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We all love sports, well most of us. We have favorite professional or college teams we’ve been rooting for for years. How we became fans of our teams varies. For some, it’s a family tradition. Your dad, grandfather or mom were fans of that team, and you grew up cheering for them, rocking the team colors in your home. You may even have been named after a player of your dad’s favorite team. Whatever road we took to get here, here we are. We are fans. The problem now isn’t the love of your team but the hate you allow for the other team.

You can be a fan without being a fanatic. Yes there’s a difference between a fan and a fanatic. Fans are supporters, a person who is enthusiastically devoted; they promote their love for their team, musician, etc. They’re more focused on the enjoyment and the commadere. Fanatics are singleminded, excessive and extreme in their views, thinking and actions. Unfortunately more fans are now behaving like lunatic fanatics.

When it comes to being fans, the landscape has changed and not always for the better. With the invention and popularity of social media, fandom has gone beyond the realm of the field or court and has descended on the World Wide Web via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Most folks are now using their so-called love of their team to spread hate. Today’s sports fans not only cheer for their team, they now verbally assault and threaten other fans,  players, even student-athletes and their families, and anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

One social media expert referred to Twitter as “the world’s biggest sports bar.” If this is true then most fans are having way too much to drink because the behavior coming from most of today’s sports fans are toxic and disturbing. But today, help is here. The following are five ways to be a fan.

1. Lift your team up without putting the other team fans down

Just because your team is great, their team doesn’t have to be trash. You can love your team without hating theirs. Hate is not an emotion you want to entertain or embrace in any area of your heart or your life. Hate will make you justify wrong and disregard what’s right. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of sports rivalry between teams. But keep it on the field or on the court, but always realize this is a game. It’s just a game. Just because you don’t like the other team doesn’t mean those on that team don’t deserve respect and decency.

2. If you wouldn’t say or do it in your real life, don’t say it do it in your fan life

Everyday professionals, fathers, husbands, wives and sisters turn into Twitter trolls when sports fanaticism erupts. Anger at their team’s loss, angry at a play made by a player on their own team unleashes abusive and sadistic troll behavior on Twitter. They start thumb thuggin, making threats. They become flex in their morals and believe their anger excuses their abusive, sadistic and harassing language and behaviors. You can be angry, but if you’re unable to express your anger or dissatisfaction without profane and threatening verbal assault, put down your phone or iPad. If you normally don’t go around cursing out and threatening to kill those who anger you in your normal everyday life, don’t do so on social media. You never know when that hate and violence you’re spreading in the virtual world can take root in your real world or find itself at your doorstep. Remember the words we speak verbally or online first creates reality in our own hearts and lives. So watch your thumb say.

3. Don’t defend the indefensible

You love your team. You love your coaches, players and city. But when it comes to discerning what’s right and what’s wrong, you can’t defend blatant, visible wrong doing in the name of fan loyalty. That’s just insanity. Research shows fans often attach their identities and self-worth to their teams. But making concessions and profanely defending chronic bad behavior by someone on your team is not okay. It’s just wrong. You don’t have to take a public stand against the wrong-doing of your coach, team, player or administrator, but you also cannot defend the actions and chronic behavior you know to be wrong. If you find yourself defending abhorrent conduct because that player, administrator or coach is on your team, it’s clearly time to check yourself.

4. Kids should always be off limits

Student-athletes are just that: student-athletes. They’re not paid professionals with the mental prep and financial fortitude to deal with and combat social media attacks and hate. They’re college kids working on a degree while playing a sport they love. Yes college football players are on prime time television. They do press conferences and regularly talk to the media. They train, practice, do media and charity appearances like NFL guys, but they are not NFL guys. They are 17, 18, 19, and 20 year-old college kids. They don’t deserve the online hate from unsatisfied, delusional fanatics. No one deserves that hate, but college kids especially. They are in fact someone’s kids. When a kid on your favorite college basketball team misses a game winning free throw, if you’re the guy in his Twitter mentions insulting and threatening him, telling him to go kill himself, you are in fact the worst person in the world. Don’t be that guy.

5. Always remember it’s just a game

Unless you’re a gladiator in Ancient Greece, sports are just games. They’re not life or death. Football, basketball, baseball, soccer and all sports exist for our fun and enjoyment. Those who train and practice tirelessly to bring us such enjoyment should be appreciated for their hard work and effort, tempered with realistic expectations and appreciation. They don’t deserve our worship nor our debasement or disdain. It’s just not that serious, unless you’re a gambler. Then you have 99 problems and sports ain’t one.

Yes we’re sad or upset when our team loses. But we should look at our real life and all the people and things that matter and take joy from those things and those individuals. Remember, there’s no joy in hating or being a hater. None. Plus how you respond to things that anger you says more about you than anything or anyone else.