Monday, January 07, 2008

Sports fans?

How do sports-people decide what teams they support? It's kind of a mystery to me. Obviously, if you went to a certain high school or university, then you'd be a fan of that team. Or if you grew up in a particular city; Pittsburgh people root for the Steelers naturally, and around here most people support the Red Skins because they're the nearest pro-football team. And I guess if one of your parents attended a certain school (or grew up in a different city) then maybe that loyalty could be passed down through the generations. And maybe, if a lot of your friends support a team-- maybe that is transferable? But beyond that, I'm just lost.

So to recap: I could be a Cowboys fan, as I grew up in their home city and could conceivably have developed a fondness for them. I could be a Detroit Tigers fan as well, as my dad grew up loving them and could have passed that on by exposure, or a fan of U of M . I could be a UVM Catamounts fan, as I graduated from that University.

But are people just allowed to adopt whatever teams they want? How does that work? Like, "hey! I think I'll be a Seahawks fan today!" Don't you need some kind of personal link-- geography, family, something? When we lived in Texas, most of the football fans I knew were Cowboys fans. This makes sense to be, because that's where we were. If you went to a live game, that's who you'd see. But here in Virginia, there are surprising number of Cowboys fans as well. These folks have for the most part never been to Texas, or seen the Cowboys play except when they come to town. And there are way more Yankees and Red Sox fans than can possibly have come from New York or Boston. So where does this affiliation come from? What makes them choose that particular team, especially in lieu of the default team closest to them? Similarly, a girl I knew in Texas was a massive UT fan, but she had no relationship to the school at all. I mean she wasn't a UT grad, never went to school there, didn't have a family connection as far as I could make out, didn't grow up going to their games. But she wears the (supremely ugly, sorry) UT burnt orange tee shirts, carries the key chain, applied for the UT-branded credit card. It just seems so posture-y to me. Poseur-ish.

Seriously, is that even allowed?


Benjamin said...

Sometimes sports franchises develop a ceratin character or image. This team identity can follow them for decades. The Dallas Cowboys have always been red, white, and blue. The Oakland Raiders are known for being rennegades and rebels. The New York Yankees are perennial winners. So are the Boston Celtics. The New Orleans Saints and the Chicago White Sox have a long history of losing.

Sometimes, people choose to like a sports club based on that team's character rather than on their geographical location. There are even folks who like chronic losers, because some of us want to cheer for the underdog.

A team's self-image can change, however, as management, coaches, and players retire and are replaced, but it takes time to escape history's shadow.

I do think that these team identites are becoming less evident as sports become more corporate. The ball clubs no longer operate like separate feifdoms where one person (usually the owner) could imprint their personality on the whole team.

Mara said...

See, I didn't know that! I mean, I knew that the Yankees were big winners and that the Cubs are traditionally losers, but not the rest of that.

What about school teams, though? Does that work the same way?

Gruppie Girl said...

Where I'm from, you really don't have a choice. (Don't tell my family that I could care less about professional sports)

My great-grandparents were Red Sox fans, my grandparents were Red Sox fans and so on.

One of the first questions that my in-laws asked me when I met them was to find out if I was a Red Sox fan too. The difference in religion didn't bother them, but a different sports team may have.

The only sport that the family is divided on is golf. They all seem to cheer for someone different.