There is a ritual in the state of Alabama for newborn babies. Once the baby has been slapped by the doctor, a nurse takes the newborn and puts on a diaper and either a crimson blanket or a blue and orange blanket. This important blanket will most likely secure the pathway for this child’s life, because the color of the cloak determines the allegiance in the ever-so important game known as the Iron Bowl. Some families tend to worry about the blanket chosen for their baby, so a few dollars will be passed to the nurse so the right blanket is put on the child. Some call it bribery, some call it loving your child.
For the record, I’m not sure if this is actually how the hospitals work in Alabama, but logic sure lends it self this way. In Alabama, you are either for Alabama or Auburn. There is no middle ground. You end up cheering for someone.
I kid about the ritual in the hospitals, but there has to be something said about how people pick their faithfulness to a certain team. There are multiple reasons, none of them better than the other.
Those who live in Michigan have their teams selected for them. The college team can be Michigan State or Michigan. For baseball, it is the Detroit Tigers. In basketball, fans yell for the Detroit Pistons. Most importantly for Michiganders, the official hockey team for the state of Michigan is the Detroit Red Wings.
Teams don’t just represent their employees. They represent the city they in which they play. They play for the city. Whether or not players care or realize this, the city stands behind their team and calls them their own and takes pride when their team’s colors are waved.
If you live in a certain area of the country, you have a God-given right to cheer for that team. As I write this, I look outside on the streets of New Orleans and see a town painted black and gold, wanting to believe in their Saints. When you live in an area, you are expected to join in the fan festivities. Not only that, you are expected to. This should be the primary reason you select a team if family is not involved.
If you live in Chicago and you cheer for the Packers, there must be an extenuating circumstance that allows you to do this (which will be discussed in the forth section of fan selection). If you are cheering for the Packers BECAUSE you live in Chicago, you are a jerk. Also realize that no one likes you because you find joy in the pain in those around you. You feel real bad, don’t you. Well, you should. Because you are a jerk.
As covered in the hospital story, parents have leeway in deciding how kids cheer for teams. If your parents are fans of the college they met at, it is very possible you will be cheering for that athletic program, too. You might have a relative who works for a team. You might have a brother that has not missed a Cleveland Browns game since 2005. (If you are this man, I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.)
Whatever the case, the surrounding you are brought up in has an effect of what you find pleasing. If your parents decorated your room crimson, then the sight of Alabama rushing onto the field maybe the most pleasing sight to your eyes. It is very possible that you were given a blanket with a Utah Jazz logo and that memory brings comfort to you whenever cheering on your team.
This is not to say that family is always a positive influence in team selection. Parents that try to force a team on their child may repel them away. There is a possibility you cheer for a rival team revenge at your parents for that game you did not want to go to. Maybe you are just sick of hearing about that team.
Whatever the case, families do have a tremendous effect on how people see certain sports clubs. There is not a wrong way to find your team if it is through the family route.
I remember going to my first playoff hockey game. It was April 14, 2008. The Nashville Predators were down 0-2 in their series with the Detroit Red Wings. In the third period, the Red Wings had a 3-2 lead on the Preds. With just under four minutes left, Ryan Suter (who is now dead to me) scored the game-tying goal. The place erupted into the loudest building I had been in to that point.
Nine seconds later, Jason Arnott scored the next goal to take the lead. I don’t even remember the goal, because the crowd was celebrating the goal that had just tied the game up. The horn informed us of what just happened and the building grew increasingly louder. One last empty-netter from Martin Erat sealed the deal. That night, I became a hockey fan. I joined in loudly to the “Let’s go Predators!” chant.
We all have stories about where we first watched our favorite team. We have friends and family that told us why to cheer for a team and we held onto that. Memories like that are special to us. Those types of moments are what can make sports wonderful and bring people closer together.
I tend to accept fans with this selection process. Granted, it is weaker than the previous two, but over time can be viewed as authentic as a game-worn jersey.
4. The Accepted Transfer
There are times when a fan must part ways from his team. This is a disappointing time in the fan, but when it gets to that moment, it must be done and you have to let go. These are some of the acceptable reasons to leave your team loyalties to pursue another team.
First, a moral obligation is an acceptable transfer. People are not perfect and there will be bad choices made by people we think could do know wrong. Ben Roeslsburger was accused of rape. Michael Vick was jailed for dog fighting. Penn State administration were all involved in a child molestation cover-up. We have seen tragedies and shortcomings by teams everywhere and it hurts to watch. If you are a fan of one of these teams and this happens, you should not feel obligated to continue their support if you feel that the actions of the team or players is morally reprehensible. Sports should be fun. When it ceases to be fun, then the point of sport loses its power.
Secondly, if the team transfers, you have the option to drop your loyalty to you. It’s only fair. If a team leaves you, they were looking for fans to make them more money. Why should you stay involved with a team that leaves you. The Acceptable Transfer is an area we will get into in a bit.
When you begin to cheer for a team, it is very similar to a relationship between a man and a woman. Whatever you put into it is what you will get out of it. It has been said there are three types of relationships fans have with their teams.
The first is the wife. This is a true commitment to the team. There is no cheating. If there is a team your team hates, you hate them. You have bought the jersey to show your commitment. When you have a team you cheer for with dedication, this is called your “wife” team. Not that your love of sports should interfere with your relationship with your wife, but the mindset that you have one team is the idea.
The second is the girlfriend team. This is simply an exploratory phase. You begin to watch the teams games and root them on. If they win, you are happy. If you have a wife team, it is still acceptable to cheer for a girlfriend team, pending that it does not interfere with your wife team. (And before if you ask if this is cheating, please remember we are talking about sports teams and the metaphor only goes so far.) Usually sports fans will have their wife teams and then cheer for a separate team that plays in the other conference.
The third and final relationship is the mistress. This relationship is not as committed as wife or girlfriend. It usually only is a one game occurrence. For example, when the Super Bowl is on, everyone is supposed to pick a team and root for that one team. In the playoffs of any sport, we pick a team for each matchup and root for those scenarios if our wife or girlfriend teams are not involved.
When doing this, we have to understand that cheering for a “mistress” team is only cheering for a team you like in the moment. We don’t need to relish in the moment of a team we have adopted on a whim. We need to be responsible fans and enjoy those types of moments without being disrespectful.
When picking our teams, we must figure out the relationship we have with the team and act on that correctly.