Team Allegiances: A Reference Guide

Brace yourself, because this is one long and blustery blog about my allegiances to sports teams. (It started out small, but I found that I had a helluva-lot to rant about when it comes to this.) If there's anything that I tend to take flack from "true" fans of sports teams is that I root for more than one team from just about every sport I follow. For people that have only followed one team in a particular sport, the idea that you can pull for more than one professional sports team feels, well, wrong.

College Sports
And the way that I can tell you that I can testify what these fans feel is that I agree with that sensation for college sports. When it comes to college, I am a die-hard Penn State fan. There is something about attending a school that really gives you a sense of ownership and pride, and a lovely bloodlust for crushing certain teams and screaming "fucking kill him!!!" and meaning it, at least for the four seconds their quarterback is scrambling around. I'm looking at you, Nebraska and Ohio State. And any team from Florida but I digress; that's just general displeasure with teams from that state. So, college football is the one sport where I really have only one team.

In college basketball, to the annual chagrin of local ACC fans, I also root for, wait for it, Duke. OH MY GOD, NOOOOOOOO!!! But, yes.If your head has not exploded in righteous indignation, allow me to explain why. Before I ever went to Penn State, I was a fan of college basketball. In the days way before on-demand sports and ESPN8: The Ocho, you didn't have a lot of options as to who you wanted to watch. As it happens, Duke was starting to become a perennial powerhouse in the early-to-mid 80's, so they were getting a lot of exposure on TV. Plus, right around the time I was a junior in high school, they recruited a kid named Bobby Hurley to run the point. At the time, I was a short, white point/shooting guard, so there was instant emulation. Anyway, that's when I started watching Duke games as a fan.

Does the fact that I have been a Duke basketball fan for over 20 years get me any street cred down here? Of course not. Granted, I am in Maryland Terp country, and they love to hate Duke, so what do I expect. It makes for more fun watching, frankly. Now, that all said, if Duke and Penn State played, I like Duke, but I bleed PSU. No contest. I watched just about every PSU game they played this season that was televised (don't get me started about the Big Ten Network) and though we finished 15-16, was satisfied with a season where we lost our best two players to injury. PSU basketball has a long tradition of 'suck', but I love my team. Hey if you only have one tournament highlight in the last ten years (2001), that says something. But we beat Carolina and that is worth arms-raised-in-victory cred for years. In looking up the results for that tourney, I forgot that Duke was the eventual champion. Puts my priorities in clear relief, but man, that was a good tourney.

Now before we get into the rest of the discussion, here are the general guidelines for figuring out allegiances:

  1. I grew up south of BUFFALO, and my mother's side of the family is mostly up there.
  2. I migrated to PHILADELPHIA to finish high school, and my father's side of the family is mostly up there. My best friend lives up there.
  3. I lived with many PITTSBURGH natives in college (PSU is 40% Pittsburgh, 30% Philly, 30% miscellaneous), so I grew to appreciate their teams.
  4. I have lived in the WASHINGTON, DC area for the last 10 years (has it really been that long?).
These four notes will help you to understand most of my choices. But there are quirks in every system, most of these driven by sweet, sweet bitterness.

Now, moving on to professional sports (and I am only talking about the big four), that's when we get a little murky. Let's start with the murkiest and the one currently on the brain as we are hip-deep intro round one of their playoffs: the National Hockey League.I fully admit, I'm a playoff hockey fan only. I have a hard time finding interest in any sport where the regular season is more than 30 games; for me it has to do with the import of each game. (I cannot understand how baseball fans can bother to care about each game, especially in April. I have seen fans get so upset over something that matters 1/162 of their season. NOOOOOOO!!!) That all said, my favorite team is the Flyers, (Reference Guideline #2 above) followed closely behind by the Sabres (Reference Guideline #1). This is as close to a wash as I get in sports; it seems that just about every year they play each other in the playoffs, and I just kind of shrug and wait for the outcome.At least that's what I tell my family. I figured out that Philly trumps Buffalo because Philly fans are mean. I like that. So put that as unofficial guideline #5: when in doubt, go with the mean fans.

