Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fan-In-Law: One Fairweather Fan's Story
and Origins of Bandwagon Sports Allegiance

What kind of self-respecting lifelong sports nut discovers his fan-defining allegiance in the rooting interest... of his spouse?

Of the few things I am regularly and consistently questioned about (and, yes, mocked for), my fan allegiance to Florida has gotten the most visceral reaction from fellow fans. Inspired by that, I put this essay together for a prestigious mainstream publication, which – predictably – fell through. Rather than have the essay sit on my laptop, I decided to publish it here (where apparently they'll publish ANYTHING) and use it for future reference, when people ask me about my non-traditional fan allegiance.

This fall, every Saturday I will wake up with rabid anticipation, choose between a dozen different possible "lucky" outfits, then set up (or stand up) on the couch next to my wife to root on my Florida Gators football team.

Or should I say: HER Florida Gators football team.

She is the one born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida. She is the one with the lifetime of memories of going to Gator games with her family, meeting idolized players and coaches, celebrating Florida's 1996 National Championship.

I, however, am a Gator-by-marriage – a fan-in-law.

My passion for my wife's favorite team was sparked six years ago on our first date -- even before my passion was sparked for her. Actually, as soon as she started talking about her Gator fandom, I was smitten by meeting a woman who loved sports as much as I do... and particularly smitten with envy for her particular rooting interest.

I was a huge lifelong sports fan, to be sure, but I lacked that dominant gravitational, life-defining pull of a single team. Growing up in D.C., I had adolescent rooting interest as a displaced Bears and Cubs loyalist, the product of a paternal lineage to Chicago. However, when I moved to Chicago for college, my immersion into Windy City fandom actually turned me off to the teams. Meanwhile, like other incoming freshmen in Big Ten country, I immediately gravitated to my new school's football team: But Northwestern was a perennial punchline. How satisfying could my fandom be when my deepest hope was for a .500 record and postseason bowl eligiblility in the Local Yokel Bowl? After Northwestern's Rose Bowl year – the greatest season of my life as a fan – I left Chicago, and my aimless career path in sports was mirrored in my fandom.

That foundation made me vulnerable to be seduced by a winner. That was the initial attraction to this woman across the table from me on our first date. I have heard stories of people on dates with successful professionals and fantasizing themselves as spouses of a doctor or hedge-fund manager; I sat across from my date and imagined how happy I would be married to a fan of a great sports team.

In the months that followed after we met, that first football season of our courtship – 2001 – was my initial tryout as a Gators fan. I fell for them quickly: The rabid fan base, Gator Nation. The legendary stadium, The Swamp. The charismatic gun-slinging coach, Steve Spurrier. The legacy of All-American players and future NFL superstars, like Emmitt Smith (my wife's all-time favorite Gator). The never-ending selection of garish merchandise and memorabilia.

More than anything, I was instantly addicted to the expectations. It wasn't just that the team won as a basic matter of course, which they did, often prolifically. It was that they were expected to win. Even a single loss had the potential to be season-crushing. For a Northwestern fan whose idea of an extremely satisfying year included being able to count the wins on more than one hand, the acutely experienced tightrope of a season spent following a national-title contender -- where every week was a win-or-bust virtual playoff -- felt more real than anything I had ever before experienced as a fan.

But would Gator Nation even want me? More than anything As a bonus, embracing the Gators became the fastest, easiest and most palpable way I could win the approval of my future spouse's extended family. My immersion into the local media, Southeastern Conference team two-deep depth charts and next week's opponent gave way to an obsession with tracking recruiting battles, lurking on online message boards and attending the opening of spring practice. If it didn't win my in-laws over, it didn't hurt that at the same time I displayed devotion to their daughter, I showcased fealty for their sports team.

(Years later, I am still not quite sure what my wife thinks about our arrangement. She never asked me to join her as a Gators fan; I simply encroached. I can see it from her perspective: It is one thing to agree to share your life with someone, but it is an entirely different compromise to agree to share your sports fandom with someone. Despite the nature of fandom as collective, there is something intensely personal about how each person roots for their team. For better or worse, I confess to co-opting that from her.)

Given the randomness of romance – my wife and I met on a blind date – I wonder what the state of my fandom would be had my wife and I never met. Would I, like the rest of the country, mostly despise the arrogance of Gator Nation, particularly after the last 18 months of championships in football and basketball? Would another team have filled this void I felt? (I cringe: What if I had met a woman whose favorite team was... Florida State?) And what would have stuffed my closet shelves if not my two-dozen Gator-themed T-shirts?

This fall marks the start of the seventh year of my Florida fandom, pre-puberty stage by common sports-fan standards. But most other fans don't see it as positively. When I explain to them how I came to root for Florida, they usually first question my masculinity at having adopted my wife's team, quickly followed by universal agreement that I am the worst kind of fan: A bandwagoneer.

Fair enough. But in return, I argue that making an active choice about my fandom -- even pushing 30, in what some would describe as a "mid-fan-life-crisis" -- wasn't just acceptable, but arguably superior to the more traditional, passive roots of sports allegiance:

Biology: Let me guess – you root for your favorite team because it's the team your father rooted for, and he "passed it on" to you. While I agree that's a nice way for parent and child to bond, it smacks of inheritance rather than fandom earned through independent, thoughtful decision.

Geography: Another accident of circumstance. Your fandom is less about the team itself and more about having a sense of civic pride. This is how fans in cities without teams can so quickly latch on to a new team in town – stay classy, Jacksonville -- or how fans in cities like Cleveland or Baltimore, where legendary teams left town for relocation, can so quickly latch onto the replacement team. I don't question your town pride; I question why, if you live in St. Louis, you aren't still a Cardinals fan (even though they play in Arizona) and why you are a Rams fan (even though they came from Los Angeles).

College acceptance: Even with nearly two decades of perspective on it, fandom for one's college team feels artificial; you do it because you're supposed to. I appreciate that your first day on campus included learning the words to the school fight song and taking a trip to the bookstore to buy your first piece of Michigan paraphernalia. But you were one rejection letter or underperforming high school semester away from rooting for Sparty up the highway at Michigan State... or staying on Long Island and going to a state school without a football team like the one you so unquestioningly root for today.

Despite these observations, my personal experience has made me a lot less judgmental of the origins -- and sincerity -- of other people's fan allegiances. You can crow that you "care more" than other types of fans (both outside and inside your own team's base), but I'd argue that it's possible you're only projecting your own insecurities.

There might be an argument at the margins: How many "real" fans have rooted for their team to tank for draft position? Yet how many fans, however casual, would never even THINK about doing something like that? Who the bigger fan is in that scenario is up for debate. The most important point isn't who cares more (or even who has cared longer); it's that fans care, period.

I am sure most fans fall into one or more of those root causes of rooting interest. I don't question the sincerity of your devotion, and I don't question why the top criteria for your personal brand of fandom would be serendipity. I wasn't bestowed my favorite team like a birthright or boxed into it through my zip code or delivered it in a fat envelope during my senior year of high school. Undeniably, chance played a big role for me, too.

But I was 28, the sports version of a 40-year-old virgin, when I fell in love with my favorite team in the same college football season I fell in love with my future wife. I did it with a lifetime of fan experiences behind me, similar to my lifetime of dating experiences -- enough to know the real thing when I felt it.

And it is enough to drown out the jeers of "Bandwagoneer!" with my own sincere cheer: "Go Gators." (Um, right, sweetie?)

-- D.S.

104 comments:

Matt T said...

That was a very well written and compelling peice.

I always get a good giggle out of people who try to compare their fandom. Who cares? We all have our own reasons for rooting for a team, and that's what should matter.

That said, I became a UGA right before college, when I knew I was going there. And I've always been a little jealous of my friends who were taken to games when they were younger and were brought up to be fans, and then were able to attend school there.

Gonzo said...

Um, wow. Way to be condescending to everyone else’s fandom by biology, birth or college attendance. Of course a cynic might point out that your "romantic" fandom was derivative of a fandom based on geography and is hence even lamer than fandom based on geography.

I also think you are too quick to discount the other bases for fandom. There is little inherent worth in wasting our time with sports, so what little benefit we do derive outside of entertainment is from participating in a community. Be it the Red Sox Nation or a collection of current students and alumni of our alma mater. Being a fan means being part of a community and committing to it. it's fine if you like the community of Gators and like sharing that with your wife, but there is no way to get around the primary point in your article - you were attracted to the Gators because they were winners. You found that alluring. That is front running. You can try to explain it away, but it will always be there.

pootietang said...

well written piece...but i have to take issue with your assessment of those of us who are fans of our teams because we went to school there. it is much more than merely getting accepted to that particular school. i went to florida. football is a passion in gainesville. the stadium, like at most schools, is an integral part of campus. it is what you do on home game saturdays. it's part of the fabric of the institution. it is so much more than "i am a fan because i went to 'x" school" sometimes you interact with the players(as i did with emmitt smith, jarvis williams, louis oliver, etc.), the school newspaper covers the team from angles no local paper can. above all else you are a GATOR...or a WOLVERINE...or a TROJAN...or whatever. as long as you get that diploma, you are tied to that school and that team...but it is about all of the other things that make you a fan.

ToddTheJackass said...

Dan, you realize you twice criticize your wife's fandom, right? In that you think the geography thing and the biology thing are the reasons she roots for the Gators. Why don't you try telling her that your rooting for Florida is actually, I believe you used the word, "superior" to hers. Try telling her that Dan... or for that matter, I don't think you should raise Baby Gabe as a UF fan then, since biology is kind of a weak way to do it?

