Friday, January 14, 2011
When I wrote this post at the beginning of the week, I promised a follow-up. Here it is. I'd like to say it's going to be chock full of marvelous insights and some amazingly heretofore unthought of thoughts, but I'll let you be the judge of that. Grade me on a curve, please. As I write this, I can feel the first touches of a cold or flu coming on. MY WIFE has been battling the same (with laryngitis thrown in for good measure) the past four days, and I fear I've acquired it now.
In any case, what I'm going to do is print some of the commentary I asked for, and which you gave me in great globs, concerning sports and fandom, and then blather on with whatever comes to mind following each bit of your sanguinity.
A fair number of comments, mostly from the fairer sex (whatever that means), stated that sports best purpose, for the most part, is to distract men so that the women can get on with more important things without them being underfoot. I contend that these women (among them Daryl, Jazz, Pat, Red Hamster, Karen, and, to a lesser extent, Shrinky, Hilary, and Maggie May) only think that what they have to do is more important or worthwhile. We men (and those females who have a correct point of view) can tell you that it's far more important to worry about a ball being moved down a field or thrown through a hoop. This is proven by history. Do you have a television network devoted to crocheting? Maybe, but I don't care. However, looking at how sports programming has grown during the past five years, I can say, with the utmost certainty, that ESPN will have 329 channels by 2042, and there won't be a single sporting event now being played, including tiddlywinks and leapfrog, that won't show up there again to fill the schedule. So there.
(I realize I've started things off by being incredibly sexist and condescending, but most of the folks who would be offended stopped reading paragraphs ago. If I've been sexist and condescending concerning you, and you're still here, why aren't you in the kitchen preparing dinner for your husband? Women. Sheesh.)
(OK, I apologize for that. It was uncalled for and rude, especially considering the hot sports babes - Jenn, SueAnn, Ananda, Jeni, Messy Mimi, and i beati, who left sincere thoughts concerning their various sporting appreciations. Girls, you deserved better, unless you're Yankees fans, speaking of which...)
Knucklehead said "... not that you don't know this already, but my teams in order are:
New York Yankees
New York Jets
L.A. Lakers (sorry)"
I'm stealing this, but I can't find the source to credit. Pretend I'm this witty. Rooting for the New York Yankees is like rooting for General Motors. Of course, Knucklehead makes up for it by rooting for the New York Jets, winners of ONE championship during their entire history, although you wouldn't know it from some of the rumpswab sportswriters who pick them to win it all every season.
(By the time some of you read this, the J-E-T-S will have been eliminated from the playoffs once again. Or they will have beaten my New England Patriots, in which case you should start saying your prayers because the apocalypse is most certainly around the corner.)
As for the Lakers... well, I'll let you glory in the triumph from last year. You'll need it, come this June. I'm usually a living jinx when it comes to predictions, so I rarely make them concerning teams I love, but if the Celtics lose to the Lakers in the finals this season, I'll publish this blog with a pinstripe background.
(Unless you're a sports fan, and probably an American sports fan at that, the preceding paragraph is almost total gibberish. Too bad. Get back in the kitchen, foreigner!)
(Great. Now I've added jingoism and xenophobia to the sexism. I'll probably find something else of an entirely different vile nature to say later on, so this here might end up being the good old days. Yeah, I'll go with that.)
Craig said, "Having grown up in a Northern Michigan Baseball Town, I have been a Tiger fan for as long as I can remember. And of course, being 12 when they won the Series in '68 just kinda sealed the deal forever, y'know?
All the Detroit pro teams, really. I'm really not that big a hockey fan, but the Red Wings have been on a pretty incredible roll for a decade-and-a-half. The Pistons (who were terrible when I was growing up) have had two 'periods of excellence', from which they won three championships (and some of those late-80s Celtics-Pistons games were classic). What can I say about the Snoil ('Lions' spelled backwards)? They've been pretty hard to love these last several years, but you just wait and see what happens if they ever get really good. . ."
Anonymous adds..."I grew up in Buffalo. As a result, I am a lifelong Bills fan. It seems to me its a little like family. You root for the local team even though there is no real tie to the organization."
