December 17, 2014

Can True Sports Fans Switch to a New Favorite Team?: Ben Adler says no: "When I lived in Washington, D.C., I had a friend who is also from New York but had switched his allegiance to D.C. teams on the grounds that he planned on living there the rest of his life, so it would be more convenient. I couldn't even fathom doing the same. If you can make rational decisions about who you root for, are you even a real fan at all?" An NFL Shop commercial says yes with its "Vikings-Eagles-Bengals-Cowboys-Steelers family," but the ad gets hammered on social media every Sunday. Don Delco blogs, "We can all agree this family sucks. How can everyone who moved away become such bandwagon fans?"

posted by rcade to general at 09:47 AM - 28 comments

Unless they do something so reprehensible* that you can't stomach to even look at them, I don't see how you can have a "new favourite team". You might add teams to your "cheering" list (because you've moved), but when push comes to shove you'll probably go with the team that you grew up cheering for.

* Examples:
Edmonton Oilers
Baltimore Colts
Wimbledon F.C.
Oakland Raiders
New York Giants
Brooklyn Dodgers

posted by grum@work at 10:55 AM on December 17

I can address this firsthand, as I grew up a Washington Redskins fan but let go of my favoritism early in the Daniel Snyder era.

I've been a not-Redskins fan for nearly 15 years now. I can confirm that letting go of a favorite is doable; I had valid reasons for stopping cheering for them (and this was pre-name-kerfuffles), and they resonated long enough that they stayed factual. If I'm hanging out with Jonathan the Skins fan and they're on TV, I'll take their side for a bit, but I don't really care.

What I haven't been able to do, though, is pick up a new favorite. I'm in New York, so logically, I'd root for the Giants or Jets. But it's hard to become a Giants fan after rooting against them for so long, although I do respect them organizationally. That left the Jets, and, well, it's hard for anyone to be a Jets fan, let alone a grown adult who grew up rooting for an NFC team. So I cheer for the Jets but I don't have any real passion for them.

Like grum says, I have a passel of team preferences (the Steelers first and foremost) but no new favorite. My young children even parrot me on Sunday afternoons and say, "I'm just rooting for a good game."

posted by werty at 02:09 PM on December 17

Growing up in Dallas and living in Jacksonville for 17 years, I adopted the Jaguars but never really let go of the Cowboys. Having split loyalties is difficult when both of them are good, but they've avoided that problem for 14 years.

My other loyalties remain back home with the Rangers, Stars and Mavericks. I was only in Dallas one year while FC Dallas was around, so it will be easy to jump on the Orlando SC bandwagon when that club begins next year.

After becoming a Premiership fan in 2006, I adopted Tottenham, but the constant player and coach upheaval got old fast. I've been watching West Ham and avidly following Sheffield Wednesday after a friend roped me in to their fandom. I think Wednesday's my club for life at this point. I may move to Sheffield.

I hate that Vikings-Eagles-Bengals-Cowboys-Steelers family. Eating Ben Roethlisberger's meat is not sufficient justification for switching team allegiances.

posted by rcade at 02:35 PM on December 17

If you grow up in a pro sports wasteland as I did in pre-Dolphins south Florida, you are free to place your allegiance wherever you wish, and move on whenever the mood strikes you.

I resented being in an area that got force fed its sportscasts by executive decree on a regional basis in the absence of having teams of its own, so I tend not to like the NY teams or the Braves very much.

I got deeply into the old AFL in the mid to late 60's and still miss that pre-merger era. I was devastated when the Raiders lost to the Packers in SB II and thrilled beyond measure when Stram's Chiefs won SB IV. (Watching SB III was an eerie out of body experience that I still haven't fully processed.)

posted by beaverboard at 03:24 PM on December 17

I was able to do it with the Carolina Hurricanes:

- My part of the northern lower peninsula of Michigan does not really have a hockey tradition. When I was a wee lad, the only local organized team hockey was played in Traverse City, which is too far away from Crapholeville that is my hometown.
- You had to have cable TV to catch any Red Wings games. When I was a wee lad, not very many people had cable TV.
- No one north of (probably) Lansing gave a rat's ass about the Wings until they became a powerhouse in the '90s.
- There was no rink built in Crapholeville that is my hometown.

