The most common places that I meet people at are sporting venues and sports bars. Within a few minutes I typically know who people root for in at least one sport. With that information, I can usually tell whether I’ll get along with the person or not.
There’s a lot more to it than “eww, they like THAT team”. Granted, a lot of people can’t get past that. But if you look into the tendencies of the franchises that one supports, you can figure out a lot about the person, good & bad. Here’s some examples…
St. Louis Cardinals Fans
The Cardinals are an uptight bunch. They’re sticklers for the rules they live by and want you to live by them as well. They’ve had a lot of success and aren’t afraid to tell you about it. But at the same time, they’re generally nice people. They don’t mean any harm to anybody. They just want you to do everything their way. The Cardinal Way. Most of the St. Louis fans I’ve met are very nice people. They just really don’t like it when you disagree with their way of thinking.
You hear a lot of talk from Kentucky fans about how great their program is, just like you hear the same type of talk from John Calipari. But the main parallel between the Commonwealth of Kentucky that houses most of Kentucky’s fanbase & the basketball team is pretty striking: the best & the brightest leave as soon as they can.
The Patriots are caught breaking the rules more than any other NFL franchise but they insist they’re the victim of a conspiracy enacted by one man, who most of their fans are inclined to hate anyway. To the Patriots, everybody not at the very top of the organization or the roster is expendable & doesn’t matter. They justify their actions by wrapping themselves in the American flag and declaring themselves to be Patriots, and anybody against them is against America.
The Cubs used to be so sympathetic. They were known as loveable losers for decades because that’s exactly what they were. Their fans were the same. They’d travel to see their team play even though they knew they probably wouldn’t win, and they’d be friendly to one and all. Just like the Cubs were. Now they win championships, and their fans act like they’ve been winning championships for decades. The Cubs and their fans come into towns acting like they run the place, rude to everybody in their way. They’ve forgotten who they used to be, which is a great quality to have if you’re a baseball team built on a tradition of losing. Not so much if you’re a fan trying to get along with other people.
Sports fans tend to look down on bandwagoners, and they have good reason to. We value loyalty, the ability to stick with a team through the good & the bad times. Bandwagoners are around when the team is good, and when the team’s bad you never see them.
There is a good thing about bandwagon fans though: they don’t take this stuff so seriously. It’s good to have people like that in your life, if everybody’s living & dying with the team nobody’s bringing any perspective to the table. You just have to hope that they don’t treat their friendships the same way they treat their sports teams. And if they do, cut them loose.
Those are just a few examples. I’m sure you’ve come across people that support certain sports teams that exhibit the characteristics of who they support.
Why did this come to my mind this morning?
The more I think about it, the more the rest of my teams seem to fall into this trap. Is any team more disappointing at the end of a game, or at the end of a season, than the Cincinnati Bengals? How about the Louisville Cardinal football team, who wrapped up last season by losing their last three games and going from a playoff contender to barely making the top 25?
And then there’s Tottenham Hotspur, who have inspired a word in the dictionary to explain their ineptness at the end of seasons.
Speaking of bottling it, the Cincinnati Reds made a habit of that in the early 2010s. After fifteen years of mediocrity it seemed like baseball’s oldest professional franchise would finally climb back to the top of the sport. A no-hitter by Roy Halladay in 2010 killed their chances that season, but 2012 really seemed like the year. They won the first two games of their NLDS series with San Francisco and just needed one win at home to make the next round.
OK, so not all my teams have failed at the end of the season. The Louisville Cardinals basketball team won a national championship in 2012-13 and gave me something to celebrate at the end of a sports season for the first time since 1990. The good feelings lasted for a couple of years…until this book came out and we learned about some of the interesting things that happened in recruiting:
Every single one of my sports teams has this tendency to blow it at the end of games, or at the end of seasons. Unfortunately, I see something of a parallel with myself. I’ve squandered opportunities just like the athletes on my favorite teams have. I haven’t gotten as far in life as I expected to at this point. I’ve had my moments, sure. Good things have come my way and my life could absolutely be a lot worse. Other people have a lot more to complain about than I do.
But I haven’t won the big one yet. Somedays it looks like I never will.
So why do I stay up late to watch these things when I know what the result will probably be?
The same reason none of these teams have closed up shop: the hope that things will eventually be different. That despite their previous failings, the Bengals will win a playoff game someday. That the Reds’ rebuild will actually work. That Louisville sports teams will be more known for their success on the field than their shortcomings off of it. That the Predators will win games near the end of regulation and in overtime instead of lose them. That Spurs will one day live up to their potential and not bottle it.
I have that same hope for my life as well, in spite of all the evidence otherwise.
We are who we root for.