That doesn't sound right, does it Dan?

Well written piece, fun considering all the crap we give you. But really it seems more like it's you trying to justify your own fan insecurities rather than anything else. Face it Dan, you're a bandwagon fan, and we have to give you crap about it. It was a good effort, a long effort, and nice in the little vignettes about Mrs. Quickie, but you still don't have me convinced that you're not, as you called it, the worst kind of fan.

DanShanoff.com said...

Great comments. And, absolutely, noting that my wife's fandom was both from biology AND geography -- thus I'm linked to both by association -- is totally right on.

Mostly, I was trying to note the three main root causes of fan allegiance, pointing out that they're kind of passive, when you think about it.

It's not meant to denigrate your fandom if you're a Redskins fan because your dad was, or you're a Cardinals fan because you lived near St. Louis, or you're a Michigan fan because you went there. Hell, I salute you, and what I hope came across is that I certainly don't judge your fandom based on that. (Over the last few years, I've tried not to judge, period.)

I meant to make the first comment and just say: This is really supposed to be the start of a conversation about what it means to be a "real" fan -- if it's even possible to define that.

I know it'll be easy to simply crap on the post and say, "Heh: You bandwagony fake-fan" (or something like that, probably a little more graphic in nature).

But, really, I find the question fascinating -- all the more so in the years since I've been caught up in my particularly allegiance. It's not clear-cut by any means, and that's kind of a good thing, isn't it?

verbal97 said...

I agree with the others...well-written on your reasons why, but you lost all credibility and sympathy with me when you trashed the more traditional routes to fandom. It's comical that in doing so, you actually contradicted your own argument since yours is a fandom based on someone elses which is in turn based on geography/biology.

For the record, I'm a lifelong Yankees fan because of Mattingly, a Penguins fan because of Lemieux, a Giants fan because of LT and a Liverpool fan because of Robbie Fowler and a BC fan because I'm an alum. You didn't mention what's so wrong about liking teams because of a particular player though, so please inform me why my mode of fandom is so inferior to yours.

Unsilent Majority said...

Hell, I love Florida just like you do and it's only because my step-mom went there that I began rooting for them (at the tender age of 4).

Unsilent Majority said...

Eric Rhett > Emmitt Smith

jhawkjjm said...

Well written, but still kind of a weak arguement about your Florida fandom. You claim your fandom is somehow better because you "chose" it rather than having it inherited or your geographic team or actually attending the school. Yet you chose it because it was the inherited, geographic, and attended school (did she?, that wasn't clear) of the girl you were dating.

Here's where you really lose me and your entire arguement becomes irrelevant in my mind: "More than anything, embracing the Gators became the fastest, easiest and most palpable way I could win the approval of my future spouse's extended family." You chose to become a fan in order to gain approval of others.

To make it worse: "Given the randomness of romance – my wife and I met on a blind date – I wonder what the state of my fandom would be had my wife and I never met. ...What if I had met a woman whose favorite team was... Florida State?" Judging by this statement and your claim above about seeking outside acceptance, I'd judge you'ld be a FSU fan.

Your Florida fandom wouldn't come off as weak if you actually still recognized and supported a team that you yourself had some tie to. Who cares if Northwestern only won a handful of games a year, a real fan doesn't. One who does is the "fair-weather" fan. I spent 7.5 (96-03)years at KU for undergrad and grad and only saw the football team QUALIFY for a bowl game once. But I still went to every game possible to watch and cheer because I was a fan of the team and that is what a non-fair-weather fan does. I helped tear down goalposts after huge upset and each win probably meant more to me than had I been a fan of say Nebraska. Who cares if they sucked.

And I'll further agree with others about "choice" being better than the more traditional ways of being a fan. I grew up outside of Boston and got to go to many Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games. Sunday's were spent watching the Patriots. My dad played at Notre Dame and I went to school at KU. Those are my teams for various reasons, all of which are personal. I could have turned my back on any of them, but I still chose to follow them.

And in the Fall of 99 when KU played Notre Dame in the Eddie Robinson Classic, I rooted for Kansas because that is where I was at the time and the stronger tie. Who would you root for if Northwestern and Florida played?

jhawkjjm said...

And I'm all in for a debate on what a "real" or "true" fan is, but that is one of those topics that is nearly impossible to have a rational conversation on. They tend to degrade pretty quickly into "I'm right. You're wrong. End of Story" things because most people tend to be pretty closed minded about such things and can't accept criticism of their own beliefs and reasons for having them.

Mike said...

Dan,
The point you're missing is: the great enabler of all of these type of fandom is that the team must be successful. Sure if you're living in the same state as a team you're naturally drawn to them, but if they're terrible, you probably could care less about them. Look at you, you went to Northwestern and if they had been decent, you would have latched on. But instead, you jumped trains to a winning team. Look at more than 50% of Red Sox nation, 10 years ago, nobody gave two shits about the Red Sox, now their fanbase has millions and counting. No more people were born there or went to school there, they just started winning and people realized their lifelong allegiance. Trying to spawn fans without a winning team is like trying to spawn a child with two women.

Gonzo said...

People will always use taunts like frontrunner and bandwangoneer, especially when you root for a team like Florida. As an objective matter I cannot establish that BC is a (an?) historically superior football program to Florida. (I'm not even conviced I can this year - we'll see after tonight.) So we mock people who cheer for more successul teams in any way we can. I'm not sure it's about "judging" fandom.

Also re the article, I thought the most interesting part was the statement that : "However, when I moved to Chicago for college, my immersion into Windy City fandom actually turned me off to the teams." Seems counter-intuitive to me and almost the most interesting aspect of Dan's fandom.

verbal97 said...

jhawk, doesn't your fandom to Kansas all these years make this year so much better for you. If you were a fairweather fan, it's expected winning or stop caring.

Mike said...

Not to mention,
You are a huge hypocrite. You hate on other successful teams and their fans (Red Sox, Yankees, Notre Dame, Ohio State) BECAUSE they are successful, yet you yourself are a fan of Florida for the very same reason! It's like you give Florida a free pass because they're supposedly "your" team. I think people would respect you and your fandom a lot more if you had weak biological, geographical and university ties and always rooted for the underdog.

Jamie said...

My fiancee was born on a college campus. Therefore, I am now a University of Texas fan.

And I look great in burnt orange...really brings out the green in my eyes.

Ken Dynamo said...

nice disagreement but geography, inheritance and matriculation are all still way better than your stupid reason for rooting for UF. the only hope you have of actually justifying it is to say F you, i'll root for whoever i want. dont pretend theres any defensible logic to rooting for the stupid a-hole gators.

here an interesting question. my friend grew up in MD and is a life ling terps fans. then, this year, he goes to Kentucky Law school and guess what bandwagon he's on now? so if he never went to UMD, is this a defensible bandwagon jump?

Natsfan74 said...

Dan -- I think that you do make some compelling points. And, I do not think there is anything wrong with someone making a rational choice to like a team, based on factors other than geography, birth right, whatever. As a kid, I spent my summers in Chicago, and I made the rational choice to hate the Bulls, because everyone else loved them and jumped on the MJ bandwagon. In 1982, you couldn't find a Bulls Fan in Chicago. By 1992, you couldn't swing a dead cat in any city in the world without hitting an MJ jersey. So to me, the rational choice was to hate the Bulls.

But, I have been to hundreds of Cubs games in my life, and I am a Cubs fan. Now, I live in DC, and have Nats season tickets. I've been to over 150 Nats games in 3 years, so I consider myself a fan of them as well. But, when the Cubs come to town, I am a Cubs Fan!

As a kid, I was a huge Ohio State fan and grew up going to football games there. I went to West Point, which has a terrible football team. And now, I have Virginia football season tickets (my wife went there). I would consider myself a Virginia fan, having been to every home game (and some road games) in the past 4 years. But, my loyalties lie to the Buckeyes first, Army second, then Virginia (and then to Hawaii -- where I also lived and had season tickets).

It's ok to choose to be a fan of what is around you. It is better if you get immersed in the culture -- going to games and being in the mix. But, at some point, fandom is based on loyalty. Are you loyal to your roots, or to the roots of those around you? If you were never a NU fan, then choose UF. If you were loyal to NU, that should always be the case (even if they play UF). Otherwise, you aren't just a bandwagon fan, you are wishy washy and the antithesis of loyal.

I guess this was an overly long post to say "pick a team, stick with a team, and show that fan loyalty is much more than winning or losing -- it is a culture that you are a part of that becomes an innate part of your being!"

CMFost said...

Well written piece but I nice follow up would be for you to get Ms. Shanoff to answer the question about how she feels about you encroacking on her fandom?

Natsfan74 said...

Good thing your wife is a fan of a winning team. Would you feel the same way if her team/ family/ culture was a marginally successful or worse team like Mississippi State? It's easy to pick a winner and justify it. It's a lot harder to come to terms with immersion in a losing culture!

Geoff said...

If you didn't attend a university with a major conference tie and chose to Florida to follow because of your wife and because your team was like Grand Valley State, I think people would let it slide just a bit. But the fact that you abandoned a Big Ten school to follow a front runner from the SEC just reeks of the worst kind of fan. You can explain it away anyway you like but to people that are lifelong fans of team because of region or school it just looks weak as hell. It's like Lebron saying he was a fan of the Bulls, Cowboys and Yankees. Just horrible when you have a natural tie to teams in all those sports and you abandon them to claim fandom for the best teams.

