There really isn’t a clear criterion for selecting a favorite sports team; the motives are varied and cover a vast range of conditions.
Maybe you spent your summers in Detroit where the Red Wings captured your allegiance. Perhaps your worship of Cal Ripken, Jr. was the catalyst for your love for the Orioles. Or maybe you simply fancy the color purple, in which case the Minnesota Vikings would be your natural NFL choice.
However random the reason, there is one thing that should remain constant: You pick a team and you stick with them.
I’ve followed the Los Angeles Lakers ever since a rookie named Magic Johnson once played all five positions on the floor against Philadelphia in the 1980 Finals. So after the 2009 edition of the Lakers won the 14th championship in franchise history, I was understandably thrilled by their success.
But so, it seemed, was every one else.
Suddenly, Laker memorabilia materialized from thin air. Documented Laker-haters were dressed in Kobe Bryant jerseys. Laker hats with the tags still attached covered the head of every other kid. Those obnoxious Laker flags adorned every car on the freeway like a strange presidential motorcade.
Sure, I’m proud of my team’s accomplishments but I don’t want to share the moment with wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Relationships are fickle in 2009. Our culture lacks the vision to look too far ahead and our minimal powers of reflection barely allows us to remember what we had for lunch. Our obsession with the bottom line prompts us to demand of each other what a big-haired Janet Jackson inquired during the summer of 1986: “What have you done for me lately?”
The choices we make in selecting our preferred sports franchises reflect this fleeting attitude. Fans switch their allegiance in teams like a seasonal wardrobe change.
As a new champion is crowned at the culmination of each sports season, the surge in the winning team’s popularity reaches a deafening crescendo. Should that team fail to repeat its success in the subsequent year, that same team loyalty would meet the same fate as the mutton-chop side burn or a Croc sandal.
Maybe the advent of player free agency and the rise of fantasy sports leagues have contributed to this Machiavellian devotion, where the focus is on statistical analysis and final outcomes rather than the quality of a player’s effort or the spirit of the competition.
The idea of a monogamous relationship with our favorite sports club is a vintage way of thinking and grows rarer with each season.
But like any bad fashion, even the really terrible ones, the cyclical ebb and flow of things will bring everything back into proper focus.
Maybe we will miraculously re-develop the bravery to devote ourselves to something we can believe in and be willing to accept the bad with the good.