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Why do you root for those guys? You’ve never lived there!

Dec 30, 2011, 1:45 PM EDT

Braves Fans

Even though he called me and my ilk “underwear guys” the other day, I still read George Vecsey in the Times. What can I say? He’s good. And he’s just about done, so no sense in boycotting him a day or two before his retirement.

Today he tackles a subject close to my heart: rooting for a team from a geographic area with which you have no connection.  It vexes him and he’s curious about it. He starts by talking about Cardinals fans who are not from Cardinal country, then moves on to other sports:

In New York I run into Packers fans who have never lived in Wisconsin, Canadiens fans who have never lived in La Belle Province, Celtics fans who admire Russell and Bird and Pierce but have no trace of a Boston accent. The cable brings sport into our homes and bars, causing fans to pick a team from outside their natural habitat … If you root for a team not from your region – or know somebody who does – can you give some details? How does that work out for everybody?

As I’ve said countless times around here, I’ve never been to a game in Atlanta. My Braves thing is because they were the only baseball I could watch after I moved to West Virginia in 1985 and they just grew on me. I suppose for a lot of people there’s a front-runner thing too (I’d guess there were fewer Packers, Cowboys and Bulls fans around the country in the 1980s than there are now).  But there are countless other reasons too.

Neat topic. Almost so neat that I am willing to forgive Vecsey for saying that bloggers have ruined the fine art of reporting just as he publishes a column in which he’s basically crowd-sourcing like a lot of bloggers do.

  1. henryd3rd - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    I’m a former NJ resident / Yankee fan living in South Florida and there’s no way I can change allegiances even though I have changed my zip code. Plus the Marlins’ are such a tacky organization there’s no way I could even consider rooting for them. So; I’ll continue watching Yankee games on cable or on my laptop and wearing my faded Yankee hats until my wife tosses them out and I buy other to replace them. It is what it is.

    • SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:42 PM

      You used to live there. The article is about people that have no connection to the team. For example, someone from San Diego that is a die hard Steelers fan even though they’ve never been to, or even close to, Pittsburgh.

      (If my brother happens to read this, yes this is about you.)

      • Old Gator - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:13 PM

        Aww hell, I still root for the 300 Spartans. The closest I’ve ever gotten to Themopylae was a grilled octopus over lemon rice and a bottle of Retsina.

      • Old Gator - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:14 PM

        Incidentally, you will notice that no one ever roots for Xerxes. I mean, he was just Ahmadinejad in drag anyway.

      • cur68 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        Hey, I rooted for Xerxes: I share more cultural and ethnic similarities with him than I do with a bunch of cod-piece wearing Spartans.

        FWIW that’s why I root for the Beavermen: I don’t live in Toronto, and never have. But a huge part of my family is there, and they’re all I have for a ball club in Canada. When it comes to sports I root for teams in a certain order: all Edmonton teams ahead of any other (unless a relative is playing on that team: then its a matter of if I like him or her), all Canadian teams ahead of any other, all North American Teams ahead of any other (unless its a non-Canadian team against a team from New Zealand: then I side with the Kiwis). Man’s gotta have standards.

      • mondogarage - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:05 PM

        Xerxes was just a Steinbrenner in drag, anyway. I’m shocked most Yankees/Patriots/Man U “hardcore lifelong” (yeah, right) fans aren’t Xerxes fans.

      • yahmule - Dec 30, 2011 at 8:00 PM

        Frank Miller’s historical misinterpretations make us all dumber.

    • 78mu - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:50 PM

      But you lived in NJ. Explain to me why there were so many Cubs fans just by watching them on WGN. I mean they still had to watch the Cubs try and play baseball to be a fan didn’t they?

      • umrguy42 - Dec 31, 2011 at 3:16 PM

        78mu, my personal theory is that all Cubs fans are masochists. It explains so much.

  2. Kevin S. - Dec 30, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    I’m a Dolphin fan despite never having taken my talents to South Beach. As I was just beginning to become aware of sports, I followed my dad along to the Yankees, but heard him make an offhand comment once that the coach of the Giants was a jerk. Not wanting to root for said jerk, I searched for a new team and really, who doesn’t love dolphins as a young child? The fandom stuck.

    The irony, of course, is that the jerk coach who drove me away from the Giants was none other than Bill Parcells, whom I would later wind up placing my trust for the rebuilding of my team.

    • Kyle - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:25 PM

      Ha! That is incredible. My earliest childhood friend always loved Dan Marino and the Dolphins. I think the teal and orange was just too much for a 6 year old living in the early 90’s. He liked the San Jose Sharks, too.

