Every NFL season I find myself wondering why I continue to go through the pain of cheering for the Buffalo Bills. There are plenty of good, exciting teams out there who would be a lot more fun to support. Arizona Cardinals? They throw it up and down the field. Pittsburgh Steelers? A nice rich history of winning combined with great fans. Baltimore Ravens? How can you not love their defense? Minnesota Vikings? They’ve got some former Pac-man on their team now.
The same question is true for hockey. I pull hard for the Oilers and I also have an affinity for the Toronto Maple Leafs. What is up with that? Why can’t I get on board cheering for Pittsburgh or Washington? Both teams are exciting with Malkin and Ovechkin.
And then I look at baseball and basketball. Why don’t I have a team that I am truly passionate about? And why can’t I find a soccer team to call my own? As hard as I try and as much as I enjoy the sport, I tend to have a few players I like but no team.
Finally I look to the individual sports of tennis and golf. What’s up with Boris Becker and Greg Norman being my all time favourites. Heck, I’d even stand lookout for Becker should he ever need to use the washroom again and not want to be disturbed.
I’m thinking I’m not alone in my predicament. We all seem to have a few teams that we love with a couple of stinkers in the mix. The question is why?
I vaguely remember an article by Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, who wrote on the topic. I think he was speaking more about when it was ok to ditch your team and find a new love. Your team skips town, your wife sleeps with one of the players, etc. Well that’s all fine and dandy, Bill grew up in Boston so he was basically given his teams: Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots. It doesn’t help out a guy who grew up in Saskatchewan explain the mess he’s created.
With all of that in mind, I’ve come up with a few reasons I think we like the teams we like.
I think first and foremost is the Bill Simmons example of growing up in a city with a team. If you grew up in Edmonton, you like the Oilers and the Eskimos. If you grew up in Chicago you like the Bulls, the Bears, the Blackhawks and either the White Sox or Cubs depending on what side of town you grew up on. If you grew up in Los Angeles you didn’t care much for sports and might not yet have noticed your two NFL teams left town.
Next up is your father. You might have grown up in Regina but your dad was a huge Red Wings fan and as a result you became a Red Wings fan. I see this one in action all the time. A buddy is a Leafs fan and his wife is a Sens fan. They don’t live in Ontario anymore so they have a constant battle to pull their sons towards one of the teams.
My sister and her husband are currently waging this war and their kid is still in the oven! Sis wants ‘baby to be’ to be a Riders fan, while hubbie wants a Stamps fan. Given they live in Calgary, I’m thinking the Stamps will win out, though I think there is another key factor that could swing things over to the Green and White down the road.
Lastly, you latch on to a team when you are young (8-14 years old) and they become your team. This is often the case for kids who don’t live in a city that has a team. The key to this one for me is that the team you latch onto has to do something special during your childhood that results in their hooks being sunk into you for better or for worse.
It is this last reason that really resonates for me. When I look back at the teams I like, they all seem to follow a common theme. For sis’s ‘baby to be’, her best bet is for the Riders to win a Grey Cup or two when she is 11 or 12 years old.
To answer the question of why can’t I get into some sports I have a theory. If a kid plays a sport they’ll have their favourite team. If they watch it on tv, they likely have a favourite team. If a kid has minimal exposure to a sport growing up they will struggle to ever find their true love. This explains soccer, rugby, cricket and a bunch of other sports that I kind of like, but don’t have any true passion for. It also explains why I have favourite golfers and tennis players, given I played both sports growing up, but I don’t have a favourite triathlete.
Tomorrow, I’ll look at each of the sports and try to understand why I like the teams I like.