Monday, February 28, 2011

Dilemma's of a displaced sports fan

Note: Song 15 in my 322-part series.

Song: Goodbye
Artist: Hootie and the Blowfish

ESPN’s Bill Simmons has an extensive list of the rules of being a sports fan, including a non-negotiable prohibition on sports bigamy with exceptions for certain instances. Simmons is a Boston Celtics’ fan who lives in Los Angeles, where he holds season tickets to the L.A. Clippers and flirts with the line between wanting tickets to NBA games without paying the prices charged by the more popular L.A. Lakers and actively rooting for the Clippers success. Granted, when push comes to shove, he’d at least consider offering his daughter as a sacrifice to the basketball gods to ensure a Boston victory.

So how is it that a man who literally wrote the book on basketball (ok, technically, it was The Book of Basketball, but still) can devote the first 30 years of his life to the Celtics and then, slowly begin to become a fan of another team, thus violating his own rule. The answer is simple. He moved 3,000 miles from Boston to L.A. (Well, that and the Lakers are the archenemies of the Celtics. For our younger readers, think of it as being on Team Jacob and then moving next door to Edward. No matter how friendly you want to be with your neighbor, you’re a part of Team Jacob and secretly hope that Edward’s yard develops crabgrass and the roof develops a leak.) The parenthetical statement was greatly assisted by Google. I don’t even know what sports Team Jacob and Team Edward play, and why they’ve chosen such boring nomenclature for their squads, but I suspect they play in the same league as Team CoCo.)

Go Eagles!
I bring all this up because up until the past year, I’ve never had to struggle with sports bigamy. I moved to Statesboro, Georgia in the winter of 1984 at the age of five. Twelve months later, Georgia Southern (conveniently located in Statesboro) won an improbable national championship in football. One year after that, they won a second title. (The next year, they lost to Appalachian State in the playoffs, which was the beginning of my sports hatred of the school.)

 In 1989, Statesboro hosted the national title game, which Georgia Southern won again (and I was fortunate enough to have attended – thanks mom and dad.) The following year, Eagles won their fourth title in six years, and being 11 at the time, I assumed it was a regular thing, so much so that I didn’t go to the game or watch it on television, choosing to play football outside with my friends. So I came about my Georgia Southern fandom honestly. I ended up getting my undergraduate and master’s degree from there and pretty much spent 25 years of my life in Statesboro, cheering for the Eagles.

What's with the left-facing logo?
That was until the Summer of 09 (which will undoubtedly not be a song by Bryan Adams) when the Familia de Martin made the move to Wilmington, North Carolina, home, not coincidentally, of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The school is conveniently located five miles from the beach and not so conveniently located 350 miles from my beloved Eagles. (They also don’t have a football team, which makes Fall Saturdays not so great (well, except for the beach.) That left two choices. Go to UNC-Wilmington games as a neutral observer or struggle with becoming a sports bigamist. As much as I enjoy watching a baseball (or softball, basketball, soccer, ect.) game, watching without a stake in the outcome, even as a fan, is not something I do well. (There’s a long list of things I don’t do well, so the fact that impartial sports observer is on there shouldn’t be that shocking to you.)

I managed to hold out for a year, following Georgia Southern baseball on the internet and avoiding UNC-W games. But eventually it became too much. I missed being at the games. I missed the peanuts and Cracker Jack. I don’t care if I ever get back, I’m going to root, root, root for the home time and if they don’t win, well, it’s a shame (unless they’re playing the Eagles, which, despite being relatively close, is very infrequently. Come on coaches of GSU and UNCW, help me out here and schedule some home-and-home series. I don’t care if it’s JV tennis, I’ll come watch, I promise.) I even broke down and ordered a UNC-W hat. They pay my wife’s salary, or, to paraphrase Chuck Dickens, they are the ‘founder of the feast.’ Because they’re providing the feast, I’m willing to say goodbye to my sports monogamy.

As I was writing this, I saw a friend on facebook struggling between cheering for his alma mater (the Miami (OH) Redhawks) or the UNCW Seahawks as they prepared to square off on the baseball diamond. He eventually settled on the safe answer of saying ‘Go Hawks’ and reported back that the Hawks won 7-3. (UNCW won.) That inspired me to take a slightly more generic take as I now cheer for the ‘Birds of Prey,’ both the Eagle and Seahawk variety. Unlike my fence-sitting friend, should the two ever meet (I’ll watch the cross country meet, I promise. For the love of all that is just and right in the world, just schedule something here in Wilmington,) I’ll cheer for the Eagles.

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

Luke, you don't need to go so far as being a bigamist. You can just have UNCW as a mistress. It happens all the time.