Boston said...

This was supposed to make it better? You're a good writer, but geez. Why would a fan have to justify it so much? This fan crap is starting to be like back when your were promoting blogtastic bloggers and playing 'hot or not'. And I thought the sports aspect had turned a corner and we were getting back to the old quickie days...

GuyInTheCorner said...

geoff-

I think that I agree with what Sports Guy said about LeBron and the Yanks, 'Boys, and Bulls.

LeBron grew up without a dad. That can't be underestimated. I love sports because I grew up watching the O's, Skins, Bullets, and Terps with my dad. Without that? I don't know what would have happend.

Total BS said...

I draw a parallel between early childhood fandom and being raised in a religion. You follow a team (or a deity) simply because it is what you are taught to do. That works for some people, and doesn't work for others. Just because you are born and raised in a town does not mean that you are bound to that team unequivocally. Once you reach a discerning age, it makes sense to examine the team, what it stands for, what the fan base is like, and if rooting for them feels right. If not, your search for truth begins.

DanShanoff.com said...

All continue to be very good points. I knew I would lose people by adding in the three types of natural (if passive) allegiance: I'd guess 95 percent of fans fall under one of these three types, and you can't win them over by dismissing them. I just felt like I had to acknowledge them, even at the risk of the flaw in my logic that my own fandom is based on my wife's fandom which is based on geography/biology.

Also, I won't go back and edit it, because I should have to stick with what I wrote, but I shouldn't have said "more than anything" about being a UF fan impressing my future in-laws. I should have said, "As a side bonus..." -- hopefully, my retroactive edit can be applied. I might go back and fix it tomorrow (or even later today, if it continues to gnaw at me like it is...)

bmajoras said...

As far as I see it, any loyalty you have for a team growing up takes precedence over any team you become associated with (whether by moving to a new city, marriage, etc.) The one exception to this rule is college. When you attend a college (especially one with major sports), you become immersed in it as a sports fan. For a die hard sports fan, the loyalty that is developed is one that should be almost impossible to break, whether your team is 0-11 every year or 11-0.

I'll use myself as an example. I'm from Cleveland and grew up in the 1980s rooting for the Cavs, Indians, and Browns. Of those 3, the Cavs and Browns were competitive, the Indians horrible. The reason I followed these teams was because my dad followed them and started taking me to games before I was 2. Why he followed them, I don't know, but only the Browns were good when he was young. I also grew up rooting for OSU because they are from Ohio and most people don't know any better. I rooted for OSU until my senior year of high school; at that point a committed to Purdue and they officially became my school. That was in 1999. Over the years (though I still live in the Cleveland area), my allegiance to Purdue has grown and my loyalty to OSU has dwindled to the point where I could care less about seeing their game each week.

I find no fault with people most people consider "frontrunners" who grew up rooting for teams because they were good. I know Steeler fans that grew up in the heyday of the 70s and suffered through the 80s but still maintain their loyalty. I've got no problem with LeBron being a Yankee fan. The problem I would have is if the Yankees become mediocre and he decides they are not his team anymore. I don't have a problem with Dan rooting for Florida as much as I have a problem with him not opening rooting for Northwestern every week. I for one put alma mater loyalty above all else. I'm proud to say I've rooted for Purdue against OSU every year they've played since 1999. I could see myself becoming a fan of my future wife's school (whoever she might end up being), but I could never see myself rooting for them against Purdue. That's my 2 cents on fandom. You can take it however you wish.

jhawkjjm said...

verbal-

Yes this year is especially great considering I remember all those times sitting in a near empty stadium when KU couldn't even cross the 50. I remember the Nebraska game in 97 that was played during the freezing rain and sleet where in the first half KU crossed the 50 once, only to get a false start on the next play and get pushed back to our side of the 50. Then the near upset in 99. Then finally the victory in Lawrence 2 years ago. I was going crazy because the team I watched struggle all those years had finally knocked off Nebraska and ended that ridiculous 38 (or whatever it was) year losing streak.

Geoff said...

I guess if you grew up without a dad or without friends it would be confusing. But all of my fandom is based on the games I watched with my dad and later with my friends. I did grow up a Tigers, Lions, Michigan and Pistons fan because my dad was fans of all those teams. But later my friends were all fans of those teams, too, because they were local and it is fun seeing the ups and downs of your local team.

I don't know, I had a friend growing up who was a fan of whatever team was having the best year or who had the best player. So in school he was a Bulls fan because of Jordan, was a fan of the Cowboys cause they were good, etc. Years later I saw him at a Super Bowl party and his new favorite team was the St. Louis Rams. The year after they won the Super Bowl and were playing the Patriots. They kind of "Fandom" just rubs me the wrong way.

isiah thomas said...

But would Gator Nation even want me? More than anything As a bonus, embracing the Gators became the fastest, easiest and most palpable way I could win the approval of my future spouse's extended family.

by showing them you're a spineless, front-running, no-talent-ass-clown-hack?

interesting theory, douche.

Jingoist said...

Some of you may recall this by Dan.

It will help you to understand Dan's not knocking the other roots to fandom as much as you think once you read this earlier column from back in the day.

Of course, Dan, I think you might be plagiarizing your own previous work (is that possible?), but hey, it made for a good read again.

CycleDan said...

Hey, if there was every a reason to root for one team over another, getting laid is right up there.

If your team wins, you get victory sex. If your team loses you get sympathy sex. If your team wins the championship, you get wild ass anything you want monkey sex.

Hard to find fault with that.

Sure beats me rooting for NY teams simply because I grew up in NY or rooting for Cornell or Syracuse simply because I received degrees from those institutions.

Sparty said...

I actually grew up in Michigan during my teenage years. There was an interesting split among then men in my family immediately. My father and oldest brother both aligned themselves with the Wolverines, probably because Michigan was in the Rose Bowl a lot, and had just won a national title in basketball, but my other brother and myself chose to root for MSU, mostly because we liked Andre Rison. And funny enough that is the schools we chose to go to. We were all accepted to U of M, but 2 of us decided to go to MSU because we were fans of the sports teams, and we knew we would get just as good of an education there if we worked as hard.
Michigan State is not looked as a fallback school except to those who have no sports rooting interest.

Dan, your choice as Gator fan doesn't bother me, its your incredibly bias opinions that try me nuts.

Sparty said...

cycledan,

I have a small interest in the success of the Cuse because my mother graduated from there, but does't bother me when they lose, nor do I get incredibly excited when they win. but I do enjoy watching them.

blue said...

apathy

ToddTheJackass said...

Sparty does raise an interesting point. I don't think any of us would be as critical of your Florida fandom if it didn't translate to your ridiculous over-the-top homerism when you write about them. Your complete failure as a writer to be able to discuss Florida objectively is what I think really gets at all of us. My guess is we wouldn't give you too much shit if you weren't such a shameless homer all the time.

I know I've actually taken sabbaticals from your blog for a few weeks at a time because your homerism interferes with me being able to take any of your opinions seriously.

Ken Dynamo said...

hey dan, just embrace your BS bandwagon fairweather fandom. you'll never justify it with this silly reasoning.

my friend is a Duke, Florida St and Cowboys fan becasue they all won championships when he was little (he is from VA) and he just doesnt care. your best defense is you cover sports nationally so big effing deal. certainly tho you will lose all arguements by saying your reasons are as good for rooting as the 3 you mentioned. nice try but no dice!

Jibblescribbits said...

Dan,

Well-written, and you almost had me. However what really gets me was the way you abandoned Northwestern to be a Gators fan.

Being a fan of a team is kind of like dating a person. If you dump your team, you really should wait a few years before choosing someone new. You didn't choose a team, you had a sports mid-life crisis. You dumped the trusty, homely team, that had been with you for all the hard times (Northwestern) in favor of the sexy new model in town (Florida).

It's not even that you did it, but that there's no remorse involved in it. Sure it's okay to abandon a team, but really there were good times there and it really should take a mourning period to get over them. I dumped the Nuggets 10 years ago, and still haven't been able to see anyone else.

(And I'm even ok with being a sports bigamist, mainly because unlike girls, sports teams don't really have feelings, it really is a strange relationship we share with our teams huh?)

DanShanoff.com said...

jibble: totally fair point. I probably overstated my "abandonment" in the essay (again, it was written for a mainstream publication, not as a blog post, which is why I played up the "winning over the in-laws" stuff, which is obviously among the more mock-worthy side details of the piece).

That's no excuse: I (should) stand by what I wrote. There's no question: My NU friends are not happy with the state of my NU fandom ("such as it is," they might say).

For what it's worth, I don't think sports bigamy is a cardinal sin (unless you're talking about, say, Rudy Giuliani rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series).

For college sports particularly, fans regularly attach themselves to two teams: The team they grew up on and the team they went to college at.

(Sometimes, there's even a third, if you end up living/working in a college town that isn't competitive with either of your first two college fan allegiances.)

Sparty said...

so whats the rule about growing up a fan of one team in the AL, moving to a city that only has an NL team? can you root for that NL team until they play your AL team in the World Series.

The heroin sheik said...

Dan the funniest thing about your argument is the bit about your inlaws. When I moved to chicago this summer I finally met my future inlaws and they asked me over dinner my first night in town if I was going to root for the Cubs or the sox. I wasn't thinking when I said are you fucking kidding me, IM a devil ray. Of course to this they replied aren't they a double A team.

