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Is "We" Alright?

Look at "us" all hanging out together. Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

The rough draft of every post I write on this site is littered with the word "we". "We take on Washington State", "we should finish 3rd in the south", etc. I then go back through and remove many of these "we"s... sometimes leaving a few as the sentence may work better that way. In my everyday life, I, and almost every one I know, constantly use the word "we" when talking about our teams, especially college teams. So what I wanted to discuss here today, is if the use of "we" is acceptable when referring to Oklahoma State athletics.

I am no anthropologist (seriously!), but I know that humans are pack creatures. We like to feel as though we are affiliated with other people through groupings, and to feel a sense of belonging and pride in our groups. Whether it be on a one-to-one level with a friend or family member, on a large scale such as belonging to an entire country, or anywhere in between, people want to feel an association to other people. This need is as instinctual as eating, reproducing, and hating Shia Labeouf. This need to belong to a group obviously carries over into the sports world as most of you are at this site in order to be informed about, or feel connected to, other members of this particular group: Oklahoma State Fans. (or you are here to access the secret upskirt section of this website.. in that case, ignore this post and click the W in the header 8 times to access the hidden area.)

Inclusive words like "we" and "us" are found all over our day to day conversations. "We are going to the store", "We live in a house", "We are out of heroin", etc... and this is accepted since you are always referring to "we" as a group of people that you are obviously a part of, and that you can affect. You can affect how the trip to the store will go... which store to go to, what route to take... you have an impact on this group. I think being able to affect the group in some way is a criteria for using the word "we". There is nowhere in everyday life where you drop a "we" in reference to a group on which you have no impact.

In the case of the Oklahoma State Football team (let's just use the football team as the example to keep this semi-focused), a fan has much less of an impact on the team than they do on the groups they associate to in everyday life. Phrases like "We should be passing more" and "We can't stop McCluster" don't really have the same connotation as the everyday use of "we". If anything, we are really more bound to the fansbase than the team... so at a very strict level, the "we" should be used in relation to our fellow fans, and the Cowboy team should be the "they". We cheer for them. However, there is more to a football team than the guys on the field. Coaches, donors, fans, and media do have some affect on a team in a variety of direct and indirect ways, and this is where the issue gets gray.

The grayness comes from determining how much of an effect you need to have in order to use the term "we". Is cheering enough? Does there have to be some monetary involvement? Is this discussion way to elaborate for something this trivial? No? OK... so let's determine if and when we get to say "we".

At the University level, I think I personally have enough of an effect on things to use the "we". I have given the school itself a lot of tuition money, years of ticket purchases, tons of games watched on tv, piles of merchandise purchases, and I have eaten at least a dozen grillaronis. All of these things add up to having a decent impact on the institution that is Oklahoma State, and by extension, the Athletic Department. This entitles me (entitles?) to use "we" in reference to the school, and team as a whole. So I can say: "We are in the Big XII South", "We play Kansas this week", and "We need to clean up Theta Pond, anymore it is barely a suitable place to detour for an exchange of handys on the walk back from Joes", and so on. This isn't a big stretch as my/our involvement with OSU at an institutional level has had as big of an impact as most of us can have at work, or in our communities... and there is nothing weird about referring to either of those as "we".

Now the big question: Can I use "we" in reference to the team directly? Can I say "We need to pass more" or "We need to wrap up"? In this case, how much of an impact do I have on what is happening on the field? I can scream a lot from my seat, and the fact that I showed up means something as opposing teams are less intimidated by empty stadiums. Outside of that, I don't have a lot of impact on what happens during a game. I actually have a much larger impact on the fact that the stadium I am sitting in exists at all, than on what happens on the field of play within that stadium.

What if I compare it to a Finance class in the business building. I play a part in that building's existence, the professors salary, etc... but as I play no part in how the students in that class perform (outside of providing an environment), if somehow everyone got A's for a semester, I would never tell someone by phrasing it as: "We got A's in Finance". It would be "This class at OSU got all A's", or even "Can you believe that we had a class get all A's?".

I think the team itself operates within the same boundary as the Finance class. I can cheer for them, I can feel connected to them, and I can pay players under the table, but I can't affect what is happening once the ball is snapped. Because of this, I think it might be a tad inappropriate to use the "we" in reference to specific things happening during a game. Not illegal, not a sin, just slightly frowned upon.

So to recap: We can use "we" in reference to the Fanbase, we can use "we" when speaking about the University or a team as a whole, but we shouldn't use "we" when discussing specific events that take place during a game, although no one should chastise you for it as that falls into such a gray area.

So let's take a quiz to make sure we all understand. Fill in the blank with either "We"/"Us" OR "They"/"Them"

  1. "___ should beat A&M handily."
  2. "___ are really kicking ass out there today."
  3. "___ need to run it to the left more."
  4. "Weeden's picks are killing ___."
  5. "I can't believe ___ are going to the shitty Texas Bowl."
  6. "___ should dump gatorade on Gundy since we have this this BCS title game wrapped up."


If you were paying attention, your answers should have been:

  1. We
  2. They
  3. They
  4. Us
  5. We
  6. They (Plus this one should have triggered your "Automatic Cowboy Doubt Reflex" causing your internal dialogue to immediately say to yourself, "Ya, like I will ever have to worry about that happening" followed by a "pfffffffttt".)