(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Monday, May 26, 2008

How Do You Know Which Team is Your Favorite?

Chances are you have many favorite teams. If you live in Boston, you might root for the four professional teams plus some college teams. You think that because you're a local or a native that you root for them equally, but how can you be sure?

I'll throw out the following hypothesis -- your favorite team is the one you stay up with to watch their West Coast games, the one whose results you eagerly look for the next day, the one you make the most time for, and the one whose ups and downs resonate with you for the longest.

So, for me, that team is the Philadelphia Phillies.

Sure, the Eagles are the "hot" team in the city now, and the Birdlls have overtaken the Phils in popularity since, perhaps, the mid-1990's (after all, we Philadelphia fans only could ensure oh so much assinity from then-managing partner Bill Giles, who insisted that the Phillies were suffering as a small-market team when the truth was the fans were suffering from small-minded ownership). The Flyers have always ponied up the money to try to remain competitive, and the 76ers are headed up now by a guy who made his name in, yes, hockey. Go figure.

Okay, I've rambled a bit, but the truth is that the Phillies are my favorite team. My dad split a Sunday plan with one of his friends, and we went to about 7 games a year on Sundays, somehow seeing Steve Carlton pitch more often than not. We shared that time together and, now that my dad's gone, I share baseball with my family. We have a partial season ticket plan to the Phillies, and we enjoy very much going to games and watching the hometown team. The fealty, as it were, runs deeper than the fact that the Phillies are my hometown team. It's a kinship to shared family times within a relatively small family, just sitting there, eating peanuts and trying to predict when the stars will hit home runs. It's all good fun.

Despite being a sports fan, and haven't dedicated a full Sunday to the NFL or an afternoon to watching the Eagles in a long time. Yes, I'm a bit fair weather -- if they make the playoffs I'll watch the entire game. But otherwise, I'm not going to sacrifice the fall's good weather to sit for three hours watching any game. The Eagles have been a captivating team, but tickets are very hard to come by and then, if you get them, you'll have to endure some of the diehards. Last I heard, the Linc isn't necessarily the place for women and children.

I grew up with the 76ers thanks to a family connection, had great seats (downstairs, center court, 20 rows up at the Spectrum cost about $15 apiece then), and lived and died with them. Died mostly in the late 60's and early 70's, after they traded Wilt and before they pivoted, signed George McGinnis and then Doctor J. Lived and had fun with them in the mid-1970's to very early 1980's, where somehow, some way, they couldn't get all the way up their seemingly Sisyphian hill. Then, in 1983, they did just that, and that was a special team. But over the past 25 years the NBA has morphed from great hoops to mediocre entertainment, too many teams and games, too many tattoos and dancing girls. I like the 76ers and Maurice Cheeks, but their ups and downs aren't all that compelling for me anymore.

The Flyers, though, come in last, if only because I didn't grow up in a hockey environment, my father disliked hockey, its homogenous fan base and the Flyers' owner, Ed Snider, for reasons that were never totally clear to me. I suppose that my father disagreed that fighting should be part of any sport, joined the bandwagon when the Flyers won 2 Stanley Cups in a row (perhaps only because he didn't want to see his kids become outliers by channeling his dislike of hockey and because the Philadelphia area needed a champion), but still didn't care for it too much. Besides, we had baseball and basketball to share (not to mention local college football games), so our sports dance card was full. The irony isn't lost on me that a guy who's still resting on laurels created almost 35 years ago now is in charge of the 76ers too. Put bluntly, despite the Flyers' turnaround this year, Ed Snider isn't doing a great job presiding over either professional sports team in Philadelphia.

At any rate, the Phillies are it for me. I check their scores frequently, read the accounts of every game I missed, follow Chase Utley and Ryan Howard closely, among others, share their triumphs and defeats with the family, and go to more of their games than those of any other team. Yes, we root for all Philadelphia teams and hope they win, we really do, but none of them affect our day the way the Phillies do.


Blogger Roy said...

When I was a kid, I was about equally attracted to the Phillies, Eagles, and Sixers. But my Dad wasn't a pro sports fan, so occasionally I went to an afternoon Phillies game but I almost never went to an Eagles or Sixers game. Now the Eagles are #1 and the Sixers are #2 because my own kids (ages 22, 20 and 11) are pro football and basketball fans.

My kids played a lot of basketball and never actually played organized football, but I am sure they will agree that nothing beats the amazing moments in football. Off the top of my head, 4th and 26 with Freddie Mitchell, the Ronde Barber interception in the NFC Championship game, and even the Quintin Mikell blocked kick/ Matt Ware touchdown return in 2005 are unforgettable moments. If you saw these moments at the stadium, the impact is magnified by the instantaneous attitude change of 70,000 spectators.

While there are similar moments in baseball (the 93 World Series had a bunch) or basketball, I think their impact is diluted by the length of the regular season.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up the Phillies were always my favorite and remained so until after they won the World Series in 1980. I stayed with them through a lot of bad years, but figured that I could honestly move on since I had put up with mouthy Dallas Green, whiny Larry Bowa, and of course Pete Rose. I have nothing against the Phils, but It was too much to support a team with folks involved with it that I really didn't like.

Go Cardinals!

12:42 PM  

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