It is difficult at times to find the right team for you. Because of having gone to three universities in Florida on my quest to pile it higher and deeper I find it increasingly difficult to stick with one team. I will always be a gator first and foremost because of my dad and my having gone there and living in Florida. I have more than a passing interest in UCF and USf because of going there as well. Of course when I moved to the bay area there wasn't a team at USF and UCf was still div II. Of course I want them to succeed but nothing beats my first love of the gators.

I will say this though about you liking your wife's team. If my girl had gone to FSU there would be no way in hell I would have gotten with her even if her vah-j was lined with gold.

What I always wonder if whether or not having to suffer through years of crap teams makes you have a deeper interest in the team than people who only know of a team as being succesful. Up until the mid 80's the gators sucked ass but then got really good and have stayed that way for a while. Does the sustained success make it more enjoyable for a long suffering fan than someone who is under 25 and only knows success?

Alexander said...

Dumping Northwestern for Florida is like dumping your college sweetheart for a trophy wife.

Hope you enjoy it for a couple of years, but ultimately, it will bankrupt you and you'll end up alone.

Not surprised this wasn't picked up by a national pub.

marcomarco said...

Interesting read. Sparked some introspection, anyway.

Biology - None, my father has little interest in sports (marginal National League fan), and made it a point to let me choose my own direction.

Geography - Medium. Born in Syracuse, moved to Rhode Island at age 6. Too early to be a Mets fan.

I think your most relevant category, for me, came from the older article that Jingo linked to.

2. Dramatic sports moment (age 10-12)

I loved baseball, played in every level of little league. The solidifying "for life" fandom moments came with the '85 Pats and the '86 Sox.
Both the Sox and the Pats took me on a rollercoaster ride, highs of winning, then heartbreak. I was born in '74.

Amazingly, through the Celtics glory days, I never cared for basketball.

Erik said...

Well-written and considered, but I still think it's chickenshit.

it smacks of inheritance rather than fandom earned through independent, thoughtful decision.

That's the whole point. You don't choose to be a fan of a team. You hope that, say, your stocks do well. Do you "root" for them? Do you attend the corresponding big corporate events? Do you have lucky company-store apparel that you wear for the day of a big announcement?

No. You have an interest, but it's a business interest. The whole essence of fan-ness, IMHO, is that there isn't a compelling rational reason for it.

It's okay to want a team to do well for a rational reason. You're a hotel manager near the arena, or you bet on that team, or you think it will make your wife happy. But that doesn't make it the same as wanting a team to do well so you can sleep at night, or so you can call your friends and rub it in their faces, or whatever else.

They're not the same thing in my book. I think you'd catch a lot less flak if you said you rooted for Florida because you wanted your wife's team to do well - rather as a parent might root for his kid's team. The parent should still never confuse their ultimate allegiance, and I think most folks have the impression that you'd root for Florida over Northwestern, if it came to that.

That doesn't mean you should change who you are, or lie about who you are, but I think that's how a lot of us see your fandom.

Johnathan said...

I felt dirty after reading this and since you were able to create an emotion in me good job Dan.

As for my fans and my dad's. I grew up outside of Pittsburgh but my dad is a Cleveland Browns fan and a Yankees fan (his dad was a Yankees fan too). I am fans of neither of those teams. I don't have a NFL team to root for either considering that my dad's hatred of the Steelers did rub off on me. My dad is not a fan of hockey, but I am and for that my team is geographical and Lemuiexian in nature. I was introduced to hockey when I was 7 and 8 when the Pens made their cup runs and was hooked.

Baseball I started out as a Pirates fan. They lost me during the strike. I was 11 and at my most impressionable when the end of the season was canceled. When they came back I came back to baseball but again I didn't have a team that I felt strong about because I was still bitter about losing that season and I had to take it out on somebody and that somebody was the Pirates. I was without a strong rooting interest for a few years rooting for the Indians mainly because of Jim Thome. Then in the summer of 98 we moved into a new house and got WGN for the first time. We didn't have AC that first summer and the humidity really makes me lazy so I watched a lot of Cubs games because they game me something to do during the day. The first game I watched was the 20K game from Wood; the first full month we spent in the house was the month where Sosa went crazy. By the end of the year I was hooked on that ballclub, that ballpark, and the how they did the 7th inning stretch there. Looking back I feel a little dirty on how i fell into being a cubs fan purely because that summer is now tainted with a cloud of Steroid.

College wise, I am the first out of my parents and grandparents to go to college. I had an Uncle who went to Ohio State and my grandpa loves them. West Virgina is big around here too considering that I grew up in the state. I wasn't really hooked on any college growing up. I was intrigued by the Big Ten teams though (Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State). When it came time to visit campus I went to see Ohio State's and Penn State's. First was Ohio State and I didn't like it too much to be honest. Penn State's campus however was everything that I have previously pictured a college campus to look like. It was home. I ended up going there and while I was only a part of one good season (the LJ led 02 season). I still am extremely loyal to the Nittany Lions. I went to Michigan's grad school. Got season tickets my first year there. I hated it. It made me feel dirty. The Stadium atmosphere wasn't what I expected. The fans were more arrogant than I could stomach. It wasn't a good fit. I ended up hating that team more after that I went there than I did before

sorry for the long post

oh and I'm moving to Houston so I might try to get into the Texans but I doubt that I am wired to enjoy any NFL team

The heroin sheik said...

Cycledan my brother ran track at Cornell which he claims is the only reason he checks out the scores on sunday morning. I had a chance to follow him there but knew when I was applying that I would hate myself for doing it so I did what I had to do to get into UF.

Also I never want to have sex when one of my teams lose, but I will use the promise of sex to get my girl to root for one of my teams unless they are playing the Cubs or Northwestern. Sports are funny like that

DanShanoff.com said...

Alexander: Too bad you ruined an otherwise brilliant analogy -- one that's been mentioned to me before -- with that dumb dig at the end. But well-played, mostly.

chitown italian said...

Hi, my name is Dan, and I have a fan problem.....

I like Dan but like Dan I too am a fan by association only.

Growing up in a baseball family I never had any allegiance to a college team. In college I went to a I-AA school with a good football team. After moving to L.A. in the early 90's and going to USC games I was enthralled with the team, the location, and of course the lovely young ladies attending the games.

They sucked when I started to watch them but I still get the bandwagon talk all the time so I have to say I can understand where Dan is coming from. Northwestern is not a football powerhouse and at least he does have some relation to UF.

The heroin sheik said...

I was just thinking about how holidays like thanksgiving and christmas, at least in my family, seem to revolve around the sporting events. This year we get UF/FSU the saturday after turkey day. I know all my extended family will be there and they will reminisce about how great herschel walker was and they will play their tape of the infamous run lindsey run game while my dad and I will counter with how they couldnt beat us when we gave them ten straight shots at the end zone and how we own them now. If dan weren't a gator fan what would the thanksgiving dinner talk be about at his house? The rose bowl northwestern went to. Between that and the turkey I wouldn't be able to stay awake for the pecan pie.

Sparty said...

Personally, I have no problems with any of the categories, or how people become fans. So many Notre Dame fans that never have or will attend the school, or have any geographical allegiance, or parents. Thank you NBC.

DanShanoff.com said...

I did not even want to TOUCH the idea of religious persuasion informing fandom, and -- yes -- Notre Dame would be the lead example. (That also had to do with ND being THE dominant sports brand, certainly college sports brand, of the early and mid 20th century.)

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

Grew up in Dayton, Ohio.

Bleed scarlet and grey.

Season tickets to both Ohio State football and Dayton basketball my entire life.

Went to Miami University.

Football: Ohio State > Miami > Everyone else.

Basketball: Dayton > Miami > Everyone else.

I have no idea what kind of fan that makes me. Any ideas?

CycleDan said...

On a national level I root for Syracuse simply because Cornell is not big time in either football or basketball. However, I would still love to see Cornell upset Syracuse in basketball one day since they play almost every year.

I think you have to have more allegience to your undergraduate school. I don't really see a conflict with rooting for two teams especially if they are in different levels.

I think there is not problem adopting your local NL team if your hometown team was an AL team. I have always been a Yankee fan. However as I got older, instead of hating the Mets, I actually cheer them on unless they are playing the Yanks.

I am a Jet fan but will also cheer the Giants as long as they are not playing each other.

Also, I will root for Big East teams in general in the NCAAs or Bowl games. I think it is pretty common to root for the teams in your conference if they are playing out of conference.

I also received an MBA degree from Hofstra a year or so ago now. I really haven't been able to start rooting for Hofstra yet but I guess I would in the NCAAs if they make it again.

The heroin sheik said...

cycledan let me guess Wayne chrebet is your favorite NFL player.

Sparty said...

i was just blaming NBC, but yes Dan the ND fandom has everything to do with being Catholic

Gonzo said...

@Sparty

I hate ND, but I have to defend the "subway alumni." If you were a Mick back in the day ND was one of the few national rallying points for Catholics. (This was before Kennedy had even run for president.)

My grandfather got degrees from Holy Cross and BC, but he bled Navy and Gold. He taped every game, but somehow "accidentally" deleted the tape after BC won in '93. And this is a guy who got his masters from BC, sent his son and daughter there, had a grandson attending the school and taught Doug Flutie in high school.

It's not the same thing as just pulling for a winner.

Jibblescribbits said...