  3. bobdira - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Like children, when it comes to sports fans, TV changes everything. Being able to see and grow to admire (or hate) ball players is a snap when you can dial up a game with any number of teams for viewing.

    The reason for so many fans of the Yankees, Cowboys, Packers, Steelers, Celtics, Lakers etc. is because they won, on TV frequently.

    My theory about fans of those teams goes something like this. If you are a Steeler Fan and don’t live near the home of Iron City, you became a fan after the early 70s when they finally became competitive after years of being a laughing stock. Once they won, people began to follow them. What people? In large part I believe it to be people who have identity challenges or insecurity challenges. Probably have met with their share of failure and have come to live success vicariously through teams to which they have no connection. That is, other than the fact that the team won.

    “Their” team’s success is their success. I think this to be true for Yankee fans especially. Less for Red Sox fans because they were as fanatical even when they couldn’t put a winning season together for years at a time. Yankee fans are like people who root for the IRS. What is it to like about this group except that they get paid a lot more money than most and they periodically win, although looking at what it costs for them to win, it’s a horrible business model, set to fail in any comercial business versus other teams who win with much less cost.

    So their you have it. Those who root for teams like the Yankees and live no where near the team at any time of their lives are failures who cling to their teams success like a baby sucking on their mothers nipple.

    • mtm1321 - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:21 PM

      I have to agree with your post. There are a lot of bandwagon fans who relate to to teams who win by seeing them on TV or relate to them in some other weird way.

    • stlouis1baseball - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:39 PM

      Hahaha! Outstanding post Bob. I am sitting in my office and you literally made me laugh out loud to the point of people commenting about it when the walked past. Well done Sir. Well done.

    • nes125 - Dec 31, 2011 at 11:32 AM

      Its a “horrible business model”? Oh boy…..is that why the YES network is worth around 3 billions dollars?

      Dont get me wrong, other teams have valuable TV networks too, but to say that its a horrible business model is short-sighted at best.

      • bobdira - Dec 31, 2011 at 8:26 PM

        Hello Apples? Meet Oranges. The television revenue is not part of the performance on the field is it? This is a business model about spending many times what your competitors spend for less in results, kinda like what you got out of your education.

        Duh!!!!

      • growler32 - Dec 31, 2011 at 9:22 PM

        I’m sure he’s not talking about the network that makes most of its money from advertisements. He is just trying to say the Yankees have the largest payroll usually and they can’t get the job done. I love it when the Yankees lose.

  4. tad231 - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    I’m a Pittsburgher so the big 3 of 4 sports are covered for me. However when it comes to the NBA I’m a Utah Jazz fan. I got a hand-me-down Jazz jacket when I was in elementary school around 8 years old that I loved and that was it for me. Stockton and Malone were tearing up the league at that time which helped keep my interest but I’ve stuck with the Jazz and will continue to do so.

  5. cakrywyj - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    I know a guy in Philly who is a Phillies’ fan and a New York Giants fan. I can’t explain the headache the bewilderment caused me when I found this out. I was woozy, disoriented, couldn’t eat… People like this exist… And I can’t, for the life of me, understand it.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:24 PM

      Someone posts on here with a username like “giantsyankeesislesceltics” or something like that. How the hell the Celtics got in there confuses me to no end.

      • edog623 - Dec 30, 2011 at 10:33 PM

        that’s funny. there aren’t any islander fans

    • chadjones27 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:01 PM

      Even worse, a buddy of mine likes the Phillies and Dallas Cowboys. Ugh. It hurts just thinking about that. And my Dad is a Red Sox, Knicks, Ravens fan (was Brown’s before they moved).
      Actually, that raises an interesting question. Since he’s an outsider who like the Browns, then they moved, he followed where the team went. However, if you’re geographically stuck in Cleveland, do you then in turn HAVE TO root for the home team, even though they are technically an expansion team? I’m sure this can relate to baseball somehow. Such as the NY Giants (baseball) or Brooklyn Dogers moving.

      • SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:07 PM

        Yes. I am a Rams fan in OC. If our area gets an NFL team, I will immediately pledge my allegiance to said team.

      • chadjones27 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:18 PM

        SmackSaw, I give you a thumbs up for your honesty.

      • umrguy42 - Dec 31, 2011 at 3:21 PM

        I’m kinda the inverse of SmackSaw – growing up in St. Louis, I was a (football) Cardinals fan (or at least, I would’ve been if I hadn’t been like 7 and barely aware of football when they moved away) until they moved, and a Rams fan once they came (admittedly, more of a fan since the ’99 season when they won instead of being a laughingstock). Should the Rams leave, I will not have a rooting interest most likely until / unless STL gets another team. (My fandom for most players runs the same way.)

