The Razorbacks have become a sort of symbol for Arkansan pride as the team that Arkansans across the state rally around. From Texarkana to Jonesboro, few towns escape the crimson flags of the Razorbacks. Such pride is not unique to Arkansas. United States citizens across the nation have been giving tribute to their favorite sports teams for the past century. Allegiances towards sports teams are not unique to the U.S. In other countries, sports teams can become opportunities for those countries to show the best athletes their homes can offer.
Kevin Simpson is the chair of the psychology department at John Brown University and has studied the role of soccer in small Jewish communities during the time of the Nazi occupation. He said that the people cheer for athletes and teams because the stem from a sort of hometown pride. “The parallel that’s always fun and interesting to draw is to compare baseball as America’s pastime to soccer, or football, as the English pastime. Often, the team that you supported represented your neighborhood or a part of your city.”
Such pride has a very large platform in continents with many countries. The United States, however, only sees these rivalries on an interstate basis, as opposed to an international one. There are deep rivalries between Texas A&M’s Aggies and University of Texas’s Longhorns, but these are comparatively small rivalries compared to those that have been fermenting for centuries between neighboring nations that can only vent their frustrations with each other on the soccer pitch.
National pride, Simpson said, is not the only reason for athletic allegiance. “On a more basic level, we can maybe find distraction from our lives, which we may not find so interesting sometimes.”
Tim Harmon, an English major at John Brown University, said that pride in athletics has an even simpler answer. “I’m a very competitive person. I like to see someone get crushed and see myself on top. I enjoy watching, and I enjoy being the person who’s right with a team that wins.”
Excellence, Harmon said, is not something that should be shied from. “I wanna be number one. That’s not a negative thing, it’s a positive thing. I like being the best, I like being on top. My mom always told me to work three times harder than the competition, or else you won’t get what you want.”
Harmon also said that excellent athletes spur people at large to be better at what they do. “We all wanna win, but it’s also very cathartic. Seeing someone jump super high and dunk a ball? If you can’t do that, that sucks, but seeing someone else do it gives you slight hope that you can, too.”