It’s not easy being a fan of a sports franchise that is based outside your geographic area. Especially if the team you root for is a natural rival to the hometown favorite. And should you not happen to have any discernible geographical ties to your team of choice, well, prepare to die, Iron Eagle.
I live in Boston - actually, as of this article's publish date, South Boston - and I’ve been up here for the better part of 10 years. As John Stamos-Romjin would say, identifying the big four sports teams in these parts is a no-brainer. But, assuming you are the dumbass who actually married Jesse from "Full House" (have mercy!), I’ll spell it out for you. It’s the B’s (Bruins), the C’s (Celtics), the Patsies and the BoSokkies.
We'll start with the NHL. I don’t really follow pro hockey (BC Eagles, 2001 NCAA D1 Champs!). After all, I was born and raised in Connecticut, which, while technically part of New England and therefore ostensibly a hockey state, hasn’t had a team since the early 90s, and even then the term “team” was a stretch for the Hartford Whalers. They played in a mall.
I do follow the NBA, and I’m a Lakers fan. Don’t get confused; I am from Connecticut. But the Constitution State has no professional basketball teams (no, I don’t consider women’s basketball professional, in the "worthwhile" sense of the term.) I actually began my life as a Celtics fan until my older brother Rob alerted me to the superiority of Magic and Showtime. Thus, sometime around the age of 5, either due to some ill-advised sibling worship and/or a lot of beat-downs, I was converted to the purple and gold. You can’t call me a frontrunner because, by geographic standards, the Celtics were probably the conventional choice (I never was a NY-minded Connecticutian), and rooting for the Celtics around that time would be just as incriminating. Those two teams owned basketball in the 80s, duh, and even though the Celts have since faded and the Lakers are back in action, my loyalty was born decades ago, not when Shaq and Kobe joined up.
Baseball is a slightly different story, primarily because I adopted the team of my other, oldest brother Mark and joined Red Sox Nation, against the wishes of Rob, a hardcore Yankees fan. Life in my house was easy (in as much as being a BoSox fan is ever easy) until the mid 90s, since the Yankees sucked so bad before Torre and Rivera. Hell, I even admitted to liking a few players, like Donnie Baseball and Pags. But then they started winning and I was forced to watch the 1996 World Series video 15 times one Christmas day. That marathon, along with my ongoing tenure at Boston College and the obnoxious entitlement of Jeter and the rest of the pinstripes, helped stoke the flames of both my hatred for the Yanks and my loyalty to the Sox.
Now we come to the real issue, which surrounds my passion for the NFL. I am a diehard Miami Dolphins fan. I'm not a Patriots fan, not a Giants fan like my dad, and certainly not a f*$%ing J-E-T-S (SUCK! SUCK! SUCK!) fan. Again, blame this one on Mark’s contagious allegiance, along with Dan Marino, who, with the help of the Marks Brothers, was shredding the league in spectacular fashion as I was growing up. Once I got to college and the Pats started winning, thanks to Parcells and Bledsoe, life as a Dolphins fan suddenly got much harder. They were battling the Pats for the AFC East title every year and I was living on a campus and in a city dominated by heavily accented misanthropes who finally had a steady horse to bet on. An outspoken confidence in Jimmy Johnson and a few December collapses later - not to mention a preposterous Super Bowl victory by The Brady Bubs, resulting in suddenly arrogant Patriots fans - and life in Boston as a Fins fan just kept getting worse.
I can deal with taunts about superiority and choke-jobs and inferior quaterbacking (29-13 as a starter, bitch!). I'm used to generic anti-Dolphin antagonism. They're in the same division as New England, they play each other twice a year, they share players, they battle for rank; it's called a rivalry. But while I certainly love a good drunken screaming match, hearing my fanship questioned because I wasn’t born in South Florida got old really fast.
“Are you from Miami?”
“Why do you root for them, then?”
My older brother, and Marino, influenced me when I was little.
How so? They haven’t won a thing in my lifetime (although they are the only undefeated team EVER).
The bottom line is, the measure of a fan is not geogrpahy, it's loyalty. And while I might not have grown up in or anywhere near Florida, who cares? I’ve spent 20+ years of my life rooting for the Miami Dolphins and that devotion passes any and all fandom litmus tests.
But, unfortunately, that usually isn’t enough to keep people off my back, and it gets frustrating. The way I see it, if you don’t have a team in your state, it’s fair game to pick a team that you like. But you can’t be fair-weather; you’ve got to stick with them through it all. That’s why being a Red Sox fan is so pure. It’s impossible to be a fair-weather fan; it’s always, always gloomy in Boston. Just ask Dan Shaughnessy.
Besides, I think the idea of having to be loyal to the local team is bunk. I have to struggle to be a Dolphins fan. I have to go to bars on Sunday mornings, provided that I even find one in my area that has a satellite. I have to scour the internet and read out-of-town papers for team news, and I have to pray ESPN does a segment on my team in order to see some elusive TV coverage. Were I a Pats fan, all I'd have to do is pick up the daily paper or flip on the local news. That's not devotion, it's capitulation. I work hard at my fanaticism. I bleed with my team as much as you do, maybe even more. I just don't have a community of likeminded people with whom to share my despair and occasional joy.
