Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Superbowl Sunday Meditation On Sports Fandom.

The mere act of being a sports fan - until recent years this was the 2nd most geographically divisive topic in America, since the South is still pining over Sherman’s march to the sea.   I can scarcely doubt that had I been born anywhere near Boston, I would be [shudder] a Patriots fan.  But, thank whatever gods control these things, I hale from the otherwise benighted Midwest, specifically Toledo - that overgrown village nestled up against Ohio’s Michigan border, where the muddy Maumee slogs its torpid way into the western corner of algae-choked Lake Erie.

This is actually a great place to be a sports fan, if you’re in to divisiveness and controversy.  It’s close enough to Both Detroit and Cleveland to have fans of both city’s Major League teams: Lions vs Browns; Tigers vs Indians; Pistons vs Cavs.  And, of course, the biggest rivalry of all: Buckeyes vs Wolverines.  Then, there’s the occasional lovable odd ball who follows a Cincinnati team.  This occurs even in my own family.   I don’t recall ever meeting a fan of any Chicago team.

Still, it’s kind of easy to see what is the most powerful factor in making one a fan of some given sports team - mere geographic parochialism.

Perhaps a more interesting topic is what makes one hate a certain team.  Many people feel that if you love team A, then you must hate their biggest rival.  Frex, many Michigan fans want OSU to lose every game - simply because of the rivalry, and vice-versa.  I think that is petty.  My son-in-law - an avid Wolverine fan - wants OSU to win every preceding game, so that when the 2 teams meet in late November, everything will be on the line when the Wolverines [one would hope] triumph.  That’s the kind of camp I’m in.

So, who do I hate, and why?  There are a few reasons - hatred of a particular key player, the coach, or the owner seem to predominate.  This is often irrational, but that ends up not mattering very much.  However, there can be some more or less rational basis for it, often relating to bad behaviors.  I have hated the Fildelfia Phlyers because of their cheating ways back in the early 70’s.  It seemed as if they always scored the winning goal with a man in the crease, mugging the goalie - and getting away with it!  They were a genuinely great team, but everyone on it - even Bobby Clarke - was a damned goon. That, right there is a good, solid reason, seasoned with a heavy dollop of resentment for the hash realities of an unfair world.  Carrying it on for over 4 decades is way over the top, but there you have it.  When it comes to teams, I am a grudge holder.  But in this instance the passion has gone out of it for me - maybe through the passage of time, or the fact that they aren’t very good any more, or that my youngest grandson is a fan of theirs.   At any rate, the whining, cheating, cry-baby Crosby-Malkin edition of the Penguins is now in top spot.  Sad, because I liked them in the Lemieux years.

My next favorite hate is the Dallas Cowboys.  I have no particular animus toward any of their players - with only a couple of historical exceptions.  But their conceit of calling themselves “America’s Team” is an affront this mid-westerner refuses to tolerate.  Beyond that, it's the terminally loathsome, hyper-Republican, meddling owner Jerry Jones who inspires my everlasting enmity.  I never hated the Cowboys under coach Landry.

So, for me, it’s either blatant [and unfortunately successful] cheating, or a personal reaction to an obnoxious prominent face of the team.

What does it for you?