Love, hate for teams far from rational

Something that’s always interested me is how people adopted a favourite sports team.
Sure, a lot of times geography is an influence, especially for fans with a team nearby or a local connection to a player on that team (i.e., a younger generation of Chicago Blackhawks’ fans because of defenceman Duncan Keith, who got his start playing minor hockey here).
Sometimes folks are a fan of a player first and the team second, regardless of geography (say, Pittsburgh and Washington for Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, respectively).
Maybe it’s something that stems from a family tradition, or out of respect for a team’s winning tradition (see N.Y. Yankees or L.A. Lakers).
But how about things that are a little more random?
In my case, I became a Minnesota Twins’ fan simply because my parents brought me back a Twins’ cap from a trip to see the home team take on the Toronto Blue Jays back when I was a little one.
That’s all that did it.
If it had been a Jays’ cap, the whole course of my fandom history could have been altered (no playoff baseball in my sports-conscious lifetime, how depressing).
Sometimes things can be a little more random. I had a friend who became a Nashville Predators’ fan, seemingly, just to be contrarian. But it was just a phase as he’s now selected San Jose (thanks to Jeremy Roenick’s late-career legacy) and the N.Y. Rangers (once again, pretty much just to be a contrarian since he’s a Sean Avery supporter).
The flip side of that is how do we decide the teams we hate?
On the one hand, a Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan and Montreal Canadiens’ fan probably shouldn’t be housed in the same body, but it’s happened. A Boston Red Sox and Yankees’ fan is even more egregious.
I’ll admit, even as a foolish and withering Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ booster, I was cheering for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday’s Grey Cup (I just hate them less than every other CFL team, okay?)
Even so, rivalries still should matter. When heated up to a certain point, those make for the best environments in sports (just as long as it’s not to the point of hooliganism, of course).
Get one team’s group of strong supporters against another and watch the sparks fly. Outstanding!
But it’s a weird situation cheering against respectable teams in bad situations. For example, the majority of Canadians cringed when the Carolina Hurricanes took the Stanley Cup down Tobacco Road back in 2006.
But the guys who carried it—hard-working, blue-collar guys like Rod Brind’Amour, Ray Whitney, and Erik Cole, just to name a few—aren’t easy to hate. Objectively, it doesn’t make sense.
And even though Nashville didn’t win a Cup, or even win a playoff series for that matter, it’s hard to believe anyone outside of a fan of a Central Division rival could get riled up beyond apathy or perhaps mild dislike over these guys.
Well, at least for anything other than their location.
They draft well, make savvy signings, and tend to get the most out of limited talent. If, say, a Pittsburgh Penguins’ fan hates Nashville, they probably would have rooted for Goliath, too.
Mind you, a lot of what I’m spewing is cold, calculating, and rational. But most aspects of fandom don’t fit this description—and heck, why should they?
It can be just as fun for a Habs’ fan to get wrapped up in a moment in the stands at the Bell Centre trying to add an extra dimension to yet another match-up with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Fandom is just another expression of human emotions. You can’t always control who you love and you can’t always control who you hate, and the recipients on both sides of the spectrum don’t always have to make sense.
But if there is a cold, calculating side to your preferences, don’t hesitate to embrace it. The Florida Marlins probably are about due for another random World Series run that the Blue Jays just won’t provide.
Bandwagon seats still available!

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