Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Observations on Sport Fandom

Thinking about my disgust for the Redskins and their infernal owner, Dan "I Couldn't Play Football in High School Because My Mom Made Me Take Modern Tap So I'm Going to Ruin the Sport for All Fans" Snyder, I got to thinking about what teams we love and hate and why. My friend Andy likes the Yankees for baseball and Jets for football because those are his dad's favorite teams (his dad grew up in Yankee-Bronx, and he hated the Giants since they tore up Yankee Stadium turf with their games back then, so became pro-Jet by default). My friend Mark and Chole root for the Patriots and Red Socks, because they're from Maine and that's the law there (the law passed by a four vote margin--the Republicans wanted a harsher law that proscribed the death penalty for Yankee fans). I root against the Redskins because of their racist name and horrible owner.

I suspect for many the choice of team has to do with locality--even if you can't afford to attend actual games (sadly, more true these days than a generation ago), your local media coverage will feature the same coach and players each week, and you develop fandom from that. The choice of local team is amplified by social connections, since Philadelphia bars will be packed with green-clad Eagles fans, Chicago bars will have Bears fans, etc.

For some, when you came of age with the sport will have something to do with it. Many 49er fans came about when Joe Montana was in his prime, for example. Long periods of dominance or cultural crossover appeal can also pick up fans outside of local markets--the Cowboys had a streak in the '70s and later in the '90s that found fans outside of Dallas, and the Yankees have had such a long string of championships over the past century that a Yankee cap hardly denotes a New York native. And this has helped the Red Socks too--anyone in the country hating a Yankee fan could show his attitude with a "B" on his cap. Winning isn't even required--in the early '90s when the L.A. Raiders sucked (yes, little has changed!), their silver and black merchandise sold well among suburban kids trying to look all "gangsta".

What then, you ask, is the best reason to root for a team? I go by my tried and true formula:

1) What team plays in the open, and on grass?
2) What team has a mascot that has at least something to do with the city/state it's in?
3) What team plays in a stadium actually located in the city it is named after?
4) What team plays in a stadium located convenient to several bars?
5) What team is not owned by Dan Snyder?

Friends, I am rooting for the Baltimore Ravens this year.

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