I started to work on a column with a pseudo-preview for the 2012 MLB season but I distracted myself when I started eff-ing around with my fantasy lineup (Beard Wilson shut down for the season already??? NOOOOOOO!!!!)… And that’s when I switched gears. Because there’s an important article I wanted to write. It has to do with how fantasy sports are affecting a fan’s approach. Are you a fan or are you a “fan”?
If you watch sports, you’re supposed to have a team. And you’re supposed to be loyal to that team. Not only loyal… but that’s YOUR team, thick and thin. That’s the first place your eyes go when you get online to check out the scores. That’s the first game you look for when the ticker on ESPN shows what’s happening (assuming your team isn’t on TV because THEN YOU SHOULD ALREADY BE WATCHING IT!). And when your team isn’t highlighted, you can’t help but think/say things like “Goddamnit” or “[insert team scapegoat] is an asshole” or “Typical”**.
**I’m an Orioles fan.
But now fantasy sports is prevalent. I avoided them for a long time–based on the fact that my original experience made me mad (I drafted almost an entire team of Atlanta Falcons back in 2007 when I thought Michael Vick was taking me to the playoffs… and then I got stuck with Joey Harrington and a 4-12 season). As recently as the 2011 NFL season, I still refused to play fantasy. But when the NBA lockout ended, I couldn’t help but join my friend Holland’s league.** And then I found myself playing 2012 fantasy baseball. But why does fantasy suck? Because following YOUR team takes a backseat to following your FANTASY team.
**Honestly, there are just way too many awesome basketball players. It’s hard to confine yourself to one team when there’s players like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose and Blake Griffen just lighting up the highlight reels.
That leaves us with the new generation of fans. The ones who claim to be a fan of Team X but shows up wearing the jersey of Player Y because he’s so “awesome.” I’m too young to say this with any validation, but I’m pretty sure a 1980s Celtic fan is NEVER going to show up wearing a Magic Johnson jersey. No real Red Sox fan owns a Yankees jersey. But now… well, I’d be ashamed to show you my closet if you were conducting a fan background investigation.
And so it becomes necessary for some rules. These are the rules when it comes to being a fan. A real fan. What does it mean to be a real fan? Well, there’s one ultimate test. Would you go deep into enemy territories and still wear that team proudly?
Guess who didn’t belong?
#1- Where you are from dictates your default team. If you are from Philadelphia, you get the Phillies, the Eagles, the 76ers, and the Flyers. Simple. If you are from California, you have to go with proximity. Los Angeles? Lucky you. You can have your choice between the Dodgers and the Angels and you can pick between the Clippers and the Lakers.
1a- UNLESS you aren’t represented within a sport. Pittsburgh natives get a free pass when picking a basketball team. Los Angeles residents can have their choice in football teams.
1b- UNLESS your family roots are elsewhere. If every generation of your family has been a Cowboys fan, but your current family raised you in New York, you get a pass. Your neighborhood will probably think you’re an asshole, but you still watch games in the friendly confines of your house.
**For traditional purposes, I think you stay within your family’s choices. You don’t have to, but you’re kind of a shitty son/daughter if your family has always watched the Dolphins but since you grew up in Boston, you rep the Pats. Dick move.
#2- You have ONE team. That’s the team you rep. That’s your priority. Those are the team colors that dominate your wardrobe. BUT you may hedge your bets and have a B-team. A couple rules apply when chosing that B-team.
2a- Your B-team can’t be in your same league/conference. If you’re a Utah Jazz fan, your B-team can’t be in the Western Conference. Cardinals fan? Fine. But you can’t pick anyone from the National League.
2b- If the circumstance applies, your B-team can’t be in your same area. It’s a no-go if you try claiming the Mets AND the Yankees. No 49ers-Chargers combos, no teaming up the Buccaneers and the Jags.
2c- Your A-team always takes priority. I don’t care if by chance both of your teams are playing in the championship and your B-team carries the Vegas odds. Looks like you’re gonna lose money because you HAVE to go with the A-team.
2d- Your A-team is a lifelong deal. Don’t try saying you’re a Panthers fan and then suddenly “remembering” that your family is from Wisconsin so it’s ok to be a Packers fan. Too late. Your B-team? 25-year contracts. Every 25 years in life, you may change teams. That being said, at ages 24, 49, and 74 you are basically a free agent. Feel free to begin browsing and taking offers. And at ages 26, 51, and 76, you gotta make a decision. You have that one year to test it out. But then you’re locked in for 25 years.
#3- If you’re new to a sport… fan’s choice. And I mean NEW. As in you’ve never followed hockey before. But if you’re an American-born male, I find it hard to believe you’re “new” to a sport after age 18.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULES:
**1- If your team does something devastating, you have regained your freedom to decide. Sonics fans, I’m talking to you (but seriously, the Thunder are so awesome I think you better just let wounds heal). Bobcats fan… Michael Jordan is a cancer to your organization–you are released.
**2- Your team’s star devastates you. I’m talking Albert Pujols/Lebron James kind of star-induced devastation. Lamar Odom tanking the Mavs does not count. Kobe refusing to acknowledge that maybe it’s Bynum’s time… does not count.
**3- You are a female. But your boyfriend/husband/significant other watches sports. But more power to ya if you have a team and you aren’t budging.
**4- Expansion teams. Free slate. You know it’s probably gonna be a few years before you stop sucking. But if you want to be part of the initial launch, acceptable.
4a- UNLESS that expansion team is entering your previous team’s territory.
Those are the rules. And not following them means you are a bandwagon jumper. And if you’re ok with that, cool. But don’t expect invitations from me and my friends if we’re out having drinks for the game. You’ll be sitting off in the corner at your own table.