The creation of lifetime link for a sports fan

How does somebody become a sports fan of a specific team, or a specific player? A fan whose DNA sustains debatable decisions, bad luck and years of futility. A fan for life.

For me, it’s starts with a family analysis.

I have one son who has been a fan of the Montreal Canadiens all his life, or since he was four, when Guy Lafleur autographed the cast protecting his surgically-repaired dislocated elbow. Today, that “four-year-old” has a man cave of Habs memorabilia that, even for me, defies belief.

I have another son who fell in love — okay, he had one date — with the Denver Broncos because they wore orange uniforms and orange was, and is, his favourite colour. He does not have a man cave of John Elway books and highlights, even though the Broncos’ quarterback progressed to club president.

I have a daughter who follows the Vancouver Canucks more than she follows everything except two little girls who keep her on the run, because she once received an autographed picture of the most exciting Canucks’ player (then or now) on which he wished her a happy birthday. Fortunately, it was her birthday.

One generation later…

I have a grandson who grew up in Emo and became a fan of the Washington Capitals, almost as strange a geographical juxtaposition as the Montreal kid who liked orange-coloured football jerseys from Denver. The grandson’s reason for being a Capitals fan is Alex Ovechkin. His reason for being an Ovechkin fan is: As a six-year-old, he was watching hockey highlights on TV when Ovechkin scored a goal while lying on his back after being dragged to the ice in Arizona (ironically, the Coyotes’ coach was hockey’s greatest scorer, Wayne Gretzky). The moment has been immortalized as “The Goal” — just as Michael Jordan’s 1989 buzzer beater became “The Shot” and Dwight Clark’s 1981 reception from Joe Montana became “The Catch.”

So, how fans become lifers has changed. Or has it? The bottom line is there’s no formula for being DNA’d, although living in the team’s city is traditionally the most popular reason, of course.

That’s how the father/grandfather of these four became a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan. It was a given, living in a city where alternative sports headlines were made by what happened in other cities, or by local curlers, golfers and occasionally minor-league baseball players on a road to nowhere.

Baseball became my sport of choice when my parents took their favourite eight-year-old on a gruelling 18-hour drive to Chicago — in summer, in a car that was air conditioned by opening the windows. The trip was to visit relatives. A side benefit, for me, was going to Comiskey Park with the Yankees in town, my first of what would be almost 1,000 major-league games.

I became a fan of the Chicago White Sox.

My only void, hockey, was filled by seeing the NHL standings in the newspaper. Toronto was in last place, and sympathy took over. Soon I was following players from both the Sox and the Leafs on the sports pages, my only real contact with sports news.

For today’s young fans, the source of sports loyalty is social media. But what about the DNA?