  6. drewsylvania - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Grew up a Sox fan in Maine, so naturally no Boston accent. No Maine accent either as I’m first-gen Mainer. You grow up with a team–but that team can be any team these days thanks to the net.

    • mtm1321 - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:22 PM

      Yes, but your from New England and the Boston Red Sox are New England’s team. I’m from Connecticut and I root for them also.

      • SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:47 PM

        Exactly. People from Maine should be Red Sox fans. It’s so simple.

      • skeleteeth - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:36 PM

        I guess it depends on where in CT you grew up. I was raised in Bristol, about 5 miles from ESPN, and I can remember being outnumbered at many times throughout school age by Yankee fans. But it makes sense because we were able to watch the Sox, Yankees, Mets, and Braves on TV. CT is a suburb of both NY and Boston so I don’t see, even though it is part of New England, how the Sox can be considered New England’s team.

        I left in the mid 90’s for Boston and can remember hearing from my Mom and step-father during that time that they weren’t able to watch Red Sox games on NESN for a couple seasons because Cablevision wouldn’t carry it. Probably due to the Yankees success at that time. I am also outnumbered by family members that are Yankee fans that still reside in CT.

      • drewsylvania - Dec 30, 2011 at 6:53 PM

        What skeleteeth said. CT is war territory.

  7. Kyle - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Living my whole life in Washington State, and forever rooting for the Mariners, Seahawks and Sonics (once again soon, I hope), I’ve always been fascinated by this topic. Craig, who do you root for in professional basketball and football? Or are those two sports just off your radar altogether?

    • Francisco (FC) - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:00 PM

      I’ll answer for Craig:

      Craig, who do you root for in professional basketball and football? Or are those two sports just off your radar altogether?

      There are OTHER sports?!?!?

  8. autmorsautlibertas - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I am a South Bend, Indiana Yankee fan. When I was in elementary school we had to do “book reports” periodically. Since I loved to play baseball, I did my book reports based on baseball biographies. Since most of the juvenile baseball biographies in our local library were Yankees players; Gehrig, Ruth, Mantle, I was hooked. Another example of Yankee media bias!
    I also remember my Dad buying a new Gillette razor that he did not need just so he could get me the paperback copy of “My Turn at Bat” by Ted Williams that was packaged with the product. I still have that 40+ year old book.

  9. wardmanone - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    Easy to follow a winner try following a Team that loses a LOT (Rams) I thought was amazing to see how many Red Sox fans there were after they won the WS. Same deal about Giants n baseball a couple years ago Packers this year. Huge bandwagons….

    • chadjones27 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:09 PM

      There will always be fair weather fans. Nothing you can do about it. Not everyone is a die-hard fan who posts on websites. I believe if you want to root for a team when they’re doing well and not when they suck, by all means, that’s up to you. They’ve picked a different priority. They may see it weird how some people get so engrossed in a team.
      I think the point of this article is more about the fan who follows any team outside their area through thick and thin. He’s questioning how your allegience came and why you’ve stuck with it. It could be something as mundane as, “when I was a kid I liked the mascot on the uniform.” I know someone who’s a cubs fan (poor guy) because when he was a kid the only games on TV were the cubs because they didn’t have night lighting. Takes all kinds.

    • growler32 - Dec 31, 2011 at 11:03 PM

      Remember the 2008 Lions. I do. But I will always bleed Honolulu Blue. Finally something to cheer for. If I recall your team made it to the promised land. Also, all of you Michigan born and bread Packers fans make me angry. I mean the ones in Lower Peninsula.

  10. mtm1321 - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    I think it’s weird too, that people, not from a certain geographical area root for a team thats from a place where they have never been or grew up. But people relate to different sports and teams for one reason or another. Most identify or relate to teams they see on TV or that are constantly being marketed because of winning (Yankees, Lakers, Patriots etc) but they can’t say why they root for them other then that the team is a winner.
    What perplexes me most is people who root for college teams, yet they have never attended that school, they’re not an alumnus and they are not from that state. That is just weird!
    Now some ares of the country don’t have any professional sports teams, this is easier to understand but still goes back to why people picked the teams they did.
    I’m from New England, Connecticut to be exact so I’m surrounded by NY and Boston. I pretty much rooted for the teams my family rooted for. Sox, Giants, Rangers and Celtics, weird but I can’t identify with teams from other parts of the country.

