[FOUNTAIN]Home field advantage

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[FOUNTAIN]Home field advantage

Protecting one's own territory is a universal animal instinct. Male animals in particular establish their own territories for hunting and to monopolize the females in the area. As often seen in television documentaries, many animals mark their territories with their urine and mercilessly attack enemies that intrude. Even tiny animals are no exceptions. Fish, which at least appear to live peacefully in their natural habitat or aquariums, also fiercely protect their territory. The first to carve out a territory defends it from newcomers and the strong usurp the weaker. King dragonflies do not even let other dragonflies sleep within a 30-meter radius.

Human beings have similar instincts, but what makes humans different from animals is that humans have a rationality to balance their instincts. In the past, aristocrats set up markers with inscriptions instructing all passers-by to dismount from their horses in front of their villages, regardless of the riders' status. This was a way of protecting their territory. Hazing rituals for newcomers is also an example of territoriality. Nawabari, a Japanese slang term that means a journalist's beat, developed from a Japanese underworld term that meant a criminal gang's territory.

Sports is one area where defending one's turf is essential for victory. "Home field advantage" is merely a noble expression for protecting one's own territory. Supporting one's own teams and booing opponents is a natural form of defending one's turf. Waving balloons in front of a basketball player preparing for a free throw or booing a pitcher in a baseball game to rattle his nerves is commonly done.

But public opinion here believes that Americans crossed the line to win as many medals as possible in the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Those games were a disgrace because they were too territorial. But as Koreans, we must remember we are not much different. Korea ranked fourth in the gold medal count during the 1988 Seoul Olympics not only because Korean athletes did well but there also were home field advantages. We still remember the bewildered expression on a Korean boxer's face after he won a gold medal in the light middleweight class after being pounded by his American opponent. The American boxer must have felt that was unfair just as Kim Dong-sung did after he was disqualified in short track speed skating.

The lesson is clear. During the upcoming World Cup, we have an upper hand, but we should not exploit our home field advantage unfairly, no matter how desperate we are to make it to the final 16.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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