Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Study In The Rules Of Fandom

I have a friend who roots for the Detroit Red Wings. He's from the Michigan area, so that makes total sense. What irks me is that the Red Wings are the only Detroit team he roots for.

When it comes to football, he's suddenly a Steelers fan. In baseball, it's all about the pinstripes in the Bronx. He's not a basketball fan, but I can only guess he's a closet Lakers supporter.

He is unapologetic about his front-running. His philosophy is that he watches sports for entertainment and escapism, so why would he subject himsel
f to the losing nature of the Detroit Lions when the Pittsburgh Steelers win? While it's impossible to have prescience about how a baseball season is going to end, the odds favor the free spending Yankees year in and year out. There's just a greater chance for him to be happy with the teams he's chosen.

His logic makes sense in a mercenary kind of way. In the free-agency era of sports, players jump ship all the time and it's acceptable in most circumstances. Would people be all over Marian Hossa if he left a bad hockey team like the New York Islanders for the Red Wings? Most fans seem okay when a player bolts from a bad team because he wants a chance to win a ring. My friend is simply doing the same as a fan.

I could never follow suit and he knows I will never respect his fan status. To me, you have a reason to
support whatever team you support (generally location), and you stick with them. I grew up in Dallas and while everyone groans that I'm a Cowboys fan, I quickly point out that I've always supported the other less dominant teams in the area. If the Rangers ever actually make it to a World Series, I'm not going to know what to do with myself because I've sat through so much horrible baseball. I'm anything but spoiled.

However, I've been in arguments about fan philosophy with other even more hardcore fans. I've always felt that being a fan means you support your community. If you grow up in Chicago, but move to Phoenix, you should eventually become a Cardinals fan. Not right away, I know you can't just trade in your team affiliations a
t the drop of a hat, but if you've been in Phoenix for a decade and you've bought a house and had some little know reside in Phoenix. You are a Cardinals fan.

This philosophy rubs some people the wrong way. They feel that
once you declare your allegiance, that's that. My uncle lives in Houston, has for a while. He has a house, kids, a little schedule he's engulfed in, he's even survived a hurricane. He ain't moving anytime soon. Yet there in front of his house flies a hometown Pittsburgh Penguins flag. He could care less about the Texans, he is trying to teach his kids how to be proper Steelers fans.

I told hi
m that he lived in Houston now, why not be a Houston team fan? He looked at me like I had just asked him why he didn't just go live in Cuba. He has some sort of crack about me being a typical bad Dallas fan. My retort was to move the hell back to Pittsburgh if he's so entrenched.

The debate gets more confusing when you introduce the fans who live in the newer cities. If you grew up in Charlotte and had no teams to root for, you probably became a Cowboys or Dolphins, maybe a Falcons fan. Now Charlotte has it's own team. Do you just drop everything and support the Carolina Panthers? Do you stick with your Cowboys support only to get stamped with the front-runner label?

Everyone has their reasons to root for a team. Whether you have a blind loyalty to the te
am laundry no matter who's wearing it, or if you follow the most exciting team, or follow the team that drafted your favorite college player, you have your reasons. Just be prepared to argue them when another fan calls you out.

Or just hit them in the head with a beer bottle. That seems to put the fan debate on the back burner pretty quickly.*

*You may or may not end up in the emergency room with your girlfriend calling you an idiot.

1 comment:

  1. As a Chicago native, I've always been a Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls fan before anything else. I'm not a White Sox fan but not a hater. For me, I have never been able to shed my allegiance to my hometown team, even when I attended college in New York State and was around tons of Yankee, Met, and Red Sox fans among others.

    I can see your point about adopting the local team if you are relocated for a long stretch of time, but I'm not sure it can always work. First, even if you adopt a team, you can probably never shed your original fanhood. Second, if as a Cubs fan I moved to St. Louis, no matter how long I'd live there I'd always hate the Cardinals.

    As far as your friend who's a front runner, a buddy of both of ours professes to be a Yankees, Spurs and Buccaneers fan, and is from New Jersey. He has his reasons for the non-area teams, but I do believe that supporting your local teams is a community thing and should be the primary reason a person is a fan. Why else would I torture myself with Cubs baseball? I live a half hour from Wrigley Field.