Dan,

Also you say geography, but I say immersion. As someone who has recently been displaced from my hometown I still cheer for the Broncos and Avalanche, but it's not the same.

I didn't become a Broncos fan because My parents cheered for them, even though it helped I am sure. Indirectly I cheer for them because they are close, but really I cheer for them because I was immersed with them as a child. I went to Broncos games, They were on TV all the time, and the local news talked about them. I got to know them. I talked to Karl Mecklenberg at Water World, I got autographs from Sammy Winder.

Sure it's geography, but it's more than that. When the Avs came to town they were a hit because they were shiney and new, but I could become immersed with them as well. I did cheer for the SJ Sharks in last year's playoffs because the atmosphere surrounding a city that's about to win a championship is awesome. It's also why I can't get into the Rockies now, even though they are in the Series. I'm not there.

this is why you became a Florida fan, because when you met your (now) wife and her family you were immersed with Florida. It's about fitting in to something special. It's a kinship and a bond you share with people around you who are otherwise strangers.

Sparty said...

@Gonzo, I will never knock someone who cheers for ND. everyone I know is either Irish or Catholic from the northeast. I totally understand it. Div 1 football is not a big deal around here in NJ or NY, I mean until last year Rutgers sucked. I get it.

verbal97 said...

I think the angle that's being missed is from the opposite point of view. In other words, I frown on those "yankee fans" that "remembered" they were Yankee fans circa 1996, the same way Red Sox fans hate the "pink-hatters". I wonder how specifically the Florida people feel about Dan's "allegiance".

IndyHog said...

Dan - Interesting piece... its no surprise this is generating some thoughtful comments. Like many of the other commenters, I take some issue with your theory on the origins of fandom. I understand your points on inheritance and geography being factors of circumstance, but I totally disagree with your statement that these roots are "passive." My family moved to Indianapolis in 1987: Reggie's rookie year, Colts' 3rd season in town. I remember scalping $5 tickets to Market Square to watch Reggie and Chuck Person, I bought my first football jersey at the Hoosier Dome - #29 Eric Dickerson (which I still have). Now, would I have had those experiences if my family didn't move to Indianapolis and my dad wasn't a Pacers/Colts fan? No - that was circumstance. But it is those types of memories that form the roots of my fandom, and those experiences were not passive.

But from what ever origin our roots come from, you cannot discount the importance time and history plays in all this. Do you think Florida's recent national titles were as "sweet" for you as your wife - a lifelong Gator fan? You at least have to concede that your experience had to have been different from hers.

Andrew said...

I have a cheering scenario for everyone: which is stronger, alliance to a conference or hatred of a rival? I grew up in Texas so the nearest rivalry growing up was A&M and UT. If I am an A&M fan, and UT makes the championship game, do I cheer for the Big 12 team, or cheer for the opponent to spite my hated rival?

Note: I use this analogy for simplicity, not because its realistic.

verbal97 said...

As the Rudy Giuliani situation pointed out, you never, ever root for your biggest rival. If you're an A&M fan and Nebraska make the national title then that's ok.

lowlife said...

Fandom is such a weird issue. For most people, it's a deeply personal issue. And mainly that's why people get so upset when someone questions their fandom. Everyone has their own unique perspective - and I would argue, Dan, that all three roots are integral to shaping someone's allegiance.

Growing up in the middle of nowhere - on the corners of Indiana, Michigan & Ohio - geography had a slight influence on who I rooted for. I was roughly 3 hours away from Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis. Basically you could root for any one of the teams in those cities. Mostly people rooted for OSU because they lived in Ohio. But biology was more a factor for me, my father having attended OSU. I went to a Div. 3 school in Ohio, so rooting for a Div. 1 school - I went with my biological and geographical roots.

A lot of friends in college were Bengals fans, and I'm not a huge NFL fan, but if I follow any team, it's the Bengals now and that's because of college. I root for the Tigers in baseball, but only because everyone else growing up rooted for the Indians and I wanted to rebel, plus they were the only stadium I had been to. And basketball, it was the Cavs, because they're the only team in Ohio. And most people rooted for the Red Wings, until the Columbus Blue Jackets were formed, so my loyalties lie with the Blue Jackets. Like I said, everyone has a unique story and it's great to share that. Good post, Dan. Much better than that douch of a bad, the Bill Simmons.

And even though I loathe Michigan, I hate it when any B10 team loses to non-conference opponents. I root for the B10 almost as much as OSU - mostly during the bowl season though. Because you're only as strong as your conference. I may get flamed for that, but it's true. But as for Guiliani (sp?) rooting for the Sox, that's BS, because no one's an Al or NL fan - they're very large leagues with too many teams to have a rooting interest for. And the logic behind whose team is in which league seems illogical (although someone can correct me on this if I'm wrong).

DanShanoff.com said...

To answer the question: Most Florida fans look at me with bemusement. Even my wife: During the most recent basketball tournament championship game, she actually reminded me that I can't possibly appreciate this win in the same way she does.

(She didn't put it like that, but that was the gist of the discussion. To be honest, I didn't argue, because she's right. I could appreciate the win as a fan in the moment, but I couldn't possibly understand what it meant to someone who had been a fan for 30+ years.)

So I think that most Florida fans probably think: "Well, of COURSE he's a fan. Who wouldn't want to be?" It's that kind of combo of regional genteel and utter arrogance that makes them who they are. And I say that with love and respect, obviously.

The heroin sheik said...

Verbal- as the biggest gator homer on here i am all for Dan's allegiance to my team. He slurps them with the best of them. Plus if his wife is a hogtown native there is a distinct possibility that his wife is white trash and/or a heifer.(no offense dan) I may love the gators but the local women are the type you need beer goggles for.

Also you can never root for your rival unless it makes things better for your team. It is tough but the only way sometimes to the top of the polls is to beat a top ten team which means you have to root for a conference rival to do well up til you play them. I get sick to my stomach when I know UGA or UT needs to win. Now FSU isn't as bad since they arent in our conference. I just want the girls school up north to lose every game by 50+.

ThisIsNotMyBoken said...

Alright, after all this time I've never been compelled to really post a comment, but this post got me..

First, as for the notion of one's father being a large influence, while that may be true for a lot of people (perhaps even 'most' people) it was basically a non-factor for me and my brothers - our father (even though he grew up in the South Bronx) was never a sports fan. He only got interested in sports as we were kids and played in them - he'd come to all our games, but that was the extent of his interest in sports. In his family (growing up & even today) sports were a non-factor and were not followed.

The rest of family/heritage & geography probably played the biggest role.

Geography: I grew up in Hoboken (way before it became a place people actually *wanted* to live in!) and as such the Yankees became our (me & my brothers) team. Whenever we'd scrape a couple bucks together we'd hop on the subway to go sit in the bleachers during the summer. We also became Giants fans, as most people in our neighborhood (and family) were. There's a very good chance if we had lived about five blocks to the south by Jersey City, we'd have become Jets fans - that was that neighborhood's team.

Family/Heritage: I, and everyone I grew up with - my brothers, mother & her 16 brothers & sisters, her parents, my maternal cousins, and everyone in our neighborhood, are huge Notre Dame fans. As someone mentioned briefly above - being Irish & Catholic played a huge role in that fandom being formed. You basically didn't live in our neighborhood and not root for the Irish, it was that simple. It's hard to describe the sense of what it was all about to people who didn't grow up in that environment, but yes, being Irish Catholic played a huge role in why ND was, and still is, so beloved by everyone I grew up with. That strong allegiance, coupled with the fact that there was really no other big football school in the area (no one then took Rutgers seriously - the big joke was which high schools - St. Peter's Prep (mine), Bergen Catholic, etc, could beat them each year) and that I also went to college at a school that not only was DIII, but it didn't even have a football team anyway. The only thing that Dan says here that has always rubbed me the wrong way was his complete (appearance of) hatred of ND - he's never explained why he feels that way...

Anyway, to each their own I say.. I don't really agree with Dan's choice to become a Florida fan - it stinks of front-runner more than anything to me - but it doesn't make me mad, I just feel sorry for him.

blue said...

what about blog fandom...i mean my father was a fan of your writing back when you were young, and he made me read it. Then I grew up and realized...hey, i'm smarter than this guy...but he writes good childrens books...so i moved on and became a fan of another writer.

futurelegendvinceyoung said...

Dan the thing that bugs me about you liking the Gators is the homerism you show towards them. I know it has been mentioned but anything bad happens in football or basketball you look the other way. When Donovan waffled on his commitment to the Magic I do not recall you making a big stink about it. I do recall you raking Coach K over the coals for talking to the Lakers 3 years ago.

I grew up in Ohio but did not root for any of the Ohio teams except the Browns. I am Red Sox and Duke fan by birth and Nebraska and Titans fan by choice. My Dad grew up in Connecticut and rooted for the Red Sox and he passed that to my brother and me. He went to Duke grad school and loves the basketball team which I inherited, my brother went another way.

I always loved watching the Nebraska/Oklahoma games the day after Thanksgiving when I was growing up. I loved the option and Tom Osborne and when it came time to choose schools I choose Nebraska. I went to school there from '95-99 and witnessed the greatest college football team ever in 1995. I like the Titans because I live in Nashville but I doubt I will ever like them as much as I did those Brown teams back in the '80s.

DanShanoff.com said...

