The word fan is short for fanatic, which I always thought was a bit of an obsessive sounding word. Even though I’m from the east coast with the more sports-obsessed culture, I never considered myself a fanatic. I guess it was just my way of being a self-righteous 20-something. We are all fanatics in a sense; we bleed, scream, argue, and fight for the teams we love. We rock their colors, wear other men’s jerseys, and speak about them like we have a stake in ownership.
The irony of sports is for all we invest into it, we can’t step out on the field, ice, or court and impact the game in a way we sometimes wish we could. All of our hopes and dreams are on the shoulders of ownership, management, and our beloved athletes. In the back of our minds we know this to be true, but somewhere along the line sports causes us to lose all sense, logic, and reason. So I figured I’d give everyone a glimpse into why or how I came to be a fan of all the teams, players, and organizations I’m a fanatic of. Simply because I don’t want there to be any confusion in the future about where I stand.
1. NFL (favorite sport when it’s not basketball season)
The Buffalo Bills are the only team in sports that I would say I’m a true fan of. I’m talking never missed a game1 since the music city miracle,2 aka the last time we tasted the playoffs. My entire mood on fall Sundays is determined by how the Bills do; which means out of the 5 to 7 games we win a year, I’m thinking Super Bowl. If you’re thinking that makes me delusional, then I’d agree with you, but that’s just Bills culture.
To understand the culture, you have to realize that Buffalo, NY is a rust belt city that was turned upside-down by technological automation. You’ve heard this story a million times: booming mid-west/east coast city whose economy is build on industry doesn’t adapt to the rapid loss and decline of factory jobs. You hear the stories from the old heads of “how it used to be” and “back in my day”. You see pictures of how alive and thriving the city used to be. Well through the doom and gloom one of the things that most Buffalonians can cling to is their love for the Bills. It’s like a Sunday ritual for my family to crowd around the big screen after church, just to watch our loveable losers. Each September is like “BILLieve” or “this is our year” and each November it’s like “well there is always next year” or “AHHH I hate this team!!!.” While I believe we get more pain and heartbreak out of the bargain then happiness, my allegiance remains as strong as ever.
You can’t make this passion up. We owned the AFC in the 90’s. No one can take that away.
2. College Football (Roll damn tide!)
No I’m joking I have no college football allegiances because:
- Its not the most popular sport in the north east
- I picked Canisius over UB, which to you non-Western New Yorkers means I chose the school that got rid of their football team instead of watching Khalil Mack tear up the MAC.
I actually might be the only college football fan in Buffalo. Every time I inquire around about the latest college football gossip, nobody’s in the know. I literally had to beg people to watch Johnny Football YouTube highlights since none of my friends knew who he was.
I also feel like I’m the only guy in town that can watch past round two of the NFL draft and still know who some of these guys are. I’m not saying you have to be Mel Kiper or Todd McShay, but a little bit of college knowledge would do the people up north well. With all that said, I ride the trends; Oregon’s always fun to watch, Bama not so much – but I respect their dominance; I also respect the hell out of Stanford for being a “smart school” that competes every year. There’s not much pledging going on in my household – every year there’s a new trend, or a new bandwagon to watch.
3. NBA (favorite sport when it’s not football season)
Spurs and Knicks
Yes, I have a team for each conference, I’ve been told that this is cheating, but since I don’t care, I don’t care.
In Buffalo, a basic cable subscription will give you access to MSG, which means when the sabres aren’t on, the city has access to Knicks basketball. I suffered through the Starbury/Isaiah Thomas years – had hope in the Felton/Gallo/Amare YEAR – and suffered through the Melo/Injured-Amare years. The Knicks have a Bills quality to them where they compete hard in every game, but somehow find a way to lose every time. It got to the point this year where there was a stretch where they played Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando and a few others where they would give the game away every fourth quarter.
I started to tune in just to see how they would screw it up. You know that scene – BREAKING BAD SPOILER AHEAD – in Breaking Bad where Walt decides to pay the vacuum people in order to change their identities in order to get away from Gus, only to realized that all the money he had had been removed by Skylar. In that moment Walt let out a horrendous laugh that only echoed that his life was so messed up – so totally screwed that all there was left to do was laugh. – END OF SPOILER – well that how my relationship is with the Knicks. It’s so bad sometimes, that it’s funny. It’s entertaining to see how bad it is.
Other Knicks fans use my Melo criticism and Spurs love as ammo to say that I’m not a true Knicks fan. But to me, the Knicks are like the prodigal son. They are out in the wilderness against my wishes, and at times I don’t like what they do, but the second they come on home I’ll be waiting with open arms. C’mon Phil work that 13-championship magic!
