So maybe I'm a "glass half-empty" guy, as one respondent says. Personally, I don't see it that way, but in the current atmosphere of hope anything short of a full-toothed grin and infectious enthusiasm might seem so. I like to think of myself though, as objective and analytical; I don't really have a rooting interest in a team any more. I've moved too much (20 places since high school), and players move too much and make too much money for me to identify. I do, however, root for the Underdog.
Yep, I'm one of those. I can't stand the winners and especially the dynasties of the sporting world. I long for the chaos of upsets, if not exactly for the parity preached by the NFL. Great games, yes; even games between mediocre teams, no. Those who can, and those who care, will find the Florida Gators football team, the LA Lakers, the Dallas Cowboys, the New England Patriots, the Busch brothers, and all other "perpetual winners" and "dynasties" on my "can't stand" list. In truth, Duke basketball should be there too, but my TV is inundated with them, so I "follow" the Blue Devils and choose to root against the even-more-dynastic Tarheels instead. Plus, I started following Duke when they WERE an underdog, long ago, in those days of Mike Gminski and Johnny Dawkins, when they were just starting to reclaim their legacy and no one, but no one, thought of them in the same breath as Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina. To me, the Dookies were underdogs who played their hearts out. Christian Laettner should have ruined that--okay, he did ruin that--but I still follow.
So I wonder: what makes me this way? Why is it that my brother has no problem rooting for whoever is winning that year? He loved the Dolphins when they went undefeated, but donned a black and gold jersey during the Steeler dynasty a few years later. He claimed it was because he knew Lynn Swann's mother. He was a Notre Dame fan too, when they were king of the hill and cock o' the walk; now he admires Urban Meyer and the Gators. Why is he *that way*? Was he born with the bandwagon gene while I got the loveable loser gene instead?
That same guy who accused me of being a pessimist noted that we are all 'fans of the game'. I'm sorry, but that's just like claiming we're 'citizens of the world'--largely a crock, at least at this point in history. We root for teams, and for players, and most of us like to win. It's American, I'm told; we're a competitive people. Capitalism is competitive; the US is competitive, and that is what has made us great: the drive to win, and the drive to be better than everyone else, all the time. I can understand that, but there's only one winner and if rooting for the Yankees (slash Patriots slash Lakers slash Gators) is like rooting for US Steel (which it is), then what's the point? Is it really any fun to root for a team you KNOW is going to win, or at least have a really, really good chance of winning because they spent twice as much on EVERYTHING as the nearest competitor? I think not.
I think the fun of rooting for a team, the point of rooting for a team, is to feel you're part of that team. It's harder now, because the players move so much, but a franchise that goes up and down, that struggles to win sometimes, is so much more moving to me that the losses are worth it. Sometimes, methinks, suffering with a team is more meaningful than celebrating with them. If, after all, there is no sadness, how do you know what happiness really feels like, and will you really appreciate it?
I grew up, for instance, with the SF Giants and the 49ers. The Giants were good, with Mays, McCovey, Fuentes, Speier, et.al., but they could never seem to make it over the hump. It was worse when the Dodgers were the impediment, but it was always frustrating to come up short, just short, year after year. Frustrating, but not as bad as the 49ers of the John Brodie/Steve DeBerg eras, who not only came up short, but got beaten up and shown up in the process. Still, I took inspiration from those teams. I wasn't the most talented of athletes (I've often said that Michael Jordan and I have a lot in common: same height, same weight, same hair---only the talent separates us), but i saw how DeBerg, in particular, picked himself up after every play and went back and gave it his best. I saw how young players on the Giants worked at being better players, and how they made losing into something positive. And i tried to emulate that.
I hope I still do. So: Gator fans, Cowboy fans, Patriot fans, Tarheel fans, and all of you others who love your dynasties, be not offended. I don't "hate" your teams, I just find them empty and tedious when they win year-in and year-out. If you relish it, fine; I wish you the best. Caveat emptor, however; nothing lasts forever. I hope you'll find something positive when the run is over. Me? I fear not, for Underdog is here.
There's no need to fear ...
Posted on: November 13, 2009 4:30 pm