Re: the "Front-Runner" comment. Does it factor in that I picked the team up in 2001 -- cripes, it was the dawn of the Zook Era for god's sake -- and, in basketball, I suffered through annual NCAA Tournament flame-outs, right up until the two titles.

2001 just happened to be the year it happened. They were a winning team (football) but hardly at the level of the reigning powers of the time (though in '01, they were one hurricane-rescheduled game against Tennessee -- turned into a crushing loss -- from competing for a national title).

People seem to think I picked up Florida in '06 or '07, when they started winning titles. It happened before that, as mentioned in the essay. It just happens that we talk about the teams that are winning titles -- they were winning, I had a nice platform to mention my fandom, it seemed to come from nowhere/by-marriage -- and it became sort of insufferable.

I continue to be addicted to the title-or-bust expectations, but at some point (for basketball, immediately and for football, certainly not this season) they won't win titles and this won't seem as awkward as it does now. (Of course, Florida will win the football national title in 2008. Yes, I say that as a fan, but I will have higher expectations for next season's team than I will likely have for any team -- past or future -- in my life.

But I digress... anyway, keep up the comments, and -- particularly -- your own roots and how that might influence your own opinion about this.

Sparty said...

I know someone who picked MSU because of Sparty, the Mascot.

ToddTheJackass said...

Anyone else like me, and picked their favorite team, in spite of their dad?

I'm a huge Red Sox fan and I credit that largely to my absolute hatred of the Yankees, my dad's favorite team. On top of everyone here loving the Red Sox, the Yankees hatred really captured my black heart.

Unfortunately, when I came to Boston the Patriots began to be great, so I still can't fully embrace them as my own, since I haven't endured any of the hard times with the team.

ToddTheJackass said...

I should add that I grew up in the OC, so I never really had a football team, although I believe there are pictures of me when I was 3 with a Jim Everett T-shirt, but I think that might've been the last time I had much of a football loyalty before I came to Boston.

Chris said...

Okay, since everyone is chiming in, (fascinating topic btw, Dan) I might as well too. First of all, my teams (all lifelong devotions) are as follows: 1. Penn State (I grew up 45 miles from the campus and starting going to games when I was 6. I've since obtained 2 degrees from PSU) 2 The Steelers (who my dad hates, he's an Eagles fan which has led to countless good natured arguments between us). 3. The Red Sox (again a heavy influence from my father. I was raised on stories of Ted Williams, who my father will argue to the death was the greatest hitter ever, and Yaz. We've attended games to see the Sox in 7 different stadiums). 4. The 76ers (Due mostly to geography, but boy do they make it tougher to be a fan with every passing year. As for other sports, I have a passing interest in the Penquins (mostly geography again) but that is about it. I have a 12 year old son who I've passed down my interest in these teams to, as my father did for me. Not sure what happened with the Eagles/Steelers, other than to say every kid is a little rebellious I suppose.

My wife is a graduate of Maryland and I have to say, I would NEVER root for the Terps. In fact, it is a constant source of good natured smack talking and betting in our house about the Terps & Nittany Lions. (I've had the better of it in football while I practically have to hide in basketball season.) She has tried hard to turn my son against PSU but has been unsuccessful to this point (you can't beat the gameday atmosphere at PSU). When we go to College Park, I take a ton of abuse from her Maryland friends and that is expected. It is also part of the fun.

As for your Gator fandom, Dan, I've ripped you as much as anybody about it because it seems to hollow to those of us who have lived and died with the good and bad times of our teams. Earlier this decade PSU's football team had a stretch like they've never had before (3 losing seasons in 4 years) and then out of the blue game 2005 (12-1, #3 ranking, & Orange Bowl win) and having suffered through those years, I never enjoyed one more than 2005. Being a fan means staying with your guys no matter what. Especially when it's hard to do so, it makes the good times so much better. When you pick up a team because of your spouse it just seems so devoid of any meaning.

What really irks me I suppose is your abandonment of N'western. How Dan can you do that? How? You said how much 1995 meant to you. What if they have a season like that next year? What will you do? I mean they are a D-1 team in a very respected conference and you left them for your WIFE'S TEAM? I'm sorry Dan, nothing personal at all, but to me (and I suspect many others here) that is pathetic. You cannot abandon your alma mater no matter what (unless they are D-2, or D-3, or something along those lines. Then you can root for another D-1 team, but you better dare not root for another school within their classification). A great part of your development as a person takes place in college. You become part of the place and it becomes part of you. To betray that out of a matter of convenience, in-law/spouse slurping, or bandwagon jumping is just treason.

The beauty of being a fan (especially of your school) is their are usually ups and downs. However, even if there are more downs, every once in a while (N'western football- 1995, PSU hoops- 2001, {a sweet 16 run since no one remembers but me that they beat UNC to get there})and it is magical. That is when you are really a fan, Dan. When you can live through and truely appreciate those times.

Chris said...

Oh, and Dan, if you were a little more objective where the Gators are concerned in your writing, it wouldn't hurt with us. Saying things like "Reggie Nelson is the greatest defensive player I've ever seen, and "the Gators are the best college basketball team of the last 25 years" are so over the top that we just shake our collective heads, and can't possible take you seriously. Not only about UF but it extends to other things. I kill PSU hoops (and to a lesser extent football) all the time. You see, when you call someone on another team you don't like a doucebag (see J.J. Redick, Brady Quinn, and the Duke Lacrosse players) and try to defend the idiotic behavior of Joakim Noah, it makes any argument you make little less convincing. Just trying to help Dan.

Chaddogg said...

I agree with Chris, Dan.

As a Northwestern fan and alum, my big problem is your abandonment of NU for all-encompassing UF fandom.

I went to NU from 1997-2001, meaning I:
1) Just missed the two greatest seasons in NU history (95 & 96).
2) Suffered three years of disappointment (1997-1999) with occasional bright point games.
3) Lived through what was, for me, the most exciting fan experience of my life (2000's team that was co-Big 10 champions, and played in the 54-51 game v. Michigan).

I've never seen anything like that 2000 season at NU, and the effect it had on my life...I mean, some of my best and greatest memories of college are that year, with my friends, watching those games.

And Dan, YOU lived through 1995 - COME ON! That is arguably one of the top 5 most miraculous, great seasons in college football history! And you gave that up COMPLETELY for UF, a team you are connected to only through your wife?

The beauty of college fandom (as opposed to other sports) is that you can, to a certain degree, have multiple rooting interests. You would be perfectly appropriate calling yourself an NU and UF fan, because you have ties to both schools. I consider myself a NU and UVA fan because after NU I went to UVA for grad school.

Because college teams (except when they're in the same conference, which would be fan bigamy) rarely play each other, you CAN root for multiple teams...and any conflict to me (and many fans) would go to your alma mater for undergrad. Thus, my heart bleeds purple and will bleed purple when NU plays UVA this season, but when UVA and NU don't meet, I root for both of them.

The point, Dan, is you threw away one of the greatest seasons of all time (NU's 1995 season) and all the memories it gave to you for UF. If you can sleep with that decision (and, technically and literally, you do), that's your business. But my conscience as an NU fan (and in particular one who JUST missed out on the experience of that season) can't excuse your casual abandonment of NU for UF.

Jen said...

I grew up with a mom who loved sports...my father had absolutely NO influence on my team selection (they are divorced). His parents were the ones who lived 15 minutes from South Bend so that is the closest connection to him that I got in terms of fandom. We went to ND all the time when we visited them.

I was born and raised a Buckeyes (and Irish), Browns, Indians, and Cavs fan. I was a Cowboys fan in 80-82 (warped by a best friend in elementary school) and looooved Tony Dorsett. I even cheered against my beloved Joe Montana in that NFC Championship game.

I went to Ohio University, a MAC school that is horrendous in football and flirted with the NCAA basketball tourney a few years after I graduated. I still cheer them on and watch for their score on the scroll every week. I know they don't have a snowball's chance when they play Ohio State, so I remain neutral.

I root for Rutgers because my cousins went there. I root against the Yankees because I don't like them. My second favorite NFL team was whomever Eddie George played for before he retired/couldn't play/no one wanted him. I liked Penn State before they joined the Big 10, so I follow them, and my friend lives in Happy Valley now so I have a tie to get there.

My husband and I both bleed scarlet and gray. My son wrote O-H-I-O on his Doodle Pro last night for the first time (He's almost 3). He has officially written "Ohio" before his own name. He's going to be a football player for Halloween in an Ohio State uniform (complete with shoulder pads). He runs around the family room when he hears the Ohio State fight song and makes me play their CD in my car all the time. He'll probably want to go to Michigan on a college visit...ugh.

I forget who said something like this: when you grow up around sports and it's on your local news, you see the players at public outings, the teams have behind the scenes nights, wahtever...then it becomes a part of you. Even if I had another favorite team while following a player, I will always root for my hometown teams.

People may think Cleveland is a horrible city and we may not have won a championship in a billion years, but at least we have sports year-round. So many other cities don't have that and that must suck. As my mom and I walked to the car at the Browns Stadium and we could hear the crowd down at the Jake, I said: "What do people in non-sports towns do for fun?"

Boy, I am a rambler too!

Dan, you are still a 'mo for jumping on the Gator bandwagon. It's fun to harrass you about it, so no matter what you say, we'll still razz you.

chitown italian said...

I am Catholic and I completely DESPISE NOTRE DAME!!!! Thank goodness my dad never cared for college football until he moved to the south and was integrated into UGA football with our neighbor who went there.

