I judge people who root for sports teams from cities not their own. There’s just something about not rooting for your hometown team that strikes me as disloyal. There’s something about being from a place and wishing failure on the team that represents that place that makes me question not just your fanhood or your appreciation of where you’re from, but also your character. I know I’m taking it a little far, but it’s truth. When I meet a person from City A, and then find out they root for a team from City B, I assume this person is not to be trusted. It’s just how I roll.
Today I want to spend some time talking about this issue of supporting sports teams outside of your home; I’m going to share a few of my observations and opinions, and close out with a few thoughts on sport in general. Let’s jump right in.
Folks Who Root for Teams Outside of Their Hometown are Always Insecure About Their Fanhood.
Ever meet a Cowboy fan from New York or a Laker fan from New Jersey? What did they say to you after they told you they were a fan of said team? Chances are they made it a point to share with you how long they’ve been a fan of that team, the circumstances around how they came to be a fan of that team, their family lineage, and any remote, long distance connection they may have to the city that team represents. It’s hilarious to me. The conversations usually go something like this:
Me: “So, what football team do you root for?”
Them: “I’m a Cowboys fan.”
Them: Yeah, I was really poor growing up. So poor that we didn’t have TV. One day, my dad took me to Radio Shack to buy some batteries for my portable 8 track player that we got from Goodwill and when I got to Radio Shack, there was a football game on the TVs in there. It was the Cowboys. I’ve been a fan ever since.
Me: “Who were the Cowboys playing?”
Them: “The Cleveland Browns”
Me: “Why aren’t you a Browns fan?”
This brings me to my next point:
Non-Hometown Team Fanhood Almost Always Has Its Foundation In Front-Running.
As I stated above, when a person roots for teams outside their hometown, they always have some elaborate story around how they became a fan of said team and how their story makes them “true fans,” unlike all the other fans of that team not from that team’s city.
The thing that irks me about these sorts of arguments is that they usually have no foundation in anything that should inspire life long loyalty. Generally speaking, they amount to nothing more than excuses to root for a successful team. So the first team you ever saw on TV was the Larry Bird lead Boston Celtics? Great. That doesn’t mean you need to be a Celtics fan forever, especially if you’re from New York. When I hear these sorts of stories, I always wonder if had that first game they ever watched been the Minnesota Vikings vs. the Detroit Lions, would that person still be a Vikings or Lions fan to this day? Probably not. Let’s be real. The truth is, you’re rooting for your team because your team wins and if you’re rooting for a team because that team wins, then that makes you a front-runner, no matter how long you’ve been a fan.
The Detroit Pistons had a great team in the 80′s and early 90′s. They literally changed the game of basketball. There are rules in place now that were put in place because of the style of basketball the Detroit Pistons of the 1980′s played. The 1980′s were the last great decade for American manufacturing and the Detroit Pistons, with their blue collar players and ruff and tumble style of play were wildly popular. They had epic postseason battles with Bird’s Celtics, Jordan’s Bulls and Magic’s Lakers. Along the way they won not one, but two NBA Championships and came dangerously close to the rare 3-peat. With that sort of success, you’d think there would still be all sorts of Pistons fans all over the country, but it’s not the case. What happened to all the front-running Pistons fans? The 1990′s happened. After a decade of futility, the Pistons ended up becoming what they’d been prior to the 80′s Bad Boy renaissance- a small market team with a rabid fan base at home, but no real following outside of that.
The point here is, had the Pistons continued winning, or at least been highly competitive throughout the 90′s, we’d have a lot more Pistons fans running around trying to tell us how they’ve been Pistons fans for years, and how their favorite player growing up was Joe Dumars.
Folks Who Root For Teams Outside of Their Hometown Are Always Lonely and Attention-Starved.
Another annoying thing about these folks is that they’re always starving for attention. They always assume other folks care about the goings on of their team. I can’t count how many times New York born, Jordan bred Bulls fans have jumped into my conversations with other Knicks fans about what we need to do to get better next season. And it’s always something along the lines of “The Knicks suck,” “They’re a terrible franchise,” “The Bulls do things the right way, building through the draft…” Cool bro. Good to know. Things is, I really don’t care about the Bulls. Nobody wants to hear your thoughts on what you all have going on and what you all are doing to be great. I’m a Knicks fan. You only care about the Bulls because you took the easy way out. Instead of going to school and suffering through the jeers of your peers as the Knicks dropped series after series, you jumped on the bandwagon. The fact that you’re still rooting for them all these years later does not make you a true fan, it just makes you a loyal band-wagoner. If you got rich by stealing a couple million dollars and never did anything wrong for the rest of your life, you’re still a thief.