Once I got cable TV, I could watch the Wings, but it was only in passing and I couldn't really get into them until I got into college and my Fudgie roommates had to explain the game to me. Once I understood the game, I became a fan of the Wings, but because there wasn't a real tradition there for me there was nothing really concrete about that fandom and that allowed the Hurricanes to take root starting in '97.

Does that work for you guys? Is that acceptable?

posted by NoMich at 03:36 PM on December 17

We need more information to determine if your switch was acceptable.

Did you have local radio broadcasts of the Wings before you got cable TV?

Did you ever make liberal use of the term "we" to describe the successes of the team?

posted by rcade at 04:05 PM on December 17

The teams I grew up with are still in existence, still contend from time to time, and are still worth watching. There's one I no longer watch nor follow nor favor. I didn't "grow up" with the Patriots, but they came into existence when I was in college, so they sort of grew up with me. The one exception of teams that I grew up with that I favor is the Braves. My dad was an ardent Boston Braves fan, my oldest sister used to take me to games, and I followed the team closely. It took me some time to get used to being a Red Sox fan, and I still followed the Braves during their successful Milwaukee years. I cannot like the Atlanta Braves for a variety of reasons. Let's just say they aren't what they were (nobody is after 62 years) and let it go at that.

for NoMich, I understand being unable to watch a team can have an effect on fandom. I will say that I was a Bruins and Celtics fan long before I ever saw a game on TV or in person. Cable had not been invented and we did not own a TV until I was about 12. There was this thing called a radio, the Red Sox, Braves, Bruins, and Celtics games were always on, and I was a faithful listener. Johnny Most, high above courtside, could paint a picture with words better than anyone else I ever heard do a basketball game. My fandom started with my ears and not my eyes.

posted by Howard_T at 04:06 PM on December 17

In my youth I was a Leafs fan because there were only 2 Canadian Hockey teams and the Leafs had a monopoly on the English television broadcasts. To watch the Canadiens I either had to watch in French ("Le Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut!!") or wait until the Leafs played the Canadiens, when the Canadiens would beat the Leafs 9 out of every 10 games even if the Leafs goalie stopped 42 shots in each of those games.

After years of watching the Leafs giving away draft choices, trading away talented players, and basically selling out in any way possible for cash I just stopped following them - right around the same time Sittler cut the "C" off of his uniform in disgust. Pretty much lost interest in the NHL in general.

Became a Jets fan early in their WHA days and during Jets NHL version 1 and present. Able to follow the NHL more widely with cable and other options so get a chance to see the best players and teams play as much as I want.

Canadian English broadcast networks still focus 95 percent on the Leafs even with 7 Canadian teams. And the Canadiens still seem to beat the Leafs 9 out of 10 games with the Leafs goalies stopping 42 shots in each of those games.

Some things never change.

Thank god for cable, IPTV, PPV, and True North.

posted by cixelsyd at 05:49 PM on December 17

I was able to do it with the Carolina Hurricanes: Does that work for you guys? Is that acceptable?

Grew up in Hartford, so yes. I'm not sure if the emotion I felt when the Whale moved to basketball country was sadness and anger at their leaving or relief that I was now free to choose whatever team I wanted to to cheer for--even a winner! (Chose Devils, btw, and have been thrice rewarded)

But team relocation is one of the few acceptable reasons. As far as football and baseball for me, it will always be Cincinnati, my hometown from '79-'94, when my allegiances outside of hockey developed. I left in '94 and have lived on the west coast ever since--NorCal/Reno/Tahoe for 20 years, now Central Coast. I've had plenty of time to adopt the Niners, Raiders, Giants, or A's as my team, and I don't think it would be bandwagoning to do so at this point. But I'm worse than Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger when it comes to quittin' a team I've been cheering for for so long. And if I can survive the Bengals of the 90's, there are few excuses for abandoning your team.

Did you ever make liberal use of the term "we" to describe the successes of the team?

