Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cheering for Laundry

Chuck Klosterman is a sports atheist. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in sports. It’s that he doesn’t believe a person necessarily has to continue for the same team he’s been cheering for since he or she was seven year’s old, or even cheer for a team at all. There’s no inherent reason for the team you like when you still thought girls had cooties has to be the team you like when your grandchildren think girls have cooties.

The first Cubs bandwagon.
As a lifelong Cubs fan, this view perplexes me. How can you truly appreciate the good times (assuming, in the Cubs’ case, there ever actually ARE good times) if you don’t suffer through the bad times? It goes against everything that being a sports fan is about. The lean times result in the bandwagon fans jumping off, leaving you with the choice seats. Though if you’ve ever seen an actual bandwagon, there don’t really seem to be any good seats to begin with. They look crowded and uncomfortable all the time. Why you would want to jump on one of those when you can just start cheering for a team from the comforts of your own home is beyond me.

Anyway, you endure the losing and losing (and losing and losing) because you know that eventually (maybe, please) things turn around and you arrive at the Promised Land. And that triumph (I imagine) is worth all the heartache and pain that you put up with to get there. But part of me can’t help but wonder why I don’t just pick a team that’s on the rise and cheer for them for a few years before moving on to the next team on the brink of success. It’s not like any of the players on the teams know or care who I root for. Would I not have been happier being a Tampa Bay Rays fan over the past three years, or even a Phillies fan? Honestly, I probably would have.

When I was nine, I loved the song Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Loved it. Couldn’t hear it enough. Called radio stations (back when you could do that) to request it. But eventually I got tired of it, like most seven year olds do with most things. So why do we expect people to make a lifelong commitment to a team at that age, especially when the players from that team you first fell in love with have long since stopped playing. As Jerry Seinfeld observed, you're essentially cheering for laundry.

All this leads me to Saturday night when the Atlanta Falcons played the Green Bay Packers. While I live and die with the Cubs, when it comes to football, I'm a sports atheist. Most of the time I cheer for the Fighting Squirrels, my fantasy team. I have a few friends who have been Falcons’ fans for nearly as long as I’ve been alive, if not longer. I also have a lot of friends who have been lifelong fans for the past three years, which coincidentally is when the Falcons’ most recent run of success began. I don’t begrudge people who want to hop on a team’s bandwagon when they start to show signs of promise. But please, for the sake of the people who have ridden that same bandwagon through the deserted towns and dusty trails with nothing by tumbleweed and losing seasons as far as the eye could see, don’t try to compare your agony to that of fans who remember life before Matt Ryan.

Why I'm a Packers fan . . . for now
For now, I’m a Green Bay fan. My mom is a lifelong fan dating back to the first Super Bowl, so I can claim some familial influence should I feel the need to justify it. But truth be told, I really like watching Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rogers play. In the supremely unlikely event that he get’s traded in the next year or so, my allegiance will likely shift to whatever his new team is. Such is the life of a sports atheist. Should Green Bay lose to Chicago next week, I’ll still watch the Super Bowl, but it’ll be more as an interested observer of the details of the game rather than that of a fan with a rooting interest. I’d hate to steal one of the few remaining seats on a bandwagon from someone who wants to get on. Those things are uncomfortable enough during the lean times.

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