Five methods of choosing your allegiance to professional* sports teams:
1. Grow up in the city of the team. This is a no-brainer, but doesn’t apply to those of us who grew up in states with no professional sports, so we had to…
2. Move to cities with professional teams. Not that this is a good way to choose a city to live in, although it is how my brother Peter wanted me to choose where I went to college. He told me I should go to Macalester in Minnesota because the Timberwolves were better than the Blazers. I’m continuing a long-standing tradition here and making fun of how amazingly wrong he was.
3. If the first two don’t work for you, you might have to randomly choose teams. For instance, I decided in middle school to be a 49ers fan because the fact that I was born in San Francisco made me feel special. I felt that Niners fans and I had a common bond. I’m sure some of them were born there, too! I’m pretty sure Pete randomly chose his teams as well, because he somehow ended up a fan of the Bulls, Steelers and Red Sox growing up. This option might also be called “bandwagoning.” Which leads me to the next option…
4. Absorb the preferences of the people around you. I didn’t know a whole lot about professional sports growing up (and I don’t know a whole lot more today), but I knew my brother and my dad were into them, so I rooted for the same teams they did. This is why, to this day, I still choose UNC to go WAY FURTHER in the NCAA tournament every year than any rational person should. And I’ve lost a fair amount of money on them over the years. Pete loved everything Michael Jordan ever touched, which included the Tar Heels. Plus, my grandma lived in North Carolina, so we had an in when it came to merchandise. #4 also explains why I own a Boston Red Sox hat (many extended family members are fans) and a University of Oregon sweatshirt (tons of my friends went there). It’s the reason I have an inexplicable soft-spot for the Celtics (my dad loved Larry Bird and the old Boston Garden) and a horrible distaste for anything related to the Pistons (my dad always thought they were jerks).
5. If that’s not your style, though, you can always root for the rivals of your family’s team(s). My friend Kara is a DIE-HARD Cowboys fan because she grew up with a dad and a brother who were all about the 49ers in the early nineties. Wanting to simultaneously make things interesting and piss them off, she rooted for their rivals. Unfortunately, once she was in, she couldn’t get out.
All of this leads me to the San Francisco Giants. When I started dating Galen, I told him, in all seriousness, that everything I learned about the rules of baseball I learned from playing competitive kickball. I mean, I understood the concept of swinging the bat and running around the bases… But if it weren’t for my kickball league, I never would have known what “tagging up” was or understood the relationship between fouls and strikes.
Galen grew up in the East Bay with a dad who taught all three of his children a lot about sports, particularly Giants baseball and Cal football. Galen used a mix of methods #1 and #5 to become an Oakland A’s fan with a Giants problem. I am told that Bay Area baseball is an anomaly in that it doesn’t polarize people the way you would think. In fact, a barista at Starbucks today explained to me that everyone in the Bay prefers either the Giants or the A’s, but they would totally still root for the other as a second favorite. “It’s not like the Raiders-Niners thing,” he told me, “where you might get stabbed by the other team’s fans.”
So I’ve continued my habit of #4 bandwagoning and decided to get into the Giants and A’s, even though I own a Red Sox hat. I went to Spring Training in Arizona with Galen’s family in March and got to see a Giants game (with Tim Lincecum pitching). All season, Galen has patiently answered my elementary questions about perfect games and no hitters and closers and errors. We watched a few games on TV. Then the Giants made it to the semis and things got interesting.
One thing I haven’t explained yet is that my boyfriend is hilariously superstitions when it comes to sports. Up until about a month ago, I thought we were on the same page – you wear your team’s colors and hope you don’t say anything to jinx the team. Now I realize that it’s totally different with him. You are not supposed to discuss the possibility of winning or losing until it has already happened. Sometimes exceptions can be made, but ONLY if you’re pessimistic (i.e. you can talk about the possibility of losing but not winning). That way you can’t possibly jinx them; only get what you expected.
Before Game 5 of the Phillies-Giants series, when the Giants were leading 3 games to 1, I let it slip that the only Phillies win happened to coincide with the one day I wore my Giants shirt that Galen had bought me at Spring Training. He then politely suggested that I only wear it on non-game days.
Also, Galen and his dad went to Game 1 of the World Series in San Francisco last week, where Galen purchased a hat for himself and a (totally rad) sweatshirt for me. I later found out that the next day when he was watching Game 2 on TV, he “figured out a system” wherein wearing the hat forward during the bottom of the inning was good luck, but he had to turn it around and wear it backward for the top of the next inning so he didn’t give the good luck to Texas. This is why San Francisco won Game 2, in case anyone was wondering.
So, I’ve been wanting to post for a week about the World Series and how cool it is that I got to see the Giants at Spring Training in person and now they’re in the World Series, but I was terrified I might ruin it! What if I posted something about how I wanted Galen to be Brian Wilson for Halloween and I could be Tim Lincecum**, but then they lost the series? It would be my fault. I was even worried about wearing the sweatshirt he bought me, until he and his dad told me it would be okay if I did. It’s like someone giving you a voodoo doll to use as a pincushion without explaining to you what your needles could be doing.
So after the game last night, I texted Galen from class (where I was refreshing the score on my phone every 10 seconds while trying to focus on the lecture) to congratulate him on his 2nd favorite team winning the pennant. He responded, “Does not compute.” Apparently even when he wears his hat the right way and I wear my sweatshirt and we make the baseball gods happy and the Giants win, he’s still skeptical.
* Obviously, college sports are a totally different matter.
** This idea was shot down because he didn’t want to make anyone think he was bandwagoning. Apparently, he doesn’t wear his bandwagon proudly like I do.