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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

OPINION: Don’t use Michael Penix’s injury as an excuse to be a gross sports fan


Whether it’s “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings” or organized religion, people are often hesitant to pursue niches because the individuals whose lives revolve around them can come across as extreme.

Interestingly enough, sports have managed to evade this pitfall for years despite their devotees occasionally being as detached from reality as a “Star Trek” enthusiast who teaches himself Klingon. 

As soon as IU sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. crumpled to the ground late in the third quarter against Maryland on Saturday, a collective wince coursed through IU’s viewership. 

When head coach Tom Allen confirmed Penix had torn his ACL, his third season-ending injury in as many years, Twitter came alive with Hoosier faithfuls bemoaning their own misfortune. 

To be fair, the majority of conversation around Penix consisted of kind words and genuine concern, but you had to skim off a slimy layer of entitled fandom to find it. 

Barstool IU, forever a paragon of class and civility, was one of numerous accounts to cite Penix’s injury as the perfect excuse to get blackout drunk on a Monday. 

The massively popular account later said it wished nothing but a speedy recovery for Penix, so why even send the first tweet? 

I understand making the easiest joke possible is sort of Barstool’s whole shtick, especially when the punchline boils down to getting trashed. Still, it’s not a great look when one of the biggest social media presences tangentially tied to IU football uses its platform to make the same statement floating through a multitude of college guys’ group chats before pausing to think of the human being to which that ACL was attached.  

The remainder of gentlemanly discourse across Twitter primarily featured allusions to the ceaseless pain that comes with following IU. 

Truly, what could be more agonizing than being a Hoosier fan? Apart from tearing a ligament in your knee, that is. Actually, I’ll bet there are plenty of hardships much worse than rooting for an exciting football team that occasionally loses games in embarrassing or heartbreaking fashion. 

There are several things sports fans in general should learn to get over — stinging losses, unmet expectations and, most importantly, ourselves. Choosing to spend your Saturdays watching a historically mediocre football program does not grant you permission to feel sorry for yourself. 

I absolutely relate to being sad because your favorite school probably isn’t going to be as good due to a key player getting injured. I would have to possess a remarkably miniscule degree of self awareness to claim my heart was flushed purely with pity and not concern for IU’s season when I saw Penix go down. 

We’re allowed to be selfish sports fans while still sympathizing with the adversity others endure. 

But on the internet, where complex feelings are stripped of their nuance and distilled to quick, easily retweeted bits of verbiage, I think it’s worth the time and effort to consider the prevailing sentiment you want to convey. 

I doubt Allen is getting misty-eyed in interviews because he’s wondering if his squad will fall from the Fiesta Bowl to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. He’s upset because one of his athletes is having a really rough go of things. 

IU has been insanely fun to watch in 2020, due in no small part to Penix. Hoosier fans should feel lucky their allegiances happen to belong to a competent, non-boring team, especially given how few of those there are. I mean, seriously, have you seen Nebraska? 

Football programs can’t discriminate who they want cheering them on, but I try to stay compassionate and positive in my support of athletic organizations nevertheless, and that means respecting their players. 

That way, when I put on this month’s choice of sweatpants and slouch so far into my favorite couch indentation that my neck and jaw merge into a double chin while I take in a full Saturday of football, at least I know I’m not quite as ugly on the inside.

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