One of the things I like about March Madness (aside from watching Duke lose early) is that your cheering experience isn’t dependent on what city you’re in. Yes, if your alma mater made it (Penn predictably did not), or the team you grew up cheering for (Michigan State!) does well, it’s extra fun. But for the most part, you could walk into almost any bar in any city and half of the people there will be cheering for the same team as you.
Professional sports are a bit of a different story. It is generally accepted that a person will pick a city and support that city’s teams. So if I told you that I’m from Detroit and am a huge Red Wings fan, you’d likely assume that I’m also a Lions, Tigers, and Pistons fan, right?
Well you’d be wrong! Just like I can’t give you a straight answer when you ask where I’m from, the teams I’m a fan of come from hither and thither:
Hockey: Detroit Red Wings
Baseball: Cleveland Indians
Football: Chicago Bears
Basketball: I don’t really like the NBA, but if pressed I’d say I’m a fair-weather Detroit Pistons fan.
I know it seems like a random and far-flung list, but these are my teams and I love them. Probably more than is healthy.
The big downside to this is that since I don’t live in any of these cities, I never, ever get the home team experience. Modern technology and a little extra money makes it possible to watch most games, which I greatly appreciate, but there’s more to being a fan of a team than just watching the games.
For instance, having that fan camaraderie with everyone else in the city. In Chicago, the Bears’ fan base was what turned me into such a huge fan. When people ask how I became a Bears fan, all I can do is shrug and say I caught Bear fever. They didn’t even make it into the playoffs that year (2007), but I was at their last, essentially meaningless game and sat as a part of a sell out crowd in -10* weather that was screaming like it was the Super Bowl. I was hooked, and have remained so.
Most of the time my experience is the exact opposite. Always cheering for the visiting team means always being the enemy. The Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians are division rivals, which was nice because it meant I got to go to a lot of games. However, the Indians’ record for games I have attended is 0-many, and I soon grew to pretty much hate the White Sox (this has since diminished into a sort of “warrior ethic” situation). But no hate can compare with what I feel for the Chicago Blackhawks, who are rivals with the Red Wings. I won’t go into too much detail, but I can tell you I was the angriest person in Chicago when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010. And here in San Francisco, I’m a lone Red Wing in a sea of Sharks fans, which is a team that I have a begrudging respect for but also thoroughly dislike.
I don’t dislike any of the teams in Boston. (In fact, I kind of came to an understanding with the Patriots last year because I had Wes Welker on my fantasy team.) But I wonder how it’ll be to be a huge sports fan in Boston who is not a huge Boston sports fan. I know I’ll follow my usual patterns of trying to get the best tickets I can when my teams come to town and ponying up the cash for the extra sports networks and MLB.tv. Hopefully I will find special Red Wings and Bears bars and make my own little network of fans so we can feel a little bit like we’re rooting for the home team together. And who knows, maybe one of these Boston teams will worm its way into my heart (as a #2 team, of course).
And if anyone knows where the Red Wings fans hang out in Boston, please let me know! The playoffs start the weekend after I get there!