The Curious Nature of Fandom: How We Come to Love the Teams We Love

sportsIt is not always as natural an evolution as we might expect, how we come, that is,  to love the teams to which we have sworn our undying loyalty.

How, for the more fiercely faithful, that dedication can include serious schadenfreude when it comes to arch rivals.

A peculiar beast, fandom.

There are naturally occurring phenomena.

Sharing loyalty for a team with mom and dad. Or, being contrary, choosing their arch rival to cheer for.

Or, the quirky circumstance, the type of loyalty that is without rational basis.The norm, perhaps, is Fan R’s affection for his beloved ChiSox.

Growing up in northwestern Indiana, his father and grandfather were inveterate White Sox fans, ever listening on the front porch to Bob Elson, calling play by play on radio. The morning after school nights, on which Fan R had to be in bed before the final out, his father would leave jotted game notes for him, left on the kitchen table for consumption with cereak and milk.

It was easier to get from home to Comiskey than to Wrigley. So, Sox over Cubs it was for father. Thus it was for son.

Father never cared for the Cubs. Neighbor kids reinforced that their street was White Sox territory. So it was for Fan R. To this day, he glories in a defeat by the northsiders, almost as much as a southsider W.

Fathers. Sons. Baseball.

Once upon a time, it was the American imperative.

* * * * *

Fan G’s faith had a strikingly different origin.

“I remember watching cartoons or Sky King or something when I was a kid on a Saturday one day,  I think it was the summer of 1959; the announcer said something like, “Stay tuned for the Pirates vs. the Giants.”  I thought it was another cartoon. Instead, it was my first baseball game to watch on tv..  My mom later told me I was transfixed and when the game was over I told her to tell me the next time one of those games was on…..”

He became a Pirates fan forever.

His first game: Pirates vs. Reds at Crosley Field. He remembers calling out to Roberto Clemente from his seat in the right field bleachers.1

Fan G also remembers “sneaking” a radio into class to listen to the Pirates best the Yankees in seven on Bill Mazeroski’s famous Game 7 home run.

* * * * *

Then there is the allegiance, born of rebellion.

Fan L grew up in a Big Blue household. She was at an age when she needed to carve her own niche. Her aunt had season tickets to U of L games. Cute Kyle Kuric was a star for the Cardinals.

Fan L wears red in a house of blue.

* * * * *

During his youth, Fan C loved to piss off his dad. Dad grew up in Wisconsin during the halcyon days of Coach Lombardi. Dad by nature has a serious disregard for rivals.

So Fan C loved walking around the house in his Chicago Bears shirt. Which, I feel comfortable saying, was not purchased by dad.

* * * * *

Fan S grew up playing youth hockey.

In Knoxville.

Go figure.

So, he became a hockey fan. Without a favorite team really.2 Actually his favorite team has been the Stanley Cup winners, chosen, of course, after they skate around the ink with the trophy held aloft.

Which is to say there are exceptions to the development of lifelong loyalty.

* * * * *

Though my family moved away when I was but a lad of three, I was born in Detroit.

So, naturally, now that I live in a college sports town with no major professional franchises, I root for the teams from Motown.

Tigers.Bless you boys.

Lions. Though they haven’t been relevant since Bobby Layne and Les Bingaman hung ’em up.

Pistons. Even the Bad Boys, though they were a most unsavory crew.

Red Wings. Since watching them win the Stanley Cup in the halcyon 50s at cousin Eddie’s house on a visit back. Loved the Scotty Bowman era resurgence.

I’m also a University of Louisville fan. My parents started taking me to games at the Armory when I was very young. It was love at first sight.

My dad took me to see the Cats once, when they visited Louisville at the same venue, against Georgia Tech. It was during the Hagan/ Ramsey/ Tsioropolous heyday, and the Big Blue won by something like 125-30.

Nonetheless, my loyalty to the Cards didn’t waver.

Though I did root for UK against Texas Western.3 I really liked that team. I also overcame my natural tendencies toward UK in that regional final they sadly lost to Duke. You know, the Christian Laettner game.

But I’ve developed other loyalties, for reasons that hardly make sense.

Like, when it comes to soccer.

Tottenham Hotspur is my fave in the EPL. For the simple if silly reason that the team was mentioned in Harold Pinter’s “The Dumbwaiter,” a one-act play in which I appeared in high school.

I also have an affinity for FC Barcelona, which predates any understanding of how transcendent Lionel Messi’s game is, or knowing what it meant when they won the Champions League.

Visiting Barcelona years ago, the team store was next door to our hotel. And it happened to stock one of the team’s iconic red and blue vertically striped jerseys in a size that actually fit this corpulent American. From such a moment, fandom evolved.

Why do I root for the Oregon Ducks?

Simply because they were the first school to don very funky uniforms, and to change them every week.

There is no other basis. Yet, I must say that affection doesn’t go so deep that I hate their rival Oregon State. I mean, how can you not get a kick out of an orange and black school whose mascot is a Beaver?

* * * * *

Whomver you love when they take the field and the court, wear their colors with pride.

Be gentle with those wearing different hues. They love their team as much as you love yours.4

However that loyalty came about.

— Seedy K

2 thoughts on “The Curious Nature of Fandom: How We Come to Love the Teams We Love

  1. Great stories……

    …..For your next one, maybe you can uncover the fundamental basis for the hate that consistently escalates these days for ones rival’s teams and fans. Is it just time and the loss of patience that comes with it? Or, is it the age of instant communication in which we live that fosters the Matt Jones’ of the World that then leads to irrational thought processes when anything good happens to say , uh, UK, in modern sport’s society?

    I remember how upset I was when Texas Western beat your Cayuts in that final game…now, it is one of the best days of my llfe!

  2. To Mr. Joyner (for whom I was in large part responsible for his first legal job which he loved so much): Don’t you know that hate has become the American way. Tolerance is a curse word nowadays. It’s not like when we were young.

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