The worst offending bandwagon fans I know are the most prone to that, ironically.

posted by tahoemoj at 05:54 PM on December 17

I'm all over the map.

MLB: I've dabbled with the Twins when I was in school in the Twin Cities and the Rockies now that I live in Denver but I will always be a Brewers fan first and foremost. They were THE team of my childhood and I spent more hours listening to Uecker than I can count.

NFL: Despite living in Wisconsin I got roped in by Elway early and held dual fanship until Super Bowl XXXII when my hand was forced and I became a full fledged Broncos fan. I'm the only non-Packer fan in my entire extended family. I do find myself pulling for the Packers but it's mostly in hoping my dad doesn't have a heart attack.

NBA: I was a fan of KG's Wolves in college, rooted for the Bucks after I was out of school, and root for the Nuggets now that I'm in Denver. Though, with Shaw as coach, my eye has started to wander back to that sexy Bucks squad. I'm not really concerned if I'm seen as a True Sports Fan or not. I get as emotionally invested as anybody. The NBA seems to lend itself most to the idea of liberated fandom.

EPL: Like rcade, I've been following since 2006 but I've yet to acquire any kind of fandom. I've cast my lot in with ManU, Everton, and Arsenal for stints but nothing has stuck.

posted by tron7 at 06:34 PM on December 17

Still love this opening from FreeDarko (RIP) on liberated fandom:

I've heard that the worst thing you can do in the wide world of sport fandom is be a fair weather one. Okay, I can get with that. If your point of reference is the tribal sphere, and you dawdle on the margins until there's good reason to perk up, it's not just insincere. It implies that the team owes you something, that your devotion to them depends on their proving themselves devotion-worthy. If you live in a city low itching for chauvinistic rallying points, the machine of pride doesn't operate if some people have the right to stand to judgment. I'm not saying that hometown fans are always unthinking monoliths. But if the team becomes a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, then the circuits of faith are jammed up to their core.

I think it's well-known, though, that FreeDarko could give a fuck less about provincial forms of worship. We exist on a higher, or at least more time-consuming, plane known as "liberated fandom." Put simply, we like the teams that meet our vague and furry criteria, such that our sensibility can find a match worth its while. This is no more shocking than only reading books that get good reviews, or avoiding a shitty bar even though your friend works there. I don't mean to disparage all ye fine people who have home teams, or insist that the two are mutually exclusive. Hell, some of my proudest moments as a watcher of the game have come when I've been able to approximate some sort of Arenas-derived pull for the Wizards. Alas, I am a wanderer by trade and a malcontent by spirit, and thus must make my way without the comfort of community.

posted by tron7 at 06:43 PM on December 17

Grew up in Hartford, so yes.

/lights YukonGold signal, sits quietly, farts out "Brass Bonanza"

posted by yerfatma at 06:51 PM on December 17

I've only ever lived in southeastern Michigan, so I'm straight Red Wings/Tigers/Pistons/Lions. Most of this was because of family and friends, but also partly because that's all you could see without cable. But when I first got into football in the early 80s, I quickly realized that if you're a fan of the Lions, you need a backup know, for the playoffs. For the longest time, that was the Niners for me. I also added the Patriots when Brady took over at QB, him being a Michigan man and all. The Niners have fallen off of my radar lately, because I do not like Colin Kaepernick. Any other allegiances have been short stints (Red Sox in 2004, Steelers in 2008). Other than that, I hate every other team equally...except the Maple Leafs. I despise them with the intensity of 1,000 suns...

posted by MeatSaber at 07:59 PM on December 17

I grew up in San Diego, and actually just moved away at the end of this summer. I don't know if I'll ever lose a soft spot for the Chargers or Padres, but the Chargers may certainly test that if they decide to exercise their termination clause and move away some year. The owners are already such punks (although nowhere near Snyder or Sterling) that it's a bit difficult.