Both of their comments bring me to a sore point.
When I was a kid, it was normal to root for the teams in your hometown. The only kid in my neighborhood who wasn't a Red Sox fan had been born in Chicago. We cut him some slack for that accident of birth, but if anyone originally from the area had professed a love for, say, the Dodgers or the Indians, we would have beat him up. If it had been the Yankees, we would have emasculated him. Rooting interests, much as your religion, were set at birth in most instances.
Now, with the proliferation of cable, internet, satellite, and other ways of seeing teams from out of town, kids are no more tied to the local franchise than... well, the players themselves, really. They leave town every couple of years, so why should the kids be bound by tradition? Forget I said anything.
Anonymous went on: "It does amaze me how passionate a love for a sporting franchise can become. I moved away from Buffalo long ago. Have married - had a bunch of kids - but, not only do I still follow the Bills closely, my boys have chosen to be Bills fans even though for the entirety of their lives (none of which has been lived anywhere near Buffalo) the Bills have been dreadful. It turns out that watching sports together with my boys (and my wife - although, our daughters don't much cotton to it) is great fun... I take it as a real compliment that the boys have chosen to root for the team that Dad likes. And rooting for the Buffalo teams (The Bills, the Sabres, and remember that the Clippers were once the Buffalo Braves) is an experience in character building and enduring disappointment. It does help to keep some things in perspective..."
Indeed. This is where pro sports have some degree of real value. Show me a long-time loyal fan of the Los Angeles Clippers (or pretty much any team from Cleveland) and I'll show you a person whose loyalties are true and unwavering. If that person is your friend, you can trust him with your life (unless it would interfere with his watching the Clippers, in which case you'd be shit out of luck.)
Getting back to Knucklehead The Yankee Fan, he opined... "It's nice to be a Yankee fan. When you speak of Sox fans saying "Now I can die in peace," I can't help but chuckle to think of this tidbit. There has NEVER been a Yankee fan older than 17 who hasn't seen the Bombers win a championship, and those would only be fans born in November, 1978. They (shudder) had to wait all the way till 1996. I myself didn't experience my first Yankee championship until the ripe old age of 12. Of course, they also won it when I was 13. And 31. And 33. And 34. And 35. And 44."
This puts things into perspective for me, at least a little bit. I'm a Celtics fan, and pretty much the same could be said of us. So, OK, I concede something, although I'm not quite sure what.
Brian Miller said, "I have held my allegiances for 30 years...Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Tarheels, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks."
I speculate he was born in Chicago, went to school at Carolina, and had a torrid love affair in Pittsburgh. Or vice-versa.
Buck sayeth, "...hockey players are prolly the best modern-day role models for kids; they're what baseball players USED to be. Which is to say modest, hard-working, highly skilled people. The game itself is the most wonderful mixture of speed, grace, and violence. The playoff handshake line is one of sport's greatest traditions, and NOTHING is tougher than winning the Stanley Cup. NOTHING."
And I say he's pretty much right on the money. Hockey players, of all those involved in the major North American sports, are probably the least appreciated monetarily, while they probably should be more appreciated for their general demeanor. ALL teams should line up and shake hands after the match, in my humble opinion. There's no good reason for, say, baseball players not to, in any case. And, while I'd contend that winning other championships may match the toughness of winning Lord Stanley's Cup, I'll gladly concede that nothing is tougher. It's an amazing grind to get to achieve that goal.
TechnoBabe gave forth with this: "Since moving to Nebraska, we are surrounded with Huskers fans, everywhere. It is truly fun to see the enthusiasm here."
Nothing truly beats the purity of fervent college football fandom. I failed to mention Boston College in my original piece, but I attend at least a couple of BC games each season, and watch on TV all of those I can't attend. The atmosphere at Alumni Stadium is entirely different from Fenway, Gillette, or the Garden, where the pros play. If, for some insane reason, all spectator sports save one were to be eliminated, and I had the choice of which to preserve, it would be football, and the college brand at that. Sounds strange coming from a guy who still plays baseball in his 50's, but it's true.
Uncle Skip says, "The first team I can remember cheering on were the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League."
