June 8, 2008

The Folly of Geographical Determinism

Another series between the Seattle Mariners and my Boston Red Sox has ended, and it's a great occassion to talk about something that has always annoyed me: The idea that you HAVE to root for the sports teams from the geographic area you grew up in/near.

Not to slag on my readers, but this anonymous comment sums up what bugs me about this perspective...

I don't mind if Hass suppports the sox, He is FROM Boston. My "bitch" is for the "poser" fans that support the sox because they are fashionable. I went to the 3 game series last week and was in a local sports bar. Out of the 10 so called sox fans that were there, I did not talk to one FROM Boston. I am positive that if Boston has a couple of losing seasons, you would not see all the bandwagoners.

First of all, us loyal types will ALWAYS have to deal with bandwagoners if/when our teams are successful. If you've been to any Seahawks road games in recent years, you've probably noticed a lot more Seattle fans in attendance than, say, pre-2003.

Is this a bad thing? They're not all flying in from Seattle, dawg. Would we rather Seahawks merchandise molder on the shelves nationwide? And how do you really tell the difference between a new fan who is going to grow into a loyal, knowledgable passionate 12th man and a "bandwagoner?" Do you administer an effing quiz?

Here's the other thing... Didn't most of us, at some point, latch onto the Seahawks during a successful, or at least memorable, season? I know it was the magical 1983 season that hooked ME for life. How is that different from someone whose passion for the Hawks was stirred in 2005? If they fade off to another team over time, yeah, they're poesurs... But what if that grows into lasting, rabid fandom?

That's another thing.. the whole "at least x is from blank" argument. If you really believe that, do you reject Seahawks fans who, maybe, fell in love after seeing that game against NYG in 2005 but are from Portland, Maine rather than Portland, Oregon? Maybe that same person gets the cash together to come out to Qwest this year, buys a Tatupu jersey, and screams his motherfucking lungs out for three hours.

Do you not want THAT guy in the fold? I'll take him over some fucking Bellevue suburbanite who tells me to sit down during a goddamn NFL game.

There's lots of reasons people form a life-long attachment to a pro sports team. Geographical proximity, by itself, is a pretty weak-ass reason to root for a team, IMO. If you love a team, your story had better be deeper than "they happened to be on TV where I live."

So what's your story? Who's with me on this? Violently opposed?


Anonymous said...

Dad got season tickets in 1976 when I was 13, and we've been going ever since. It's geographic, lots of memorable seasons, my Dad taking me to games, lots of trips to the Kingdome and Qwest, and lots of specific players. I'm also from Seattle.

So which is it? No idea.

stimpqb1 said...

Grandparents had season tickets growing up. Am a rabid Seattle sports fan of all sports. I can't imagine rooting for anyone else. I do appreciate anybody who is passionate about what ever team they choose to root for.

Mark said...

A lot of stuff to unpack here, I guess, but I'll start with this: not only do I not care why some dude from Topeka, KS is a Seahawks fan, I don't care whether he's a fan either. Rooting for your local team seems to me (most of the time) to be a reasonable excuse to indulge in mindless, irrational tribalism. Objectively, there's really no reason to believe that the Seahawks (and Mariners, and Sonics, etc.) and their fans are any better or more deserving of praise than any other team and their supporters. That's not going to stop anyone from screaming "RAMS SUCK!!!" at the top of their lungs at home games, but I suppose it might cause some people to realize the existential absurdity of the whole exercise.

And I guess with regard to your broader question...No, there's no "moral" reason to suppose that geographic location is better than any other reason to root for a team, but - and I fully recognize that I'm being irrational here too - it never made much sense to me why you wouldn't root for the home team, so to speak. Obviously, growing up in the Puget Sound area and having an attachment to the other fans and to the team, (I got to meet Jacob Green and Paul Johns as a kid at my school, in addition to the countless memories of watching the Hawks with my dad on Sundays,) I have a stronger attachment to the Seahawks than I do to any other team. Likewise, if the Sonics do end up moving to OKC, I'm done with the NBA. They've dissed my home town, treating us like a doormat that they can wipe their feet on. I love basketball, but if it's a choice between the league and my city, well, that really isn't a difficult choice to make at all.

DKSB said...

I'll be the first to admit that part of my perspective might be forged in the fact that I'm not from Seattle...

I grew up in the hinterlands of Eastern Washington, and actually attending a pro sports event entailed a significant commitment... Beyond the money, you were also talking about convincing your Dad to take you on a 7-hour-plus round trip.

So even the Seahawks, to snag me for life, had to grab my attention at the perfect, formative age of 7-8. If they had gone 4-12 in 1983 and lost the first game I ever went to, who knows how my fandom would have developed.

As for the Red Sox, I started rooting for them in 1986 out of rabid love for Roger Clemens (ugh), but I don't think that loyalty was cemented for life until that amazing second-half run the Sox went on in 1988 to win the AL East... They won 19 out of 20 in one memorable post-all star game stretch... Morgan magic, mother humpers!!!! :-]

You make a very good point about the Sonics... Why should any Sonics fan stay loyal to an ownership group that craps all over the VAST majority of the team's fan base?

If the Seahawks had moved to L.A. back in the 1990s, I couldn't have stayed a fan, simply because that would have represented such a profound betrayal of the fans.

jason said...

I don't mind fans not being from that area as long as they have been the lifelong fans. Someone not 12 that became a Patriots fan in 2001 deserves to be ridiculed. Along with the Mariners I was a huge Cubs fan because of Ryne Sandberg in the 80's. If I had decided to ditch the M's and stick with the Cubs I think that would have been okay because I was 11. If I became a huge Cubs fans this year because I like Fukudome and ditched the Mariners because they suck ass that would not be okay. I would be a douche bag. I prefer to be loyal to my teams than be a douche bag.