Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sports fans: what are we identifying with?

So, my dad is perturbed that fans root for a team, no matter who's on it. Like, if all the players from the Red Sox were to switch places with all the players from the Yankees for one game, New Yorkers would still root for the Yankees. It is an interesting question, though. As a sports fan, what are we identifying with?

I'm no psychologist, but I think there are several reasons we root for a team, no matter how different the face of it may be from one year to the next. One is that so many players are traded so often, teams are always being broken up and rebuilt, that if you root for the players, you could end up rooting for every team in the league. Logistically, that's just stupid.

I know people from my town who are diehard Green Bay Packers fans, and a girl my age who swears by the Dallas Cowboys. People like winning teams, or they like tradition, or they like the teams their fathers (or mothers) like. For me, though, it comes down to the fact that I root for the New York Yankees because I am a New Yorker. I'm not rooting for Derek Jeter to win. I'm rooting for me to win, for New York to win. When I cheer for Jorge Posada, I'm cheering for myself - he's just my representative on the field. So, the players can change and always be different, but they're all out there making sure New York and I win.

Of course, that's not to say that I don't identify with players as well. When Andy Pettitte was with the Houston Astros, I rooted for him to win his games (not too hard to do as the Astros and Yankees are in two different leagues), but having essentially grown up with someone like Derek Jeter, I think I would still root for him even if he went to another team. And for reasons I can't explain, I root for players, like Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, which makes me root for the Twins as a team, even though I have no substantial reason to identify with him.

I do have an interest identification process, though, that seems to be extremely less discerning that most other peoples. Like, I can root for any New York team, simply because they are from New York. Whenever the Buffalo Bills were in the Super Bowl, I could cheer for them, because I'm told Buffalo is technically in New York (though as a Long Islander, I have trouble considering anything north of Westchester New York - sorry! You're all just part of a different world!). I spent four years living in DC, so I feel okay supporting DC teams, which apparently extends to nearby Baltimore as well, as when the Ravens played the Giants in the Super Bowl, I figured I won no matter which team won (see how it comes back to me winning again?) It's this whole hierarchy of teams I root for. Like when my favorite team gets knocked out (like the Yankees), I have a backup (the Mets). But they got knocked out, so now I'm choosing which team I best identify with - do I feel any connection to the Dodgers because of Joe Torre being their manager and my brother living out there? Not really. Same case with the Chicago teams, since I technically went to Loyola in Chicago with tons of kids from Chicago when I studied abroad in Rome. And yet, I do identify with the Twins, because of Mauer as well as one of my best friends living outside Minneapolis. I can find reasons for identification, but apparently I can't force it.

Anyway, these are the things I think about. It's an interesting subject. But maybe I'm really misusing the word "interesting" here.

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