  11. lyon810 - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    Although this will piss off some Angels fans, I became a fan of the team when I saw the Disney movie. Wtv…I was 8 years old, and been a fan ever since.

    I lived in Montreal my whole life, and saw a ton of Expos games in my day, but I was never a fan of the team itself, but rather, a fan of the game.

    • SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:56 PM

      I’m an Angels fan. Piss off. Go get a Blue Jays cap immediately.

  12. dowhatifeellike - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    I never understood this either. I used to work with a guy from NJ who was a fan of the Penguins, Eagles, and Yankees. He thought anyone who was a fan of a losing team was a loser by association. He once tried to fire someone who rubbed it in when the Ravens thumped the Eagles.

    I was born in Baltimore in 1985 and many of my friends growing up were Redskin or Steeler fans, simply because they were close geographically and we were too young to have ever known the Colts. Surprisingly, when the Ravens came to town in 1996, many of my friends stayed with their teams. Northern MD still has a ton of Steeler fans who refused to change allegiance when Baltimore got a team again.

    • SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:58 PM

      That’s just screwed up.

  13. hcf95688 - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    LOTS of Red Sox and Yankees fans here in the SF Bay/Sacramento Area. Aproximately 0% of them have eastern accents. I always figured they were just filling a void in their pathetic lives; that rooting for a winner somehow made them feel like winners themselves.

    • Gonzo - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:59 PM

      Who’s the pathetic one here if you’re the one passing judgement?

      • hcf95688 - Dec 31, 2011 at 1:51 AM

        It’s OK for ME to pass judgement Gonzo, because I’m a superior person.

    • tribester - Dec 30, 2011 at 5:52 PM

      There are also a fair number of Indians fans in the East Bay, because the Korean population started rooting for Choo and then moved to the whole team.

  14. SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    I’m in Orange County California. My teams are the Angels, Lakers, Ducks and Rams. Even though the Rams abandoned me, I shall never forsake them, until we get another NFL team. I will never, ever pledge allegiance to the Chargers. I do listen to Vin Scully as much as I can, but I can’t stand the Dodgers.

    • cosanostra71 - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:36 PM

      Lakers, Angels, Ducks and 49ers here. My parents are both from San Francisco, so I got the Niners from them. I was born there too though, so it’s not that bad I guess.

      • cosanostra71 - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:37 PM

        Also, love Vin Scully. You definitely don’t have to be a Dodgers fan to enjoy him.

  15. Gonzo - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    For a short time, my brother was a Mets fan (We live in Philly). He was 10 years old when they won in 1986 and he really dug Dykstra and Strawman. Dykstra was a gritty ballplayer and Straw was flashy. I even recall him having a couple of Mets t-shirts. It only lasted a few years, but I understand why he was into them.

    • SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:01 PM

      I would’ve burned his shirts. What Philly fan would allow such items in their home? He needed an intervention. I’m glad he straightened up.

  16. l0yalr0yal - Dec 30, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    When I was younger, I loved the Mariners; my mother was such a Griffey fan that I really had no choice. I fell out of love with baseball from about ’95-’05. At Northwest Missouri State University, my college roommate was a huge Royals fan. He would skip class just to drink and watch their baseball games. After being offered many a brew and an opportunity to sit around and drink beer as a 19 year-old, I decided it was high time to start following. I love to see them win but I have been steadily tracking not only the team and the farm club. I know (believe me, I read what you say) there are a lot of shots you can take at the Royals organization… Dayton Moore… Ned Yost… the hot dog cannon that shot some poor lady’s eye out last season… But had it not been for my alcoholic roommate, I wouldn’t have been afforded the opportunity to reinvest my time in to baseball. And I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased to follow any other team in baseball so closely, not to mention, where else can you spend $10.50 on two tickets to… well, anything? We’re excited to host your faster, stronger, more powerful, richer, veteran players this year for the all-star game this year, but as for me— there are 162 other games I get to follow this exciting group of young guys.

  17. paint771 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    I’m a Blue Jays fan, and I’ve never lived in Toronto or seen a game there (wacky trivia – I have, however, been to two Blue Jays home games). Hell I’ve only been to Toronto like twice.

    I grew up in upstate New York in my prime baseball years (like 6-12), and I got broadcasts either from Canada or from the NYC metro area. Since I’m always rooting for the underdog, and since my father and twin brother are both Cardinals fans (the former is from St. Louis), I just kind of wound up with Toronto. That was the mid-80s, so by the time the early 90s hit, I was a lifer.