There is no single nation of fans who root for a team outside of their hometown that think other sports fans care more about that team than we really do than the non-hometown fans of the Los Angeles Lakers. Lakers fans think the entire basketball world revolves around the Staples Center (despite the fact that most of them couldn’t tell you what street it’s on or how to get to it.) Lakers fans think every basketball fan in the world should have some sort of passionate opinion about them. We should either love the Lakers as the textbook model for the successful professional sports franchise or we should hate them and everything they stand because our team isn’t as successful as their adopted team. They also believe that, because their team wins more than ours, their opinion is therefore more relevant than hours. Not really holmes. Your spinelessness has no bearing on your knowledge of the game of basketball, and my blind loyalty has no bearing on mine. News flash Laker fans: I am 100% indifferent toward your team. I don’t think about the Lakers anymore than I think about the Milwaukee Bucks or the Washington Wizards. I dislike Laker fans with a greater passion than I feel toward the actual team. Mostly because y’all are so annoying.
I’ve gotten so tired of rejecting the conversational incursions of lonely Laker fans looking for someone to talk to that at this point, I don’t even respond. I just ignore them and hope they go away. There really needs to be an online social networking support group where Laker fans who’ve never even been to LA or seen the inside of the Staples Center can get together and talk about how awesome it is to be a Laker fan. They can swap stories of how their Laker fanhood was founded, send Kobe fan-mail, tout Ramon Sessions as the savior and discuss whatever else it is Laker fans are always trying to discuss with everyone else. Till then, go that way.
Fans of Teams Outside of Their Hometown Can Never Truly Understand the Nobility of Defeat
I’m a fan of New York sports. As such, I’ve had the luxury of watching the Yankees go into every season with high postseason expectations. I’ve watched us win multiple MLB Championships and find it difficult to remember the last time we didn’t make the playoffs. On the flipside, I’m also a Knicks fan and no big market team in the NBA has experienced the decades long kind of futility the Knicks have experienced. I’m also a Giants Fan. In my lifetime, I’ve had the pleasure of watching my Giants win the Superbowl four times and I’ve also watched us miss the playoffs more times than I care to recall. All of this has made me intimately aware of what it really means to lose. I am a New Yorker and being a New Yorker defines a pretty significant portion of my self-image. When a New York sports team loses, I feel it- not just for my team, but for my city, my state, my little part of the world. That to me, is what sports are about. It’s about going through those years and years of bittersweet failure so that one can really and truly appreciate those fleeting moments of success.
There’s something special about losing with your hometown team. There’s something special about the memories those losses create. When your hometown team loses, that loss is sewn into the fabric of your fanhood and in that way, they are as valuable as your greatest victories. Patrick Ewing missed a layup that might have won us an NBA Championship. It’s a sore spot for any real fan of the blue and orange. But let Big Pat walk into Madison Square Garden and see what kind of response he gets from the crowd. It’s not because we’re fans of Patrick Ewing. It’s not because we believe in moral victories, it’s not even because of how valiantly he fought for us. Those things are important, sure. But The Garden stands when Pat walks in because he was, is, and always will be … one of us … a New York Knick … win, lose or draw.
Some folks will tell you that doesn’t make sense. They’ll tell you that sports are about winning and that winning, above all else, is the ultimate goal. Those folks are both right and wrong. When you are a professional athlete, it’s about winning. When you own a team, it’s about winning. When you coach a team, it’s about winning. Being a fan however, it’s about more than your teams wins and losses. It’s about more than the banners that hang in your stadium’s rafters. Being a fan is about loyalty and loyalty is neither destroyed nor built on wins and losses, but is instead tested through how one responds to each.
So that’s my little diatribe on rooting for your hometown team. How do you all feel about it? How do you all pick the teams you root for? Do you judge folks who root for other teams as I do? Have you experienced any of the things I’ve experienced? Or maybe you’re a front runner. Maybe you’re someone who feels they have a legit reason to root for a team other than their hometeam. Do share. Let us know what’s up in the comments.
So until next season my fellow Knicks fans … stay low and keep firing.