HOW did you become a fan of your favorite sports team or player? I can think of several ways a fan might grow to adopt a certain team or player as his or her own. Fantasy success, inherited season tickets, cute buns (it happens around 50% of the time I would wager) or just a happy coincidence of right place, right time. In my case, I'm a little embarrassed about how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Minnesota Twins became my two favorite professional teams. Daring to be different, I guess would be an apt description.
I grew up in Northern Minnesota. So far as sports go, it's hockey country, and in my formative years, I witnessed my high school team win the Minnesota State High School Hockey Championship. Yes They Use All Capitals For Something So Important. And while I loved rooting for the local teams, and the North Stars until Dallas sneaked them away, everyone around me was a hockey fan, so that was to be expected then and there. They even carried the CBC on cable, so "Hockey Night in Canada" was international.
The local baseball team, the Twins, were another matter. They were laughingstocks, featuring no-names like Terry Felton, Mickey Hatcher, and Sal Butera. At that time, Kirby Puckett was a kid in Chicago, and Kent Hrbek a wheel of fortune puzzle run amok with consonants. The Metrodome was the team's only drawing point, only because it guaranteed no rainouts. In those years, the Twins also wore those powder blue uniforms, which fit the moniker "twinkies" well. And as lovable losers, I felt a bit sorry for them since their 'local' fan base was nowhere to be found. My parents hailed from Chicago, and Dad was as big a Cub fan (speaking of lovable losers) as there was in Minnesota. Also Yankee, Athletic, and Brewer fans (Robin Yount was cool, Gorman Thomas cooler) were in no short supply. But no Twinkie fans. So I took it upon myself to become one. (Had a lot of company come 1987 too, when they finally played in and won a World Series.)
It was the same story with the Bucs. Dad was of course a huge Bears fan, talking of the glory years of the Monsters of the Midway, and the opposing player who stuck his hand into a scrum on the field only to have Dick Butkus bite it. ("He BIT him! Butkus BIT him!") And the Viking's successes in the 1970s were recent enough so that they were still very popular, even though Two-Minute Tommy Kramer and Ahmad Rashad were the only big names I can remember today. Of course the Packers fans would come out twice a year and be obnoxious as well, tussling with Vikings fans at the local taverns. And this was in the day when your TV choices for football were a lot more limited than they are today. Tired of the Packers fans, tired of the Bears parents, sick of the Purple People Eaters who seemed to have lost their appetites... What was left? In the NFC Norris Division (Chris Berman was just coming into his own) the other choices were the Lions and Barry Sanders, or the Buccaneers, up to that point then only team to go winless for a whole season. I chose sherbet orange over Honolulu Blue. I think it was because of John McKay's classic quote, when asked what he thought of his team's execution: "I'm all for it." Maybe Lee Roy Selmon scared me. Whatever; the Big Sombrero was my home-away-from-home each Sunday, to the delight of everyone around me. It took a long time, but the Bucs eventually did me proud, dispatching the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
So there you have it: how this fan was born. Cleveland Browns fans and Chicago Cubs faithful keep watch well, every lovable loser will eventually have their day.