After this past weekend, I would have poked my eyes out. Did you see the hideous uni's they were wearing.

I think Weis must have been drinking castor oil when he picked those things out.

Geoffrey said...

My take on the matter is that fandom is like marriage: it's supposed to be til-death-do-us-part, but sometimes things just don't work out, and a change has to be made. It's ok to do that, as long as it's only once or twice, and it's for a damn good reason. The person that jumps from team to team just looks pathetic like a guy who divorces a wife because something else nearby looks good in a short skirt.

And much like relationships - you get a free pass on anything that happens in college. Because college doesn't have the draft, the rich stay rich, maybe not forever, but for a long time, and I see nothing wrong with leaving a college team that sucks. You likely didn't pick that school because of their teams, and you likely didn't grow up rooting for them. Jettisoning Northwestern isn't a sin in my book.

Dan, I like your analysis of the reasons for chosing a team, and again, finding a team is a lot like finding a girl - sometimes it's geography, sometimes it's biology, and sometimes it's that extra special something that just clicks right with you. None of them is the "right" one, and all of them can have good or bad consequences.

chitown italian said...

Ha! Great one Geoffrey.

A friend from college grew up in Nebraska and absolutely loves them (as noted previously we didn't go to a Div. 1 school). Due to Nebraska's poor season he sent out an email this week stating he was switching allegiances to Kansas football.

Me being the smartass that I am asked him if that was because weight watchers was sponsoring him and the Kansas coach to take on Kirstie Alley and Valerie Bertinelli in a weight-loss contest (my friend from college has what most people like to call a weight problem).

Yes I know, I am a jackass but it is funny because it is true. Hope you guys get a chuckle out of that.

ThisIsNotMyBoken said...

Dan, when I referred to 'front-runner' it was based on what you wrote in your post: you chose UF because they were a winning team, and NU was not. The fact that in 2001 they weren't winning the national championship is inconsequential in that regard..

And I have to agree with a lot of the other people here - attending NU and not previously having a team and then not sticking with NU is quite lame. Especially considering the reason you picked UF was because a girl (who at the time wasn't your wife mind you) liked them is indefensible.

Now, couple that with your complete homerism, unexplained hatred of certain teams and their players/students, and you start to understand why people get annoyed by all this. If you didn't have prior allegiance to a particular school, why do you so blindly ridicule other teams (esp when they have no impact on UF)? Seems irrational.

Andrew said...

I think the main thing that seems to rub people the wrong way when Dan says something blatantly pro-Florida, negatively assaults another team while looking the other way when the Gators do it, or other homerisms, is that most of us followed Dan here from a certain TV network's website. There we were accostumed to Dan having to give an unbiased account of the daily sports news.

Here, when he can write whatever he wants, he isn't a reporter anymore, he is a fan. And he has no responsibility to be fair or even rational. Dan thinks Florida is the best 2 loss team out there, its not being reporting as "news", its being reporting from a dude who has watched all their games, and has an opinion. There is a big difference.

toddthesecond said...

I have lived my entire life in Ohio and I root like a mother for the Indians and Cavs (don't care so much about the Browns, never have, though I'll watch them on TV and go to games if invited).

I went to a Div. III school here in Ohio, but my brother went to OSU and I grew up watching them and rooting for them, so I've continued right on through. My dad also roots for OSU even though he, like me, is not an alum and went to a Div. III school.

Now, I get all sorts of shit from my friends because I root for OSU and didn't go to school there. I try to explain to them that most of the state of Ohio claims allegiance to them based on the whole "Ohio STATE" part of the name, and I get dismissed and called a frontrunner. I then try to explain how my own school doesn't even play on a field with STANDS and I had to root for someone, so why not the school that best represents the state I was born, raised, and still live in. That ALSO gets called all the time.

Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing wrong here. It isn't like I picked some team out of a hat, or chose the best team in the country at the time (I was born in '72, so I sat through a LOT of Earle Bruce and John Cooper). But now that we're good, I hear it all the time how I'm some Johnny-come-lately frontrunner.

Anyway, Dan, I think my reasons are if anything MORE legit than yours, so I wanted to let you know that sometimes, people are just haters and that's that. Try to take it with a grain of salt.

Adam said...

Well, I don’t claim to have a fanhood story as original as Dan’s, as I am purely inheritance/geography with the White Sox, Bears, Bulls. Like many/most, my teams are started with my grandpa, continued with my dad, and now me. My grandpa, however, chose the Sox (and actually the Chicago Cardinals NFL team) just to be a jackass. He grew up about 5 blocks from Wrigley and wanting to be different from his friends, chose the south side teams. Thank god he did, calling my dad and grandpa from college after the WS in 05 and hearing two grown men (my idols) act like kids was one of the happiest moments of my life. While I don’t think a moment like that means my fanaticism is more than Dan’s for UF, its something that he will never experience.

Adam said...

Another thought beyond my own experience…

Interestingly, I don’t blame Dan for dumping Northwestern. Growing up in Chicago, we just don’t care about college sports. The Illini are too far away, and have sucked for too long. Northwestern is a doormat. Sure, there is Notre Dame (of whom I was a fan until my rejection letter came in 02, just in time), but once the Bears start…everything else is irrelevant. If it’s hard to be excited in Evanston or Chicago, why would you carry it anywhere else? Its not like NU has an extended alumni base that cares much for sports. Northwestern is an academic school. Period.

Like Dan, I am a college sports nomad myself. With no childhood team left as I left for college, I hoped to embrace my alma mater. Ooops, I went to a MAC school. Miami (OH) can only carry you so far on Saturday afternoons. Yes, I attended every game when I was there, which is better than most can say, but after Big Ben and graduation, the passion has waned significantly. Let’s not even discuss MAC basketball. CCHA hockey on the other hand, I fully embrace. In all likelihood because the RedHawks were so good.

I’ve gone through phases with teams because of girlfriends, mascots, announcers, stadiums, colors, and nothing has stuck. Maybe grad school or a wife would settle me down.

Ben said...

rooting for a school you didnt attend is like cheating on your wife. the other girl may be hot, and you can rationalize all you want, but she's not yours, so f*&K off

Ben said...

just realized alexander already said essentially the same thing

The heroin sheik said...

The best thing is this, one of my closest friends is a diehard hurricanes fan. His dad went there and he grew up right down the street from the school. Then his mom took his dad to the cleaners in a divorce and his dad declared bankruptcy. he couldn't afford to go to a private school and didnt have the grades to get into UF so he had to go to FSU. That is about as funny as you get. OH yeah he met his wife there and they are nasty to one another the week of that game.

Eric said...

"there is something intensely personal about how each person roots for their team"

My wife and I are both USC fans. Me since the early 80's, my wife her whole life. Her grandfather actually helped build the Coliseum. We've been together for more than 15 years and we still have unspoken rules for how we root for our team and how we can console each.

After the USC-Texas game we literally didn't talk to each other about the game for more than 24 hours. Not a single word. We both needed to mourn/deal separately. If either of us would've said something it would've just pissed the other off.

I'm lucky to be married to a gal who can hang in most any Pac-10 conversation, especially the Cali teams, but its just funny how we're big fans but we only share that fandom to a certain extent. We need our own turf.

As far as anyone else's vhoice of team, who gives a damn. Live and let live. I was at USC games in the 90's with barely 25k fans in the coliseum and now its regularly over 85k. Good for SC, more money and the games are more fun with more fans. I just hope some of the stick for the long haul.

BD said...

Dan, that is pathetic. Ditching your ALMA MATER for your wifes cheating bunch in the SEC. If anything the NU 93 season should have validated your choice to rot for them. Instead you turned your back.

I grew up a Badger fan living an hour from Madison with Season Tickets. My entire family went to WIsconsin. However, I chose to attend Indiana. One would guess that I am a diehard hoops fan, but this is not the case. I am a football guy, always will be. I travel to as many games as possible and still have yet to see a bowl eligible team. But, that does NOT change the fact they are my team. I could take the easy way out and stay a Badger fan, but that would be turning my back at one of the key rules in fandom: If your alma mater is in the BCS that is your team.

BTW Tebow doesn't hold a candle to Randle El. Go Hoosiers!

Johnathan said...

It's nice to see a fellow Nittany Lion around here Chris

Joey said...

You made some good points overall Dan. I just don't agree with all of them but it was well presented other than the part ripping into how most fans pick their teams. I fall into the biological and geographical part growing up watching Cleveland teams and Ohio State with my dad. I had no intention of ever following the Browns in Baltimore and still hate Art Modell with a passion that it sickens me to see a picture of him and recently saw he was honored by the Ravens.

I'd say the Indians are my #1 team since some of my oldest memories are sitting in the left field general admission section at Municipal Stadium with extremely small crowds. I someday dreamed of going to every game and if I could move closer and get a better job, I would. I haven't been a huge Browns fan my whole life basically because they moved while I was in high school and I didn't really like Bill Belichek as coach there when he released Kosar. He started to finally turn them around until the move was announced. I've since followed and watched every game since the return, but it has been very tough but I still live and die with them every game.

The funny thing about me as a Cavs fan is that the first ever Cavs game I went to, I didn't even know who they were. All I knew was that I was watching "Larry Bird's team" play at some place that took a long time to drive to (like 45 mins). I knew Bird from One on One with Dr. J and the Cavs won that game and I realized that the Cavs were like the Indians of Basketball in Cleveland. I watched just about every game of the 17 win season before they got LeBron and was genuinely pumped up about the idea of DaJuan Wagner, Ricky Davis, and Darius Miles team.