Growing up in San Diego, you pretty much learn to hate every team in every sport from LA, so I never got into hockey or pro basketball (the Clippers moved when I was quite young). Now that I'm living in western Wisconsin, there's a growing affinity for the Wild, and they must put some kind of Packer stuff in the water. But, I don't think any football fan from anywhere outside of the NFC North can really hate the Packers. I still don't really feel like following pro basketball, although I check the Cavs box scores every once in a while just to see how Joe Harris is doing.

posted by LionIndex at 08:10 PM on December 17

We need more information to determine if your switch was acceptable.
Did you have local radio broadcasts of the Wings before you got cable TV?
Did you ever make liberal use of the term "we" to describe the successes of the team?

Never any local radio for Wings games up north during my youth. There might be now, but not back then.
I never use the royal "we" for any of my sports team.

For the other Michigan pro sports teams:
- I am a fan of the Panthers, but when they meet up with the Lions, it's the Lions all the way for me.
- I am a fan of the Cubs, but I'm a Tigers fan through and through. Ernie Harwell's voice *is* my childhood.
- The '90s Bulls pretty much killed my interest in the NBA. The only time I care about the NBA now is if the Pistons are relevant.

posted by NoMich at 08:23 PM on December 17

Without local broadcasts on radio or television in your youth, I think you're on safe ground leaving the Wings behind. Fan allegiance shift accepted.

I am having trouble keeping my college sports allegiance to my alma mater, UNT. They're mired in Sun Belt/CUSA obscurity, most seasons are grim and my hope things will ever get better is fading. It also doesn't help that I'm four states away and they almost never schedule OOC games worth getting fired up about.

So I've been watching UF games, thinking I might adopt the Gators at the only point it would be acceptable to me -- when they suck.

I know this is unacceptable now, but it could be forward thinking on my part -- two of my sons are hoping to get in there when they graduate high school in a few years.

posted by rcade at 09:37 PM on December 17

And the Canadiens still seem to beat the Leafs 9 out of 10 games with the Leafs goalies stopping 42 shots in each of those games.

Your perception is not reality.

Not counting this season (only one game played), the last time the Montreal Canadiens had better than .500 record against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a season, Pavel Datsyuk was a rookie, and John Vanbiesbrouck played his final game (2001-2002). The Maple Leafs have the upper hand over the Canadiens for the past 13 years.

Toronto is 36W-22L-10OTL-1T vs Montreal over that span.

Also, there hasn't been a single game between the two teams in that time where a Maple Leafs goalie has had to make at least 42 saves (in a win/loss/tie)

posted by grum@work at 10:26 PM on December 17

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs
(If there ever was a reason to jump ship from your favourite team, being a Leafs fan over the past 43 years would probably be high up there.)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays
(Longest active playoff drought in MLB right now. Of course, there was about an 8 year window long ago where being a fan was a good thing.)

NFL: Buffalo Bills
(Longest active playoff drought in the NFL right now. Of course, there was about an 4 year window long ago where being a fan was...tortuous.)

NBA: Toronto Raptors
(This is my weakest "hometown" connection, simply because I'm not a huge NBA fan. But things are looking pretty good this year.)

EPL: I don't have a real connection with a team. When I first started watching, it was all about ManU (Beckham, Nistelrooy) and winning. Then it was about anyone OTHER than ManU, with a leaning towards Chelsea (because someone bought me a jersey), with some love to the long lost Charlton Athletics (went to a game the year after they dropped down to Championship League).

IPL: I have a Chennai SuperKings jersey, so that's my default team.

posted by grum@work at 10:35 PM on December 17

My teams? Thought you'd never ask.

EPL: None. Derby County in the Championship - I was born about 5 miles from the old Baseball Ground. Hoping this year we go one better.

AFL: Swans, because I grew up in Sydney, although they didn't move there until I was in my twenties. Before the move, Sydney was a blank slate for the Australian code.

NRL: I used to support Canterbury, as our migrant hostel in Sydney was in their territory. A tenuous connection. Now I support the defunct North Sydney Bears, because we moved to their local area, but more importantly, I hate Rupert Murdoch and Fox Sport.

A- League: Sydney FC. Although had I waited for the second Sydney team, we'd now be Champions of Asia. Can't move me, though.