Christmas Day 2008
I watched the Grinch Who Stole Christmas: Roger Mason Jr, break the Suns hearts with a stunning game winning shot, but it’s not the shot that drew my interest, it was how Popavich reacted to it. It was like “he’s been there before” or like “he gazed into the future and already seen it happen”. He was so stoic and emotionless that I was permanently interested from that day forward. I won’t say that this was the day I became a Spurs fan, but it was definitely when the seed was planted. Pop drew up a perfect play, and like a ballet the Spurs when through the steps and executed, a pattern that would continue for years up until this years’ championship.
Pop is like the Godfather after he orders a hit, not too emotional cause to him, its just business. Now to think of it, the whole Pop ordering a hit thing isn’t too out far out to the question. Nonetheless they play basketball the way I enjoy. Everyone sacrifices, forget all the stats, forget all the glamour, and media love – just laced up you shoes, set hard screens, get back on d, and execute.
Ray Allen broke my heart last year with the greatness-most-clutches-shot I ever seen in my life; in the contest that will forever be know as Game 6, but the Spurs took that pain and did what none of my other already mentioned favorite teams could do – respond to adversity.
4. NHL (great sport, I mean I’m from Buffalo)
I was just a youngling, not the full grow Jedi that I have grown into today when Western New York suffered the trauma of “No Goal”. The Sabres come in second to the Bills in my eyes, but I still felt the same heartbreak I feel with the Bills every fall, when we fell short of the Stanley cup in our 2007 President’s cup snagging run. Though delivering heartbreak is kind of a qualification of being a Buffalo sports team.
I remember a few years back when I was a cashier at a local grocery store, a tall skinny guy snuck in my line with a bag of frozen veggies and some laundry detergent. I was thinking to myself “damn, this guy looks a lot like Ryan Miller” so I build up the courage and in the softest voice ever asked “are you Ryan Miller?” He glared at me like he was trying to stare into my soul and said “yeah kid” – swiped his card, took his bags, [2. Being the top-flight cashier that I was at the time, you must always separate edibles from cleaning products. One bag with those two clashing items is going against cashier 101.) and few years later, we traded him to the Blues. I remember telling all my colleagues about my encounter; the responses ranged from “who is Ryan Miller?” to “ You should have thrown a can of tuna at him to see if he would catch it”…. Sigh
5. MLB (lets be honest about the steroid era, it was kind of interesting)
Yeah, I don’t watch baseball…
No no actually that’s not accurate. I do watch the World Series, just because I can watch the highest level of any sport. Also I saw Moneyball so that has to count for something. Honestly, baseball just doesn’t do it for me, but it’s not so much that the game is slow, or that no one hits anymore. It’s more about the fact that the games don’t mean anything. There’s too many, there’s no real urgency to anything. If your team goes on 10 game losing streak, that’s fine you only have 502 games left to go. This is what makes football so great, each game means something; if you lose 4 games in a row, your season could be in jeopardy, and that’s really exciting. I’m aware that the “too many games” argument can be made for basketball and hockey, but those sports are way more aestically pleasing to the eyes.
One thing about baseball is that it has a Good Ol’ Boys feel to it. It seems to hate anything that’s new or exiting or that doesn’t conform to its exact standards. Pitchers get salty if you stare at your homerun a second too long, or people hate Yasiel Puig cause he likes to flip his bat. I understand one of the things that make the sport romantic is its allegiance to the past, and how the game is slow to change so the players can be better compared throughout the different eras than other sports. But that doesn’t change that other sports is more exciting and urgent moment to moment.
With all that being said, with no major league Buffalo team to route for, I am a total bandwagon rider when it comes to baseball so for the time being, go A’s!
6. College Basketball (There are like 6 programs that matter: UConn, the Cuse, Dukies, Tarheels, Kansas, and The college D league “Kentucky”)
I don’t care about college basketball until a few weeks leading up to March Madness, then like the rest of the country; I’m all in filing out brackets, arguing about teams I’ve never seen play, so on and so forth. My alma matter Canisius College’s Golden Griffins haven’t played meaningful basketball for years, so I like most Western New Yorkers have a soft spot in my heart for the Syracuse Orange. I don’t mean to confuse that soft spot with fandom, I just like to see them do well – I don’t paint my face or buy memorabilia. Outside of that I like rivalry games, Dickie V losing his mind on ESPN, and watching the future NBA stars get their first taste of the big lights.
With that, I have highlighted the four major sports and the two college games people watch. I suppose I could do a part-two with my favorite boxers, cricket players, and soccer teams, but nobody would read that…