Damn, Skip, you're old!
(See? I told you I'd find something nastier to say. The only things left for me to make fun of now are religion and sexual orientation.)
Skip, unoffended by my ageism, continues, "Because it is against my nature to be negative, I also root for anyone playing against the Dodgers, Dallas Cowboys, and USC."
Which brings us back to the Yankees, basically. Or the Celtics, if you must. Just as a fan will have loyalty and pride for his or her favorite teams, there are certain organizations that engender fierce hatred. Often, it is born of jealousy. When one team continually kicks your team in the ass, it's hard to congratulate them. It would be the sporting thing to do, but it's not easy. In some instances, though, the hatred is motivated more by a sense of aesthetics. I mean, people outside of Dallas just got sick and tired of hearing the Cowboys referred to as "America's Team", as though we had to choose one since the NFL was being attacked by Iranians. And The Yankees, while certainly not loved across the board during the preceding years, truly came to be hated once George Steinbrenner took over the team and outspent every other owner in a quest to build championships via cash acquisitions. It seemed somehow unsporting to raid other teams.
(I know. The Red Sox are now near as guilty of that odiousness. I don't particularly like it, but as long as their payroll stays beneath that of The Yankees, I can at least rationalize that it's fine, especially if they beat the sons of bitches.)
Urbie expresses an interesting viewpoint...
"I gave up fandom (with the exception of watching the 9th inning of Game 4 in 2004 from my grandfather's rocking chair -- he died in 1979 -- just so the old guy could finally rest) about 20 years ago. I still watch sports, but only stuff like golf, soccer, or other events where I just like the sport itself and don't care who wins. Rooting for a team? Why invest your emotions in something so utterly beyond your control? Might as well root for good weather (whatever that might mean, depending on your taste for sun, rain, snow, clouds, etc.).... "
Since Urbie is actually a professional athlete of sorts, I find it interesting that he eschews any rooting interest. I certainly rooted for him when I went to see a match he had. I had no control over the outcome, but I found him to be a nice fellow, from our private correspondence, and I truly wished for his success.
I suppose the fact that I actually "knew" Urbie adds a mitigating factor, but I don't think it's too much of a leap to feel that we "know" some of the people and teams we have shared time with for many years. Then again, a fellow like Urbie, or any athlete, does have some control over the outcome of his own contests, and that might make rooting for those things we have no control over seem a bizarre pursuit. Not my feeling, but I can see where he's coming from, in a way.
Mariann Simms offers this opinion: "I like when they play football in the snow."
So do I, Mariann. It's probably my favorite sporting thing to watch. I'm not quite sure why, but it is. Maybe it's just the added degree of dementia. And no fan celebration was more fun to watch than when the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins in the snow in 2003.
Lori tells us, "...my husband would say I like sports more than he does."
Well, tell your gay husband to get back in the kitchen and quit bothering you!
(Nah, not really. I just figured it was a good opportunity to see if I could get that sexual orientation insult out of the way. Now I just have to do religion and we can all call it a day.)
Eileen says, "I think one thing that makes basketball so fun and exciting to watch is that the best players actually match up and guard each other, unlike in baseball, where you have to settle for a "pitcher's duel" or in football where Tom Brady never gets the chance to sack Peyton Manning. Because he totally would, you know."
It's true, and this was something I really had never thought of before. Maybe I'm just dim. Basketball is all about match-ups in a way most other sports are not. When someone scores, or is prevented from scoring, more often than not it will involve their counterpart from the other squad. Success and failure become a bit more personal. Even Episcopalians, as slow as they are, would have to agree.
(OK, that's that. If I missed any other sort of insane reason for venom, let me know. I'll do my best to rectify the situation.)
Michelle said a whole bunch of interesting stuff about hockey and baseball, but I've about had it with writing, so I'm skipping down to where she said, "My certain someone [is] into that pot-smoking green leprechaun twirling the basketball that you seem to like..."
Obviously, he is a man of extremely good taste. I'm also glad he likes The Celtics.
(See? I can be nice, too. And Michelle is BLACK!)
Soon, with more better stuff.