    Another thing to consider is a lot of people don’t live in one place for the bulk of their lives. I’ve never lived anywhere more than 6 or 7 years, so besides the Jays I have less “my teams” than I do teams I have soft sports for. Having lived mostly in in Kansas, Pittsburgh, Maine, Philadelphia (currently), this has led to a pretty ragtag group of teams I cheer for. Still, the Blue Jays thing always throws people.

    • Francisco (FC) - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:51 PM

      That means you saw them in Philly right?

    • Francisco (FC) - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:53 PM

      Still, the Blue Jays thing always throws people.

      I bet old timers tell you: You know, the Phillies stopped doing that nonsense back in 49’…

  18. Tyree Studio - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Like others have commented already, I think a lot of our favorites are developed and attached to childhood memories. Growing up in Wichita in the mid 80s everyone that followed baseball was a “Royals” fan so I was too (although I still have a fondness for the Cubs and Braves since we also got cable in the 80s and WGN or TBS ALWAYS had a game on. Many summers were spent watching CHiPs reruns followed by a Cubs day game!)

    NFL and NBA were a little more complicated for me. My dad was a huge Cowboys fan so I started out rooting for them but then they were terrible and some hot-shot in orange & blue kept bringing his team back from behind. My buddies in school were fans of Montana/Niners and Miami/Marino so it made sense for me to latch onto Broncos/Elway. I still remember heated lunch room debates about who was the better team and qb. Or who was better to play with on Tecmo SuperBowl.
    I still get wierd comments from people about how I can root for KC in baseball and not football. I was a kid when I chose teams, I can’t switch now.

    Doesn’t bother me if someone roots for a team not in their region, what irks me is when people jump from bandwagon to bandwagon. Pick and team and ride with them forever! :)
    (even if they treat you like crap…ie KC Royals)

  19. woody1351 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    im a dolphins fan in central illinois, but im a cards, blues fan also. stl didnt have a football team when i was a kid and i became a fins fan.

  20. Lukehart80 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    When I was 6, 7, and 8 years old, the T-Ball team I played on was called the Indians, and it just stuck for me. That was 1986-1988, the years that led to “Major League” using the team as the ideal losers, so there was clearly no front-running going on and whatever bandwagon existed had plenty of room.

    I agree with those who’ve already said that any team you pick as a child is fine, so long as you stick with them.

  21. stlouis1baseball - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Lifelong Cardinals fans born and raised in Central Indiana. We are only about 4 hours from St. Louis but right in the heart of Reds/Cubs Country. My allegiance to the Birds on the Bat is a result of being brainwashed at a very young age by my Father. He spent his formative years in Missouri. My earliest memories are off sitting on the footstool (ottoman to you stuffy folk) and watching the Cardinals play the Brewers in the 82′ World Series. I am also a Michigan Wolverine football fan as a result of my Father as he was born in Michigan. During bantam league football all the kids had their parents tape the Chicago Bears ‘C’, the Green Bay Packers ‘G’, the Cowboys Star, etc… on their helmets. I came home and told my Dad I wanted the Wolverines “Wing” tapped to my helmet.
    So…black electricians tape it was! Only kid on the team with a Collegiate emblem. And Michigan no less.
    Great for me as I Otherwise would be rooting for Cincinnati in Baseball or I.U. Football.
    Can you even imagine?

  22. stlouiswolves - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    I read a great book called Welcome To Pottersville and it is about why some people choose the Mets over the Yankees. It’s all about what team you identify with. The book also described that despite the Dodgers and Giants leaving New York in 1957, Yankees attendance went DOWN in the following years. Most New Yorkers did not change their allegiance. I really dont think this is a big mystery and I can prove it with one simple concept question:

    Why did so many people, from across the country, become lifelong Dodgers fans in 1947?

    • SmackSaw - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:29 PM

      Al Gionfriddo’s catch?

      • stlouiswolves - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:32 PM

        haha! Awesome

  23. nothimagain - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    I root for Kentucky basketball and Florida Gator’s football more than my alma mater. Picked up both as a kid when both were down programs. Somehow, I’m sure this makes me a bad person.

  24. dbs13 - Dec 30, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    I have a very simple rule — never root for any team from New York, Texas, southern California or Notre Dame. Coincidentally, these are the teams that are hardest to avoid whenever turning on the TV. Boston and Florida are making runs to join this group.

  25. irishpatsfan - Dec 30, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    Well as a guy who lives over the pond i root for the red sox and pats , maybe its the irish connection but started really taking an interest in both teams in 86 ( steve grogan is still one of my heros ) however as any boston fan will tell you it certainly wasnt cos we had winning teams

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