(This was originally published on throwlikealady.com in July 2014. I’ve updated it just a bit and added some new stuff.)
Since moving to New York, I have found myself having to do something I’ve never had to do: Defend what teams I root for.
During the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, I rooted for the Rangers. My New York friends seemed dubious, but I suppose were pleased to have a new convert and extra drinking buddy at the bar for game watches. I did get asked why I was a Rangers fan “all of a sudden.” My California friends called me a traitor. My response to both sides, which was in all honesty, was that I have liked hockey since I was 12 but never felt tied to any teams. It was exciting to be in a city with a team in the playoffs and subsequently the finals, but it also felt good to have an NHL team I could actually root for. I then had to explain to my friends in California that I was never a Kings fan and I’m not going to root for them simply because I am from Southern California. Will I root for the Rangers next season? You bet your ass.
Also, since I moved to New York, I have been rocking a Mets hat. (I also have a Yankees hat, but I can’t bring myself to be a member of the Evil Empire). Back in May 2014 I went to CitiField with my LA friends when the Dodgers were in town. They were all wearing Dodger hats and shirts… I wore my Matt Harvey t-shirt. One of my friends asked with curiosity if I was really a Mets fan. Another friend said, accusingly, that I was an Angels fan. I said I was both. One team is in the AL and the other in the NL. Why can’t I root for both? And to make things more complicated, I spent a lot of time with someone during the 2014 season who happened to be a San Francisco Giants fan. We watched many games together. I had fun watching that team, but I had fun watching his enthusiasm. And it didn’t hurt that they ended up World Series Champions. Will I root for the Giants if I’m watching their game? Sure. Will I make an effort to watch those games? Probably not.
I have never been a huge fan of professional sports. Not in the way that I am for college sports (Go Bruins!). As such, I tend to root for teams wherever I live. I love watching just about any sport and it’s a lot more interesting when you can root for a team. It seems that in order to be a fan of a certain team, you must have either loved that team since birth, or be from the same location as the team. I suppose it’s not surprising that my fandom comes under fire quite frequently.
So, how does one become a fan of a particular team? These are the top two reasons I’ve heard from people on how they choose their professional teams:
1) Geography: Many people say they have been Mets fans since birth because they are from New York. Well, I lived in four different states before the age of 10. If I base my fandom on where I’m from I would be rooting for the Colts, Pacers, Bears, White Sox, Bulls, Cubs, Blackhawks, Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Angels, Dodgers, Ducks, Padres, Sharks, Giants, 49ers, Rams (once upon a time), Raiders, Warriors, and A’s. That makes no sense. Through all of that, the only team that stuck were the Angels… but only because I loved going to baseball games and the Angels were the team that was nearby for most of my life. Now that I’m living in New York, I find it easy to be a Mets fan (no thank you, Yankees) and a Rangers fan. As far as other sports… well, I typically take them game by game. When it comes to playoffs, I will shift my cheers accordingly – usually geographically. I really just like watching sports, and don’t mind not having the same team to root for year after year.
2) Family: Many people tell me that they grew up loving a particular team because that’s what their family did. I find this as a plausible reason because I love the idea of family and community coming together for sports. But I grew up watching more college sports in my house than anything else, so my professional allegiances have been somewhat disparate.
I have a friend from Southern California. He has lived just about his entire life within a 20 mile radius of where he was born (with the exception of a brief stint in Oregon). He is a Boston Celtics fan. His childhood friend happened to be from Boston and since his family wasn’t really into the NBA, he got all of his basketball knowledge from his friend. And thus, a Celtics fan was born. He is the exception to the geography and family rules all in one.
Fans are made in many different ways. Just because I don’t know every statistic or every past player doesn’t mean my cheering means any less. I’m a devoted person. When I like something, I like it all the way. I won’t stop liking a team because they are losing. I will sport team colors a little more frequently with some W’s on the board, but I will still stand by the team through the L’s.
Being born somewhere doesn’t make you a fan. Parental guidance doesn’t make you a fan. Knowing the names of every player ever doesn’t make you a fan. Knowing every stat ever doesn’t make you a fan. A genuine love of a sport and the willingness to stand by a team through wins and losses makes you a fan. So, go forth… love your sport and love your team. I know I will. And proudly, at that.
Photo credits: someecards.com; the7line.com