I thought I would get things going by writing an actual article. I wrote it quickly, but I hope you enjoy and comment.
When I was really young and I first fell in love with the NBA, I didn’t really have a favorite team. I had favorite players. The first player I ever heard about was either Michael Jordan or Shaquille O’neal. One of the first games I remember watching was a Bulls game, on a Sunday afternoon on NBC. Michael Jordan was dismantling some other team and making it look so easy. I don’t know if the concept of favorites occurred to me back then, but if it did then Jordan was probably the choice. But as I became aware of his popularity, my interest in him decreased. For some reason or another, I was born with the ability to hate things solely because other people liked them. So as I began to realize how much Jordan was adored, my hatred for him grew to equal the public’s level of adoration. So I moved on. But I didn’t move far. Scottie Pippen became my man. Later I grew out of him and started replacing him with the new and exciting young players. The younger they were, the more I liked them. I bought a Kobe jersey when he was still 18. I practiced rolling off of invisible screens to catch backdoor alley-oops like Kevin Garnett. I looked up the rosters of every team because it listed the ages of the players; Tracy Mcrady was my favorite Raptor when he was averaging 5 minutes a game. Basically if a player was young I assumed he could dunk. And if he could dunk, he was exciting. That was all that mattered.
But my love of players eventually developed into a love of teams. Growing up in western Canada, I didn’t ever feel a sense of loyalty based on geography. We weren’t really close to any of the teams. So I stuck with the players. When I realized Kobe was a jerk, or when he became popular, I moved on.
As I grew up and came to understand the game a little better, I began to appreciate more than just huge dunks. I began to admire the way John Stockton and Karl Malone played the game. It wasn’t flashy, but it was beautiful. The Jazz became the perfect candidate for my favorite team. They were the good guys against Michael Jordan, the super villain of my childhood. But that didn’t last long. I didn’t really feel any sense of loyalty to them. I started liking them when they were already at the top, and probably would have liked any team that filled that role against Jordan’s Bulls. So what seems like a perfect match turned out to be only superficial.
It turns out the roots of my dedication to a specific team started long before I ever really realized it. And the reasons for my dedication seem much more shallow than my reasons for liking the Jazz. But despite seeming shallow, my reasons for true dedication are much more real than just supporting the current competition to Michael Jordan. Let’s go back to the beginning.
Sometime not long after seeing my first Bulls game, I remember watching a game, not on NBC, being announced by someone with a heavy accent who kept referring to his partner as “Cooz”. The team they were announcing for wore the most wonderful green jerseys. They weren’t fancy like Orlando’s or Houston’s. They didn’t have a cool logo. The only thing written on them was something I read as “keltics” (which, turns out, is how it’s probably supposed to be pronounced). I was in love. My whole life, my favorite color has been green. Not light green. Not dark green. Not forest green. Just green. And those jerseys were pure green – the definition of green.
From that point on, whenever I happened upon that higher cable station (which I guess was a Boston network), I found myself hoping the guys in green would win. Turns out I became a Celtics fan at the worst time possible. They were awful in the 90s. And they were a terrible team for someone like me who loved individual players. They didn’t have anyone. Come on Dana Baros and Dino Radja! But I loved them all the same. And while it seems strange to base a love for a team on the love of its color, it can work. It has worked for me through all these years.
Then in 1995 Canada got its first NBA teams. For some reason I loved Toronto and hated Vancouver. I guess my love for Jurassic Park outweighed my love for forest wildlife. It was the right choice. The Raptors have stuck around and gradually replaced the Celtics as my top favorite. This was for one reason: my patriotism. My love for Canada outweighs my love for green. But just barely. (A green maple leaf would make me lose my mind)
So why am I telling you all this? I wanted to make up a list of rules of being a true fan. I remember reading a Bill Simmons article about this a few years ago. I hope I don’t steal too much from him. But this is something I’ve thought about a lot, and I wanted to get my rules out there. And I hope this sparks some sort of discussion.
Rule 1: You can pick a favorite team for any reason at all
For me it was because Boston wore my favorite color. It could just as easily have been the Charlotte Hornets because the first basketball I ever had was one of those outdoor rubber ones, and it had the Charlotte hornet all over it. Or it could have been Phoenix because I loved using the password and playing as the Gorilla on NBA Jam. Any reason will do. And that brings me to the next rule
Rule 2: You must stick with that team no matter what
That means sticking with them when they’re terrible and when they’re awesome. Sometimes that’s hard for me. When they Celtics became good in 2008, and all the bandwagon jumpers jumped on board, it made it more difficult. But I was still excited. Also, Rule 1 and Rule 2 depend on each other. You can’t pick a favorite team for any reason if you’ve already become attached to one. But again, you must stick with that team through good times and bad.
Rule 3: You can only have one
I know. It seems like I’ve broken that rule. But this one is crucial for obeying rule 2. Having a few favorite teams seems like the best way to feel like a true fan of the current best team. But that’s cheating. That would involve breaking rule 2. You’d be leaving one team and jumping to another. You can’t do that. So how do I justify being a Celtics fan AND a Raptors fan? Easy. I use Exception 1: Geography. This could be controversial, but I feel like the only reason you can justify having 2 favorite teams is if you don’t live close to any of the teams. But the 2 favorite teams will never be on the same level. They have to play each other sometime and you have to root for one. For me, it was hard to choose between Boston and Toronto. Then they played each other and I couldn’t help but cheer for Toronto. But I think that also has something to do with how they’re not good, and Boston currently is.
Another exception is Exception 2: Steve Nash. This one means that anyone in Canada can claim to be a Suns fan while Steve Nash is there. Normally this would be bandwagon fanship (not a word, but you know what it means). But Canada has never had anyone that awesome, so it’s only fair. And even when he retires, no one in Canada has to pretend they still like the Suns. No one will admit it, but we all feel the same.
Well I thought I had more rules, but I can’t think of them now. And I want to get this posted. So let’s get some discussion going, and then in a little while maybe I’ll post an updated version.