Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sports Fidelity

I forget which comedian argued that fans of sports teams are rooting for laundry, but the point remains valid.  That is, player no longer stay with the same team since the advent of free agency, so loyalty to a franchise is really rooting for the same color scheme year in and year out.  Obviously, that is pushing it as some players do remain, and certainly owners stick around, often far longer than most would desire (Dan Snyder, Al Davis).

Anyway, this issue of sports loyalty, extensively documented by the Sports Guy, came up this morning while driving my daughter to school.  She was disappointed that the Canadian hockey team lost to the American one (some sort of international competition) last night, and she indicated that she rooted for American teams except in hockey since hockey is so important to Canadians.  And it is.  Believe me.  I don't watch Sportscentre in Canada since it is mostly about hockey, although the holiday break reminded me what I don't like about American sports coverage--too much college sports.

So, I teased her about becoming Canadian--that as an American, she always root for the red/white/blue laundry even if it is competing with the white laundry with the red leaf on it.

This does not mean she should not root for the Montreal Canadiens. After all, the first rule of Sports fidelity (according to Bill Simmons) is:
1. If you live in a city that has fielded a professional team since your formative years, you have to root for that team. None of this, "The Bengals weren't very good when I was growing up in Cincy, so I became a Cowboys fan" crap.You are required to root for the home team under almost all circumstances. (There's nothing worse than a Bandwagon Jumper)
This explains why I root for the Mets (became aware of baseball while I lived in NY), the Redskins (became aware of football when we lived in DC), and  I used to be a Sixers fan because I became aware of B-ball in Philadephia.  I rooted for the Flyers for a brief period of time, but that never stuck as I was not into hockey at all.  Does that mean I am a Sports Infidel, according to Bill Simmons?  Perhaps not quite:
2 Once you choose a team, you're stuck with that team for the rest of your life ... unless one of the following conditions applies:
  • Your team moves to another city. All bets are off when that happens. In fact, if you decided to turn off that sport entirely, nobody would blame you.
  • You grew up in a city that didn't field a team for a specific sport -- so you picked a random team -- and then either a.) your city landed a team, or b.) you moved to a city that fielded a team for that specific sport. 
  • One of your immediate family members either plays professionally or takes a relevant management/coaching/front office position with a pro team.
  • You follow your favorite college star (and this has to be a once-in-a-generation favorite college star) to the pros and root for his team du jour ... like if you were a UNC fan for the past 20 years, and you rooted for the Bulls (because of MJ) and then the Raptors (because of Vince). Only works if there isn't a pro team in your area.
This kind of explains why I became a Phoenix Suns fan--when they got Charles Barkley, but not really.  I just never really followed basketball or hockey much to develop loyalties to teams.
  • The owner of your favorite team treated his fans so egregiously over the years that you couldn't take it anymore -- you would rather not follow them at all then support a franchise with this owner in charge.  When it happens, you have two options: You can either renounce that team and pick someone else, or you can pretend they're dead, like you're a grieving widow.
That is why I am a New England Patriots fan.  Because Dan Snyder's abuse of the Redskins, I had to follow some other team, any other team.  And the Patriots are essentially the home team for Montreal for the NFL since our American channels get mostly Boston feeds.  This does not make me a Red Sox fan, as the Mets have collapsed repeatedly but have not suffered from a Dan Snyder-eseque owner.  It does help to explain why I lost interest in the Sixers as they betrayed their fans by trading Barkley....

  • If you hail from New York, you can't root for the Yankees and the Mets. You have to choose between them. Repeat: You have to choose between them. Don't give me this "As long as one of them is doing well, at least New York is winning" spiels. What is this, the sports fan's version of bisexuality? How about making a choice? Any New Yorker who said the words "It's the Yankees versus the Mets ... I can't lose!" during the 2000 World Series deserves to be tortured with a cattle prod.
Absolutely.  I am a Mets fan.  And there are teams I do not like because of rivalries with my teams (hate the Yankees, the NY Giants, the Dallas Cowboys [even though the Redskins have lost my love], etc.)
And I do root for teams from cities where I used to reside (Browns/Cavaliers/Indians; Chargers/Padres).  And that is mediated by how I feel about that locale, so I didn't pick up a rooting interest in any Texas teams, especially since Bush used own a hunk of the Rangers. 

So perhaps, I am less sports loyal than my daughter, given my travels.  Yet eight years in Canada has still not led me to root for any Canadians when they compete against the US.  This should make for an interesting Olympics, held in Canada very soon.

1 comment:

Steve Greene said...

I was definitely more of a pro-sports fan as a kid, but I much prefer college sports now. I suspect this largely reflects the difference of a Duke-Ohio State education vs. an Oberlin-UCSD education.