Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to Just Enjoy It

My sports following growing up has admittedly been affected by the sports beloved of the place I grew up.  I was, for example, raised on the Twins and Kirby because they were coming to the height of their powers at that time.  The games were on ‘CCO until about 1995, so in following them, I was really affected by how much I could see them on TV.  But I could always watch football on TV, so that became the sport I watched most from about 1995 until the year 2000.  And yet I still went to way more baseball games, because they were actually affordable.  With this long history of religiously following at least a couple sports teams from my area, I have come to several conclusions that can be made about all following all kinds of sports.  And so I offer my Guide to Following Your Favorite Team.
Have a Connection to The Team: When it comes to picking a favorite team, you need some regional or familial connection to the team you’ve chosen.  I would argue that the opportunity for you to see one home game every year has to be there in order to justify choosing a team outside the closest major metro area. That, or something else from your childhood, such as hearing them on the radio, or a beloved family member who rooted for them.  I recently ran into some dude who claimed he was a New England Patriots fan because he liked Tom Brady.  The problem is, Nobody Likes Tom Brady (outside of New England).  Don’t be that guy- the Bandwagon Jumper.  If you have to be a bandwagon jumper, the only acceptable way is if it’s a team from your area (that assumedly just became good), and you don’t already have a favorite team in that sport.
Know when to Cheer or Jeer: Each sport has a pattern of when to get excited, or nervous or start booing.  I would recommend never booing, as long as the players on your team appear to be trying their best.  If it’s the other team, of course, it’s all fair game.  But various environments get more amped at different moments.  There’s very little more fun, as I’ve recently found out, than sitting in the student section at a D1 college basketball game.  While the sport is usually so drawn out that the crowd can’t get that intense, college has few enough games that the kids get psyched for every game.  Especially every free throw, opposing, or the home team.  But you have to earn sitting in the good seats- I’m talking to you, People In Front of Us at the Gophers Game who Seemed to Think it was Just a Social Event- otherwise you’re just ruining it for those who are really in to it.
Get the Appropriate Team Apparel: I’ve recently noticed that every sport has its own signature apparel. For baseball, the caps.  Association football has scarves.  In basketball and hockey, it might be the jerseys, although hockey also has those knit hats that all hockey fans love, too.  And for American football, the signature piece of apparel appears to be unique for each team.  For my Packers, anything in the shape of a yellow cheese wedge made of foam.  The Vikings have the Olga helmets.  And there’s also just being nuts like Raiders fans.
Avoid Stressing Out: I’ve been preaching to people recently that the reason you watch sports and follow a favorite team is for the agony they bring you (see a previous blog of mine, titled “Sports Agony”).  The more agony one accrues, the greater the payoff when you win it all.  That’s part of why I hope the Vikings never win it all, because I could never feel the same joy they would.  But in each sport, there’s such a build-up to the end of the game that you have to treat each one differently when cheering for it.  There’s no reason to scream at each batter in every inning of every baseball game: It’s a long game, a long season, and ballplayers fail more than they succeed.  In hockey or association football, you kind of just keep cheering for your team to do well, until something finally goes their way.  In American football, though, it seems like you can actually influence the outcome by screaming more or less at the TV.  It also helps to have something to throw.  But for all sports, there seems to be a point when you can relax.  In baseball, when the tying runs aren’t on base or at the plate.  In hockey or football, it’s when you’re up or down by more than one score.  It relieves the possibility of a quick shift of paradigm in the game.  Or just being behind in a game.  I think we can all agree- that’s definitely the easiest.

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