I've always been an Ohio State fan and didn't go there. I went to D3 Mount Union and never really followed them that much simply because their football team was too good and not worth watching.

Man, I rambled on...sorry

Mr. Melin said...

dan, as has been said, florida over northwestern is weak

me:
texas tech: went there
giants: loved watching bonds from the in that crazy '93 chase and was hooked (12)
dolphins: i watched marino kill the cowboys, my family's team, some random sunday (10)
sonics: kemp throwing down the jams got me (15)
blue jackets: i wanted them to have a fan in texas (20).

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Wow, sorry I missed the whole "question your fanhood" part of this conversation.
Mine is the greatest, purest, and best, for the record.


I just wanted to come on and point out that Matt Ryan deserves negative Heisman votes, if anything. VT could easily have picked off 3 of his passes by now, instead of 1. Fumbles and incompletions are allowable in that slop, but MR is almost as bad at avoiding defenders as that Flutie kid.

Chris said...

@ Jonathan

Nice to see a fellow Nittany Lion on here as well. I'll be one the 110,000 crazed, white-out, fans on Saturday night. I'm just hoping and praying we can knock off the Buckeyes. Although it will be tough. They are well coached and defensively as good as it gets. WE ARE!

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Oh. I see this whole conversation was questioning everyone's fanhood. The font is too big on the main page, so I always skip the (three-page) post and click on the Comments link, every visit after the 1st of the day.

Jibblescribbits said...

Since you picked your team because of a girl, and nothing more rational than that. (yes you loved the swamp and the atmosphere, but essentially it was for a girl). I guess people are, and have a right to be, skeptical about your allegiances.

But being a fan is more than a girl, and more than your father, or geography. At some point it isn't. I'm sure if my dad stopped taking me to Broncos games as a youngster I would have lost interest in them. I am sure If the Avs had left in, say, '98 I would have lost interest in them too, but at some point I became set for life. I am a life-long Avs/Broncos fan.

So i guess the question for you Dan, is are you at that point yet? And another way to ask that is...
If your wife left you, could you still root for the gators? I know nothing short of the Broncos or Avs moving cities in the middle of the night could make me stop rooting her of them (that's like cheating on me).

So there you go, if you can answer that question, to yourself obviously, with a yes then let them say bandwagoneer, but if you can't say yes, if you question your own loyalty then I think peple are entitled to question it as well.

Johnathan said...

Wow that was an impressive end for BC and Matt Ryan

Oh and Chris I think we have a decent chance if only because it's in Happy Valley. If it was in Columbus PSU would get killed but at home they play like a different team and the crowd really makes a difference.

It'll be close and I'm hoping for a win

PENN STATE!!

ToddTheJackass said...

Go Penn State! Go Penn State!

Poor VTech... with the shooting there being as devastating and awful, it was just totally cruel of Dan to predict they'd win the national championship. Then he goes and predicts VTech to win... damnit Dan, give the school a break!

MATT RYAN FOR HEISMAN!

Nelvis said...

I love all my Dallas-Fort Worth teams, but only the Dallas Mavericks are special to me.

I think being a Mavs fan is what being loyal to a team/school is all about. You see them rise (taking the Showtime Lakers to 7 games in the late 80's), then fall (Tarpley getting kicked out the league Agruirre for Dantley, becoming the worst team in sports), only to rise again (the CNN era.

They might kill you at times (the last 2 years), but you always think next year will be different.

Gonzo said...

@ john (east lansing, mi)

Can Matt Ryan have his Heisman points now?

I just want to predict right now the interpretation of this win: BC didn't deserve it, they looked horrible the whole game. Had to get a miracle to beat a team LSU thumped by 41. Now if BC had "SEC" above its name: What a tough gritty win. Proving they know how to get it done in the slop against a amashed-mouth and fast defense. VT may have gotten thumped by LSU, but thay have been a different team since then and they are a monster at home. A win for the ages. Tebo . . .er Ryan for Hesiman!

And finally, one note on fandom. The problem people have with Dan is less how you come to be a fan - everyone has their own personal reasons. The issue is sticking with it. Switching teams in your late 20's because your college wasn't that great just isn't very impressive. Nothing wrong with taking on your wife's team if it didn't involve dumping your alma mater. I'm just wondering what you do if Florida hits a rough patch (a real rough patch and not a bunch of 8-5 seasons under Ron Zook) and the intoxication of a National title hunt disappears. Once that reason for being a fan is gone, what are you left with?

bird said...

Ah, fandom! As a member of the Gator extended family that Dan mentioned in the post, I suppose I fall into a number of categories regarding the Gators. I've been a fan since I was in middle school (in those days it was "junior high"!) because UF was semi-local, because one of my cousins was enrolled there, and because UF WASN'T the University of Miami! I spent 4 great years at UF, got my degree, then went to graduate school at FSU (had to get special permission from the family to do that!). The annual football game was in Tallahassee that year and I very proudly sat in the Gator section with a number of my friends who had come from Gainesville for the game. These days, I get a big kick out of going to a game in Gainesville, because it's such an event, and also because it's a chance to spend time with family members. So, I cannot imagine ever NOT being a Gator fan, even during those years in the seventies when things weren't going well for the football team, and NOBODY paid any attention to the basketball team! My opinion on sports allegiance? It's a free country (more or less!) and if someone roots for a sports team for whatever reason, it's their choice!

Jenny said...

This just made me laugh. I too have a husband who has adopted my team of choice (Go UK!). My father (from whom I proudly inherited my fandom)even appreciatively commented on my ability here 2 weeks into our marriage to refer to anything the team does as what "we" did.

I would agree that it seems a little condescending to turn your nose up at all the ways people choose their team. Who really cares? If someone's cheering for your team, do you really care how they got there? And if they're not... may god have mercy on them.

Carla Jean said...

I won’t even comment on Dan’s Gator-dom, because as a Florida State grad the notion turns my stomach. (And I’m a complete homer, so there you go. There’s no point in getting me started.)

However, I thought a couple of scenarios other commenters brought up were interesting…

“And I'll further agree with others about "choice" being better than the more traditional ways of being a fan. I grew up outside of Boston and got to go to many Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games. Sunday's were spent watching the Patriots. My dad played at Notre Dame and I went to school at KU. Those are my teams for various reasons, all of which are personal. I could have turned my back on any of them, but I still chose to follow them.

And in the Fall of 99 when KU played Notre Dame in the Eddie Robinson Classic, I rooted for Kansas because that is where I was at the time and the stronger tie. Who would you root for if Northwestern and Florida played?”

I faced this problem in September. I was raised an Alabama fan (and had the good sense to remain one). I graduated from Florida State in ’02… and then graduated with a master’s from Alabama in ’04. I’ve lived in Alabama for almost five years, but I grew up in Jacksonville, Fla.—where my two teams met on Sept. 29.

I cheered for Alabama.

“I have a cheering scenario for everyone: which is stronger, alliance to a conference or hatred of a rival? I grew up in Texas so the nearest rivalry growing up was A&M and UT. If I am an A&M fan, and UT makes the championship game, do I cheer for the Big 12 team, or cheer for the opponent to spite my hated rival?”

THIS is a struggle I face all the time! With LSU still hanging in the national title race, I find myself half-cheering for a team I hate. Granted they’re not our biggest rivals. But heck, the whole conference hates them! Still, I like to see the SEC triumph.

For what it’s worth, that was also a dilemma last year with Florida playing for the championship. But don’t worry—I rooted for Ohio State.

chriglazier said...

I think the crucial point of fandom is that once you find "your team," you remain consistent. Your team is the team you live and die with, the team you follow all year round. I don't think how you find them is as important as the fact that once you find them, you never leave them.

Most people find their teams during childhood or college. Dan may have enjoyed Northwestern football, but if they were never his "it" team, I can't blame him for leaving. Of course, if they were, then he's just a traitor.

Here's my question for you, Dan. Now that the Gators are "your team," are you going to root for them for the rest of his life, regardless of what happens?

p.s. As a lifelong Gators fan, I am indeed bemused by you.

T-Mill said...

Wow, the 100th comment here. I admit, my wife and I have a uniqur fan-in-law status as passionate fans of both our college football teams. Fortunately, barring the Champs Sports Bowl, my Boilermakers won't ever meet her Hurricanes in football. Of course last year we just missed it since Purdue did go there.

As a compromise of geography we get Purdue tickets since we live in Indiana and tape the Canes. If we lived in Florida it would be the opposite. Either way we enjoy ourselves, and we'll be watching you Northwestern Wildcats at Purdue's homecoming this weekend.

In regard to that, I have really enjoyed chatting and sharing my Purdue blog with Lake the Posts this week. That is one of the best college team blogs out there.

BuckeyeInIdaho said...

I am no bandwagoner, that's for sure. I WAS born in Ohio, and have been a Buckeye fan forever (Eddie George was f&*king animal, man!!!)

I attend Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. I love my Bengals with a passion and would never EVER abandon them. Everyone in Pocatello became Boise State fans overnight after that bowl game. Not me. I hate BSU, Idaho, and everyone out here loves BYU. Not me. I am at EVERY home game (and a few roadies) of every sport going absolutely nuts for them.

No exceptions. I'll stand with my Idaho State Bengals and my Buckeyes through everything, no matter what.

GO BENGALS AND BUCKEYES!!! F**K BSU!!!