Sometimes local coverage can be so ubiquitous and hyperbolic that it's a huge turn off, like a chick with hairy armpits. For example, according to the geography argument, I should be a UCONN fan. Once Jim Calhoun arrived there in the mid 80s, the program took off and Husky fever gripped my home state. Seeing the local media grasp at straws just to claim a good team for its own was disgusting and pathetic, especially since they weren't a blip on the screen when they were bad, much like the Lady Huskies. I rebelled against it from the start. It didn't help to hear radio stations play a modified version of an already annoying song, “What I Like About UCONN!”, and as a result of all those things, including my status as a BC alumnus, I became a hardcore Husky basher.
It's a strange thing to grow up in a sports black hole. I had teams all around me, but none in front of me. Everyone I knew had split loyalties: Red Sox/Knicks, Celtics/Yankees, etc. If you have no real reason to root for a team other than proximity, why root for them at all? It's like being betrothed. Sure, you might eventually learn to love your bride, but you still didn't get to choose her on your own.
I deserve respect for my loyalty and I resent being questioned due to my location. I am proud to live in Boston, and I love the sports atmosphere here. I can think of nothing more thrilling than to experience a Red Sox World Series victory while residing in the area, and yes, I do feel that a Lakers championship or the forthcoming Dolphins Super Bowl victory are a bit diluted by my estrangement from their epicenters. But I can't change loyalties now, and I don't want to. That's the point. I already chose, and chose wisely, and I'm no turncoat. I regret that I have but one life to root for the Dolphins and the Red Sox, and whether I reside in Boston or Miami or Moscow or Paris, I'm still getting drunk as shit when they take it all.
Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".
ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE
more about mike julianelle
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
8.18.03 @ 1:16a
Well, at least as a Laker fan you'll get to experience a championship. Because your other teams certainly aren't going to get it done for you.
8.18.03 @ 12:24p
People often question why I'm a rabid Niners fan when I grew up in Pennsylvania. But it was for similar reasons... I started watching when the Niners were like the Roman Empire of football. It was a simple choice. Not to mention that Joe Montana is a GOD!
Then I moved to North Carolina and the Panthers joined the NFC West (a move I still can't understand, since you couldn't get more East). And all of a sudden I was in a rivalry and getting heckled at Ericson Stadium by a bunch of cardigan wearing, wine sipping Panther fans*.
Well, at least I finally live in the state of my boys now. It's nice to root for the home (sort of) team. So, Mike, you could always move.
8.18.03 @ 12:35p
Mike moves to South Beach.
It has an Ernest Goes to Camp ring to it, doesn't it?
8.18.03 @ 1:06p
Growing up as a Phillies fan, it was kind of a no-brainer regarding which New York City baseball team I would root for during my tenure here. Basically there's no way in hell I could ever root for the Mets. When you add to that the fact that it's really, really easy to be a Yanks fan for the last few years, I now count myself having one favorite NL team and one favorite AL team. Of course when the Phils play the Yanks, my loyalties lie with my childhood.
8.18.03 @ 4:22p
Just to clear things up. Mike became a Lakers fan due to numerous beat-downs. I then made him worship me. The bottom line is Yanks rule and the Sox, well, you know. One more thing - die UConn fans, die!
8.18.03 @ 4:45p
I used to like the Dolphins. For their colors. When I was eight.
8.18.03 @ 4:48p
We know Mike's a Dolphin fan - even his car is teal.
8.18.03 @ 5:24p
Damn right it is. How'd you know that?
8.18.03 @ 5:52p
I was the one who stole your stereo.
8.18.03 @ 6:43p
Come on, we pay attention in here. It's also like a Taurus or something and you inherited it from your grandfather.
Intrepid is a rather frightening life force.
8.19.03 @ 12:55a
Weird. I also liked the Dolphins as a child, in part for the aforementioned color reason, but mostly because they were the only professional sports franchise in my home state. Larry Czonka!
Then I turned 4 and discovered baseball and I've pretty well hated football ever since.
8.19.03 @ 10:33a
Picking teams based on the color of their uniforms sounds like something Claire Huxtable would do. Losers.
It's a Pontiac Grand Am.
8.19.03 @ 11:50a
You only picked the team your brother liked. In the scheme of things, you just picked something someone else already had picked, which is no choice at all. At least someone picking a team based on colors used some personal choice.
You're the loser. You're just a follower not making your own choice. You couldn't even get financing for a Grand Am.
8.19.03 @ 11:53a
Picking a team isn't the issue, sticking with a team is. Everyone picks teams for some spurious reason: unis, championships, hometown, etc.
What's the difference between picking a team my state follows and picking a team my family does?
Also, Jeff, when did you wake up from your coma?
8.19.03 @ 12:14p
I don't care why you picked a team, but you insulted people for picking a team just based on color above. I'm saying it's just as valid a reason as any other.
I'm not in a coma, I don't care about Pro football or pro-baseball (except minor league) enough to discuss it. Why do you ask about my coma status? Do you miss me, Mikey?
8.19.03 @ 1:07p
I was missing you. Then you started being a prick again, and I stopped. You're acting like Theo Huxtable.
8.19.03 @ 1:42p
your insults are much like your writing; mildly entertaining, mainly obtuse.
How am I the prick when you're the one insulting people for how they pick a team?
8.19.03 @ 1:47p
You're being a prick by taking insults about the Huxtables really seriously. If I was trying to hurt feelings, I'd call you Mr. Drummond.
8.19.03 @ 2:22p
I take back what I said before. Your statements aren't mainly obtuse, they're wholly obtuse.
8.19.03 @ 2:25p
Suddenly, this column became much more entertaining.
8.19.03 @ 3:08p
Happy birthday, John Stamos! I bet that blue shit gets everywhere, you lucky long distance whoring bastard.