Monday, August 28, 2006

The Rules of Favorite Teams

I'm in Knoxville for a couple days, relaxing with some down time, and with most of my stats and info for the 50 Best Vol Games list back in Ceres, we're going in a different direction this afternoon with something that's bothered me for a long time and I feel needs to be set right. And today's the day.

We all know these guys in the sports realm who seem to bounce from team to team, bandwagon to bandwagon...but when their team of the month is doing well, they'll be all in your face about it and use words like "us" and "we" in describing the squad they've been following since the first of the month. And when things go south for said team, before you have a chance to turn around and put it back in their face, they've moved on to someone else and pretend like that doesn't bother them.

This is unacceptable. And so if you want to get in someone's face and run your mouth about any favorite sports team, college or professional, you should both be man/woman enough to stay with them when it's your turn to take it, and be bound to a select group of teams.

Therefore, today I'm unleashing the Official Rules of Favorite Teams. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Rule #1: By "favorite", we mean one.
In each of the big five - NBA, NFL, MLB, college football & basketball - you're allowed to have one team. That's your team. You don't get to be for Alabama and Auburn, because that's just stupid. You don't get to have an AFC team and an NFC team. You are allowed to pull for secondary teams (keep reading for the rules on this one), but as for "your team", you get one. Cut the fat, pick one.

For claification and personal integrity, my five are the Boston Celtics, the Tennessee Titans, the Atlanta Braves, and the University of Tennessee (football/basketball).

This part isn't complicated.

Rule #2: You must be able to explain - in terms we can all agree on - why said team is "your team".
For example, with mine:
- Boston Celtics: team I was raised on (through my grandparents)
- Tennessee Titans: team relocated to my area/city/hometown
- Atlanta Braves: team I was raised on/geographically closest
- University of Tennessee: team I was raised on/hometown team/alma mater

These are all acceptable reasons to be fans of the above teams. So if you live in Texas and you pull for the Spurs, that's cool. If you live in California and you pull for the Spurs, we're gonna need some credible evidence. Your alma mater is always acceptable, as is your hometown team, or the team geographically closest to you, or the team your parents/guardians raised on on.

As a sub-rule here, you are allowed to change favorite teams when two of these rules collide. For instance, I just moved near Blacksburg, VA. If I wanted to, under these rules I could legally make Virginia Tech my team in college athletics. BUT that means I would have to cease and desist being a diehard Tennessee fan - uh, which we're not going to do.

When the Oilers announced they were moving to Nashville, I became a Titans fan and left the Dallas Cowboys (team I was raised on). This is acceptable.

Gray areas with this rule: when a player is drafted from your college team. Many fans in Knoxville now support the Colorado Rockies and the Indianapolis Colts. This is shaky because if Todd Helton or Peyton Manning is traded and/or retires, your allegiance comes into question and you don't really have a team, you have a player. Very treacherous.

Reasons that are definitely not okay to have/change a team:
- They have cool uniforms (guys)
- They have cute uniforms (girls)
- They're the sexy cinderella pick and I want to sound knowledgeable
- They just won the Super Bowl/World Series/NBA Finals/BCS/Final Four

Rule #3: If you choose a team for an irrational/stupid/random reason, but you stick with that team for a lengthy period of trials and tribulations, you will slowly gain respect.
Real life example: let's say you choose to become a Chicago Cubs fan, for some reason, back in the early 1990s. We ridicule you for years because, let's be honest, it's the Cubs. But you never waver and you stay true to the Cubbies, through thin and thin. You are honest about it and knowledgeable - you know the players, you keep up in the standings, you follow the transactions, you get excited in the offseason, you use the phrase "this is our year" - and slowly we begin to see you as a "true" Cubs fan, because you've proved it through your practice. Under these circumstances, after a lengthy period of time (5-10 years), we will aknolwedge you as such, and even allow you to celebrate with great enthusiasm when they reach the NLCS. You will have earned our respect.

Real life example that does not work: you choose to become a Boston Red Sox fan because you liked a portrayal of them or a story from their history that you saw in a major motion picture, and then when they subsequently win the World Series the following season, you celebrate like crazy. Totally unacceptable, no respect awarded or deserved.

Rule #4: If your team has a lengthy period (5-10 years) of consistent below average performance - and the team is NOT your alma mater or hometown team - you may be allowed to leave them behind and choose a new team. But you cannot return to your old team if/when things suddenly turn around, nor can you abandon your new team because you were simply "trying them on for size".
And following this rule will still leave you a notch lower on the respect scale than if you had stayed true to your boys to the end.

Rule #5: Secondary teams are allowed, but engaging in any trash talk or verbal sparring in defense of this team is highly unethical.
I am allowed to cheer for Virginia Tech because I moved here. I am allowed to cheer for Florida State because a player from my high school, whose games I did the play by play for, signed a letter of intent with them. But should either of these schools face the University of Tennessee, I am not allowed to have any divided loyalties. And I am definitely not allowed to run down any Virginia or Miami fans simply because they're the rivals of my secondary teams. You should have plenty of enemies already. Likewise, I am not inclined to take any nonsense from marginal Alabama fans. Nor am I inclined to listen to you talk to me when your wife's favorite team beat my favorite team. Check yourself.

Rule #6: Keeping your favorite team quiet means you don't have enough faith.

Rule #7: You play to win the game (hello!)
"If you're gonna go, go all out." If they're your one favorite team, go with them. Support them. Love them. They need you, and you need them. Be clear about who you're with. Make sure your allegiances are legitimate. And if they're not, now's the time to get right. Now's the time to come clean. Step away from the bandwagon, come into the light on your own. We'll all respect you more for it. And if you choose poorly, it'll hurt more when you lose. But if you choose wisely, you'll love it to that same degree when you win.

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