American Sports: I know you've been waiting for this. Geographically, I should be a Padres and Chargers fan. But from a couple of decades of watching from afar, I think I've ended up with the Lions in the NFL (their jacket is on the back of my chair as I type this), the Giants in MLB (can't explain this unless you figure that Sydney and San Francisco are sister cities). One day I might even get to a game.

posted by owlhouse at 10:56 PM on December 17

Growing up in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area (specifically Central NJ), my MLB, NHL, NFL fandom was inherited from my parents (Yankees, Rangers, Giants). That's the case with most people I know.

No EPL team, but I do casually follow Sheffield United thanks to my childhood obsession with Def Leppard.

I suppose my Rangers allegiance was tested when the Devils came to town, but I never really thought to jump ship (thank you Ron Duguay).

Re: MLS, my friends that live across the Hudson are in a similar situation. With NYCFC coming in there's the question of jumping ship. All but a few are sticking with RBNY, even those that live in the shadow of Yankee Stadium.

posted by goddam at 01:02 AM on December 18

I'm the Cincy kids in that commercial (sort of) -- I was an Army brat who ended up (as a kid) in Reno, Nevada, but my father is a lifelong Bears/Cubs fan. In Reno in the '80s, we got San Francisco teams as the "locals," with a little bit of Padres fandom because the local minor-league team was affiliated with them back then. But after my adult years in the Army again, I ended up in suburban Detroit, so I'm a Lions/Tigers fan now.

My father and I agree that the White Sox and the Packers suck, and not much else.

posted by Etrigan at 07:09 AM on December 18

I'm hoping for a bit of new horizon - they now decide it's OK to reboot the Cuban League, a bit of electronic infrastructure gets run throughout (OK, a lot of infrastructure), and once the games go live online, I'll be forced to choose where to place my loyalty - whether Matanzas or Camaguey.

posted by beaverboard at 08:24 AM on December 18

I became a fan of the Wings, but because there wasn't a real tradition there for me there was nothing really concrete about that fandom and that allowed the Hurricanes to take root starting in '97.

That was a really bad time to switch from the Wings to the Hurricanes.

I also pull for the Patriots in the playoffs, which is the result of a combination of Tom Brady and the Lions never playing past December.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 09:10 AM on December 18

I guess I'm not going with the crowd. When I moved to the Bay Area I took on the 49ers and Sharks as my teams and never really gave the Giants or Devils much of a second thought, though I was happy for them when they won Super Bowls and Stanley Cups.

Have always been a Liverpool FC mainliner, courtesy of a college roommate from there. If you put me in isolation and said I could only watch games involving one team I wouldn't hesitate before answering LFC. #ynwa!!

Life is a journey, IMO, and if we're supposed to grow and learn along the way (or vice versa) then I don't see the fan for life thing being important. If TS1 and I do move Down Under (as we keep talking about) then I'm sure I'll adopt the local AFL and A League sides too and I see no problem with that.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:01 PM on December 18

That was a really bad time to switch from the Wings to the Hurricanes.

Tell me about it. Except for a few bright spots, and one blindingly bright spot, it's been a very bad time to switch from the Wings to the Hurricanes. But, there you have it. I love my 'Canes, even right now when I want them to blow the whole thing up and start over somehow.

posted by NoMich at 01:50 PM on December 18

In Reno in the '80s

To completely digress, have you seen Reno lately? With approximately 400,000 people in the Washoe/Storey County areas, there may have been one or two changes. And now the Aces, the local AAA baseball team who play in a gorgeous replica of AT&T Park, are affiliated with the Diamondbacks.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:43 PM on December 18

I haven't been back to Reno in nearly a decade -- parents moved to Phoenix as soon as I went to college. I've heard good things about the Aces from old classmates, but I barely recognize downtown anymore on Google Street View.

posted by Etrigan at 02:57 PM on December 18

I grew up in New England but I live in Hawaii, so its really not necessary for me to change any team allegiances. There's not a "regional team" in any sport here.

That said, I love the Patriots because my grandfather loved the Patriots and I loved him. I love the Patriots because my dad loves the Jets and I love him.

I think you all can understand.

posted by Joey Michaels at 07:22 PM on December 18

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