Rules and Loyalties of a Sports Fan
Yesterday at the Cardinals game I was a part of what makes the city of Phoenix a mediocre sports town at best and why we will never be considered a great sports town even though we have the 5th biggest television market and all four professional sports. The crowd at University of Phoenix stadium yesterday was 60 percent for the Steelers and that is being generous because if I was betting I would say it was more than that for Pittsburgh. According to the U.S. census of 2010, Pittsburgh ranks 59th in population compared to Phoenix which is 6th on that same list. Based on that math alone how is it possible that 60% of a stadium in Glendale, Arizona can turn into Steelers country? The reason for that is people do not know how to be a fan or the meaning of rooting for the hometown team. I am not here to bash on the city of Pittsburgh or any of the Steelers TRUE fans. This is about all the Steelers “fans” that also happen to like the Yankees for baseball and the Lakers for basketball. These fans are called frontrunners and has inspired me to come up with my “Rules and Loyalties for a Sports Fan.”
Rule #1: You must always support the team of the town that you grew up in
There is really not much lee-way around this rule. If you grow up in Phoenix then you are a Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Suns, and Coyotes fan. If you grow up in Dallas then you like the Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers, and Stars. It is as simple as that. In the NFL I would say the five biggest fan bases in no particular order are the Packers, Steelers, Bears, Cowboys, and whoever the “hot” team is in the league. When these teams travel to losing team’s stadiums or frontrunning cities their fans overtake the stadium and turn it into a “home game” for their team. Unless you have lived and grown up in that city then you have no excuses to not wear your cities colors and support the home team. The Arizona Cardinals for example came to Arizona in 1988 which means they don’t have much history here. It also does not help that they were bad for most of the 23 years they have been here save for 3 or 4 seasons. With that being said you hear many of these types of excuses “Well, when I was growing up Arizona I did not have a team so I grew up watching the Cowboys, Steelers, 49ers.” (Teams that all won multiple Super Bowls if you did not already notice that trend.) Ok that is great and there is many people in Los Angeles right now who are saying the same thing. The second your city gets a professional team those allegiances go out the window and you become a fan of that team. You are a part of the city that you live in and to wear the colors of another team is unacceptable and all you are doing is giving your own city a bad reputation. You think the Steelers care about anyone who lives outside of Pittsburgh or the Yankees outside of New York? They care about their own city and fans not the average Joe in Phoenix who thinks he is “gangster” for throwing on a Polamalu jersey and googling the meaning of the Terrible Towel.
The ONLY exception you are given to this rule is if your entire family is from lets say Chicago living in Arizona and they are all Chicago sports fans then of course you will side with your families teams as you grow up. Under that exception you must still support the home team when they are not playing your team
Rule #2: Once you choose a team you are stuck with that team for life
You must stick with your team through thick and thin. There is no “Well the Cardinals stink now without Kurt Warner so since I have a friend whose best friend happens to be from Green Bay I like the Packers now. It works Vice Versa as well….there is no hopping on a bandwagon as soon as the home team starts winning if you were not there for them in the first place. The Miami Dolphins fan base is about to explode come April when they select Andrew Luck so if you’re not wearing Dolphins colors now you are not allowed to in 20 years when Luck is inducted into Canton either. There are a couple “out” clauses to this rule that I may be experiencing myself here in Phoenix very shortly.
Exception 1: If your team moves cities. The cities of Seattle, Atlanta, Montreal, and Charlotte have experienced this recently and Phoenix is next in line. If your team moves in the way that Seattle lost the Sonics, Atlanta lost the Thrashers, Montreal lost the Expos, or Charlotte lost the Hornets then all bets are off and you become a fan free agent of that sport meaning you can pick any team you would like. As a Phoenix Coyotes fan I am preparing myself with three options should the Coyotes move. Option one is still follow the team wherever they move. Option two follow the team closest to my city which would be the Anaheim Ducks or L.A. Kings. Option three root for the Boston Bruins and that is because I happened to be in Boston at the time they won the Stanley Cup and during the championship parade, so I kind of walked into a rooting interest. I have grown into a big hockey fan with no NBA this season and it would be tough on me and the other 50 people who watch Coyotes hockey should they move. Speaking of the NBA….that leads me into my next exception.
Exception 2: If your team has an owner who is constantly trying to lose over a long period of time and cares more about saving money then winning and after a nice decade long window of winning a championship, the window closes and you are looking at a very bleak future. (Phoenix Suns fans are nodding their heads right now) There have been numerous more owners in sports who have constantly agitated their fan base to the point of no return and Robert Sarver has about done that in Phoenix. If you are looking at this scenario and still want to be a fan of the sport you can choose the root for individual players until the team is sold to a competent owner scenario. More than likely that means root for the 4 different teams that feature all-stars of former players that wore your teams colors. I will now open up a petition to the NBA to oust Robert Sarver of his position as owner of the Suns.
Rule 3: You can not have two favorite teams
I can admit myself I fell victim to this rule myself with the Suns and Cavaliers during the Lebron era. My family is from Cleveland and Lebron James WAS my favorite player so I used that as my excuse to follow the Cavs. Liking two favorite teams though is like choosing red and black on the roulette table. There is no real winning in that. You need to pick a team and stick with that team. No switching bandwagons when one is winning and one is losing that is just cheating the system and your sports fanhood goes out the window.
You gain nothing by rooting for a team in a city that you have no personal connections to. Yes, by liking the Steelers, Lakers, and Yankees you will win most sports arguments. Yes you are guaranteeing yourself multiple playoff runs and championship appearances every decade but you are losing out on so much more than what you are gaining, You are losing out on the pride and passion of a city when that team is successful and winning. There is nothing like the hometown team being successful and playing for championships and being in that city to witness it all happening. Sports teams that are successful make your city a destination spot and a place where people want to be. The best example of pride and passion came as I was leaving the Cardinals Steelers game yesterday. In the bathroom after the game a Cardinals fan came into the bathroom unprovoked and started shouting “This is my city, my team, my state…go home pittsburgh…go back home this is my city.” With many unprintable words thrown in there. Of course that brought mocking and a “here we go” Steelers chant by people who live in his city of Phoenix making fun of another Phoenician. As this guy was almost in tears from the pride he was letting out I went up to him and gave him a huge high-five and a shout of “GO CARDS!” as loud as I could yell. He was as worn out as I was from people in Phoenix thinking it was OK to root for the PITTSBURGH Steelers. That fan symbolized what is right about sports and the meaning of sports and for every person in that bathroom who laughed or mocked that person should only be laughing at how truly pathetic of a sports fan they really are.
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