Picking Sides: Part II

In part I, I threw out some ideas about why fans support the teams they do. Perhaps you were born in a city with a team, or perhaps your father pushed a team onto you. Maybe you might have picked a favourite team when you were young and that was that. It seems like this last reason best describes my relationship with my favourite teams.

Time to relax, lie back on the doctor’s chair and delve back into my fanatical history with sports…

Hockey:

I started out my hockey watching career in Southern Ontario, going to Maple Leaf Gardens. The Leafs were horrible during those years so I didn’t really get hooked. I then moved to Saskatchewan and was a free agent in search of a team. I found them in the Oilers, who were up against the New York Islanders looking for their first Stanley Cup. My aunt lived in St. Albert and brought me banners and souvenir programs from the 82-83 final. The Oil didn’t win the first time around but I was on board and I soon was cheering for a Stanley Cup winner. All of this happened during those formative fan attachment years between ages 8 and 14.

An interesting side note is that for a time I really shifted my allegiances over toward the Leafs. This was in the 90’s during the Gilmour, Sundin and Joseph days. I struggle to fully reconcile what happened, but I think it was one part having a best buddy be a huge Leafs fan coupled with the team having success while the Oilers were floundering.

I think the other thing that turned me for awhile was lack of exposure to the Oilers. When you don’t live in the city you don’t get swept up into the excitement of winning and the excruciating pain of losing. I spent a bunch of years outside of Canada where the only hockey was HNIC on Saturday nights. Because of liquor laws, the bars closed before the west coast game so I was only being fed the Leafs, week after week. It wasn’t until the Leafs played the Oilers one Saturday that I realized my passion for the Oilers outweighed my support of the Leafs. I think that was around 2001 or 2002 and I’ve been fully back on the Oiler wagon ever since.

Football:

I am a Buffalo Bills fan and oscillate between pride and shame on a weekly basis. Living in Southern Ontario meant Buffalo cable tv which meant I was watching the Bills back when they were a 3-13 team. Moving to Saskatchewan almost cured me but the team had to go and make the Super Bowl. And make it again the next year. And the next year. And a fourth, extra painful year. But they had great success at an age where I was ripe for a life long attachment. A few years later and I wouldn’t have been able to wear the Jim Kelly t-shirts and Bruce Smith t-shirts, but I did, so now I am stuck with the 100’s of Bills fans all over the world.

It really ticks me off in a way. At times I’ve wanted to be a 49ers fan and I was super close to being a Packer fan for life. It’s kind of like getting to stay at a 5 star hotel for a week. It is fun and you get caught up in the excitement, but at some point you have to go back home. And home is where the Bills are. Sigh…

CFL is an open and cut case. Raised in Saskatchewan, I am a Rider fan. But because I wasn’t raised in Regina and the team never did anything special other than the 1989 fluke, I’m by no means a diehard fan like my cousins are. One cousin even had a cat named Mr. Roy Shivers (former GM). Don’t bother trying to call my grandmother after a Riders loss. Yesterday’s lackluster loss against Hamilton had to sting.

Baseball:

Baseball is very confusing to me. I played the game from age 4 and I used to go to Blue Jay games as a kid. They were a great team for a long time, culminating in two World Series wins. I should be a Blue Jays fan for life, right? Not so much it turns out.

I was a huge Blue Jays fan for a lot of years, but we eventually drifted apart. Today I find myself cheering for teams of players I like, and jumping on and off bandwagons every other year. I’ve got a soft spot for Oakland and Seattle, I love cheering for Pujols and the Cards and find myself secretly pulling for the Yankees on occasion. Oh, and I do still like the Blue Jays. What is up with that?

As best as I can reason, the reason I drifted from the Blue Jays was due primarily to lack of exposure to the team. After University, I moved out west where the Jays games were done before I got home from work. The Mariners were on tv and they had a really good team. Oakland had Hudson, Zito, and Mulder pitching, along with Giambi hitting. Both teams were fun to watch.

Then I left Canada and was at the mercy of ESPN and Fox to feed me my games. I went years without seeing the Jays which pretty much was the end of our partnership. At the same time I started playing fantasy baseball and always seemed to have Pujols on my team. And then my main squeeze and I ran into a bunch of Cardinal players at a comedy club in New York. St. Louis became one of my teams.

The comedy club experience was very surreal. We are sitting down at our table waiting for the show to start. We were seeing the runner up in NBC’s Last Comic Standing make her triumphant return to NYC. Anyways, about 6 really tall white guys walk in and sit at the table behind us. I’m fairly tall so I tend to get a bit discombobulated when there are a bunch of people around that are taller than I am.

They weren’t NBA tall so I knew they weren’t basketball players. They weren’t fat so they weren’t NFL lineman. They were a bit too tall and too good looking to be hockey players…

I probably wasted about half the opening act going through a mental rolodex of who these guys could be. They were all 6’3” to 6’6” so they had to be athletes. Finally, finally, one of their faces became recognizable. Chris Carpenter, soon to be NL Cy Young winner and most recently MVP of my championship fantasy team (The Frozen Ropes), was one of the guys. He had that bit of under lower lip fuzz that would usually get you teased if you weren’t 6’6” and built like an oak tree.

We followed that experience up by taking in one of the best baseball games I’ve ever seen, Mets vs. Cardinals at Shea. By then I had a full on man-crush on Pujols. How else to explain going to a Mets game on my honeymoon?

Albert didn’t disappoint, let me tell you! Whew!! 4th inning he comes up and hits a 3 run HR. 5th inning he’s up again and it’s a grand slam! I think it was about 8 or 9-1 at this point. Carlos Delgado follows that up with 2 HRs and we get to the bottom of the ninth, 9-7 for St. Louis. Mets score a run and Reyes (or someone) gets on base. Up comes Beltran who hits a walk off home run! The lady beside us had on a Beltran jersey and reached new decibels of screaming on that one. Her poor son sat there the whole game looking like he’d rather have been at home reading a book.

Get off track much? Hmm, I guess I haven’t really resolved my baseball fandom other than to say that a lack of exposure to a team results in a disinterest if you go long enough.

Wow, I’m so far off track I think I’ll skip over talking about why I’m not really into other sports and wrap things up. I’d be interested to hear if there are any similar stories out there about how fans and their teams ended up getting hitched.

Let’s go Oilers!

Let’s go Buff-a-lo!

Just can’t hide that Rider Pride.

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