Back in 1993, I became a fan of the Phoenix Suns. I followed them through the regular season and into the playoffs, rooting for them to their eventual loss to the Chicago Bulls. I remained a Suns fan for most of the 1990s. So why would someone in Indiana be a fan of a team in a state where I had never been? Simple: I was a fan of Charles Barkley and wanted to see him win a championship. When he left the Suns, my fandom waned.
I have taken a LOT of heat over the years for either not supporting the “hometown” team at all, or for supporting a different team over the “hometown” team. So there is an obvious question: Why do I have to root for the hometown team? Why am I not allowed to like who I want to like? Why am I mandated to like a certain team just because I happen to live in a specific city or state? And most importantly, why do you care who I root for and why is it any of your business? How do my opinions on sports impact you at all?
Amin Elhassan solidified my thinking on this in ESPN’s NBA Lockdown podcast a few weeks ago. Just because you live in a specific city, why should you be obligated to follow a poorly-run team that is no fun to watch? If you live in Sacramento, why are you obligated to be loyal to the raging dumpster fire that is the Sacramento Kings? Why should people in New York be required to follow and root for a team that has been poorly managed for many years and continues to make stupid decisions? Would it not be better if a team actually earned your loyalty by being fun to watch or having the players you like?
Here is the bottom line: I will root for who I want to root for, and I will root against who I want to root against. If I refuse to support a team because I do not like a specific player, I have that prerogative. If I choose to root for a different team because I am a fan of a player or set of players they have, then that is my prerogative. This is not a religion, where I am betraying a “god” by bowing to a different “god.” I am not committing treason against my city or state. I am enjoying a sport, and having fun doing it. After all, is that not the entire point of sports, to have some fun and escape?
We have far too much division, anger, and hatred in our lives for this. We have too much misery and suffering in the world to get offended at something so meaningless. We should not treat sports like a religion and we should not treat people who do not cheer for our team as blasphemers or heretics. Chill out and relax.