency for folks to assume we’re all either workers or a step removed and that there truly isn’t increasingly stark social and economic inequality in the United States. Saying that you, as a sports fan, are blue collar or root for a bunch of blue collar players makes a person feel better I suppose.
But hey, we talk about sports as places where soldiers do battle and draw moral and ethical lessons from the acts and words of athletes too, so it’s not like this is the only instance in which sports fans are living in fantasyland.