Friday, October 26, 2007

How did I acquire my fandom?

Dan Shanoff’s blog is one of the first things that I read on the web as part of my morning sport constitutional. But, usually, he doesn’t post again until the next morning. Well, around mid-morning yesterday, he posted a column that never saw print (don’t we all have them) about how he became a fan of the Florida Gators via his girlfriend/soon-to-be wife and in the process, he began to define how people become affiliated with their sports teams.

As I continued to pore over this post, I came upon the realization that I fit into all four categories of how I became a fan of one team or another. So, as part of this quasi-meme on the subject, I’ve decided to align my fandom associations by using the “Sports Fan Allegiance Tenets by Shanoff” or SFATS for short.

Biology – I was raised with a couple of undeniable truths that were ingrained into my memory banks through the application of corporate punishment. They were:

  • Always say “Sir” or “Ma’am” to anyone older than me;
  • Don’t talk to strangers, and;
  • Never root for the Maize and Blue
Spartan blood was what I was born with and that faith hasn’t wavered since. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t root for Sparty; even during the years of abandonment by Saban and the utter destruction of the football team by Williams and John L. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t rebel in my teenage years. After all, I did send my SAT scores to Ann Arbor during senior year to see if they’d want me.

Geography – After graduation from the aforementioned MSU, my dad was drafted into the Navy due to the Vietnam War. And he decided to make a career of it and as a part of that commitment, the family moved with him through his various tours of duty. But the one “faithful” twist in fate had my dad move himself, his wife and two grade school kids from the warmish surroundings of Memphis to the freezing tundra of Brunswick, Maine in January 1978.

The following spring thus spawned my almost 30 year love/hate affliction to the Boston professional sports teams, most notably the local nine. While ’78 is a time of disgust for most Sox fans, I will always remember it like Henry Hill did when he was arrested for the first time – he was welcomed into the “family” with open arms and a lifetime of penance.

College – This reason is why sometimes I root for Oklahoma, George Mason and Marymount. Why so many universities, you ask? It probably speaks more to my capacity to ignore any type of studying and gravitate to the finer aspects (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) of college life than it was about my quest for educational knowledge. Man, I miss the 80’s.

Your own choosing – It was April 17th, 2003 and I was in the hospital awaiting the arrival of the person I would immediately call my son. As luck would have it, the TV was on the 5’o clock news and the sports segment was coming up next. Now the remaining details are somewhat fuzzy due to all of the screaming, the crying and the tears that I was experiencing while my wife repeated dug her nails into my skin while delivering my baby boy.

But 2003 was the last year of the Winston Cup and I was thinking about casually following NASCAR for the last go-around. Somehow, I determined that since my son was born on the 17th during the 17th hour, I should follow the #17 car driven by Matt Kenseth in honor of my son. Needless to say, he won that year in such a way that NASCAR’s governing body decided to create “The Chase for the Cup” and I’ve continued to follow those guys who only make left turns for a living. But that hasn’t stopped the old-timers like my brother-in-law from calling me a bandwagon jumper which I disprove with simply saying, “It’s not like I picked Jeff Gordon, now is it?”

I’m no sure if I am the only one who can lay claim to placing all four categories in the SFATS but looking back, it is a wonder how the simplest choosing of some inane like a sports team has stuck with me longer than anything else that I’ve learned throughout my life other than saying “Sir” or “Ma’am”. Those are the type of painful lessons that you just don’t forget.

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