Now, because of Reference Guidelines #3 and #4, I root for the Penguins and the Caps when neither the Flyers nor the Sabres are involved, but it's not even close to as strong a feeling. So they get no logo post. It just doesn't feel right. Honorable mention: Detroit Red Wings. This is my girlfriend's team. She loves to watch playoff hockey, too (she actually smiles when she sees blood on a player's face -- I'm not joking). I don't root against them, but I like to see her happy. But am I going to root for them if they come up against any of the above four teams? Not really.

Moving on to the longest season ever and one that certainly doesn't start for me (although I always check scores) until August, baseball. Another very tight race for me, but ultimately, I take the Phillies over the Cubs.Using the Reference Guidelines, the first choice should be easy to figure out, but the Cubs? Well, western New York obviously has no baseball team, so how do you get the Cubs? Cable TV, that's how. In the early 80's you had two choices (other than the friggin' Yankees: blech) for daily baseball coverage: TBS and WGN. Braves and Cubs. My brother is a Cubs fan, and they always (used to) play their home games in the daytime, which means I came home from school early enough to catch the fourth inning on and Harry Caray.However, in terms of allegiances, although I have to admit I'd love to see the Cubs win the WS for the first time in 100 years, I think I'd be pulling against them if the Phillies played them in the playoffs. Because neither team has won in at least 25 years, I don't think I'd be too upset either way. Still, slight edge to the Phillies.

As for my current "home town" Washington Nationals... well what can you say about a team that's been around for three years? Not much, is my conclusion, and no logo for you.

Continuing our tour of the major sports, we hit professional basketball and arrive with a more solid thwacking. Again, without a major team in the Buffalo (or Pittsburgh (discounting the Fish That Saved...), for that matter), the choice is easy: the 76ers. Watching the early 80's Sixers with Dr. J, Bobby Jones, Mo Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Moses Malone (effortlessly recalling the starting lineup of the 1983 Championship team for your approval) was indeed the golden age of this team. Since then, I've watched many an Alan Iverson game in my time, and even though he's kind of a thug, I'm sad to have seen him go. Probably the highlight of his era was lighting up the Lakers for 48 to steal Game 1 of the 2002 Championship series. Certainly the Sportscenter highlight was his infamous "We talking about practice" press conference, which still gets a lot of airtime.

Iverson's point of view was comically made by his repeated (and by repeated, I mean like 25 times) mention of "practice" versus "the game". It's too bad that he ended the rant with the question, "How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?" Up until that point I was laughing with him. Anyway.

I certainly have watched my share of Washington Wizards games around here, but are they logo-worthy? I think you know the answer. The team really took a down-turn once they changed their name from "Bullets" to "Wizards", which is about as limp a change as I can imagine. I guess it's not as bad as a nickname like "Heat" or "Magic", but it certainly sucks. And sucky nicknames. But I will put a Boston Celtics logo on here as a distant second team, surprising even the most prophetic prophesiser! This is the negative-postive inversion support (or NPIS) case, where I pretty much can't stand any other team (excluding the Sixers) in the East, and I also grew up watching the Lakers-Celtics battles of the 80's. Guess which Western Conference team I hate?

Finally on to the main course, pro football. This one is tough because you again have two football teams that I have followed for a long time: Buffalo and Philly.Again, Philly gets the nod by the slimmest of margins, but only in recent years. I grew up a Bills fan and slowly evolved my preferences to the Eagles by being immersed in the NFC East environment that is Washington, DC. Obviously, there are plenty of Redskins fans around here, but you'd be surprised there are a great many Dallas, Eagles, and Giants fans around, too. It makes for great rivalrys, and great games. But it's the fans that bring it out in me, specifically the Redskins fans. You'd think that being down here this long would have swayed me towards their camp, but in fact where I used to support them (for my friends who liked them as long as we weren't playing each other), their incredibly delusional fans have driven me to embrace fully my hatred of the Redskins fans. Over the last couple years, this classic video of the fantasy football guy continually butchering "T.J. Houshmandezadah" and, finally getting it correct, intones "Championship" had come amongst my friends to represent your typical Redskins fan: cluelessly confident.

So, you see that it is a combination of Reference #2 and pure irritation that puts Philly over the top in my heart. It's like milk chocolate and caramel coming together, and it is oh, so sweet.
Worth mentioning: I put the logo of Green Bay up there because I once made the mistake of not supporting Danielle's team in the fullest amount. All my guidelines and irritations cannot stand up to an intense frowning and/or withholding of affections.

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