So You Wanna Be a Fan?
if you don’t have a hometown favorite, the rules for picking a favorite pro sports franchise are not so simple
Odds are that you are a Wisconsin sports fan. You like the Packers, the Badgers, and probably the Brewers and the Bucks. Yet, you like hockey. The Badgers have a respected program, but with there is no National Hockey League team in America’s Dairyland, and there likely never will be. There are franchises immediately to the west and south, but they reside in the lands of your likely rivals: Chicago and Minnesota. What do you do?
The rules of sports fandom are far from consistent. If there is one rule that is typically unbreakable, it is that axiom that you cannot simultaneously be a die-hard fan of two teams that view each other as archrivals. There are people I know who cheer for the Packers and the Vikings, but they tend not to be much into sports. Full-time fans draw the line at this both-sides-of-the-fence approach, but afterwards, their rule-writing utensils get dodgy on ink.
The nebulous nature of fandom truly presents itself when you want to root for a team in a sport or league where your preferential location lacks a franchise. Granted, if your club moved, you can be released to cheer on another team, or simply root for any squad playing your former favorite (like me in the 1990s hoping mostly that the former Minnesota North Stars-now-Dallas Stars would go 0-82 each year). You could also be like Seattle SuperSonics fans and keep the flame alive for future expansion or the arrival of a franchise on the move.
A dilemma is presented when you have no prior connection to a team, but you want to root for something. Therefore, I present a guide if you find yourself in a situation akin to that of the hypothetical prospective NHL fan from the opening paragraph.
First, what is your passion for the sport? If you just want a reason to want to keep up with the happenings in a given league, you could skip devotion to one franchise and choose to admire excellence wherever it comes. Sure, you may be tagged as a front-runner, but as long as you are not buying merchandise or falling into the ultimate bandwagon trap of being a Yankees/Cowboys/Lakers/Sidney Crosby fan, you will maintain respect. Additionally, you avoid another layer of lows when your team fails to win a yearly championship; multi-year title runs tend not to happen outside of lower-profile college sports.
However, if you want to ride the rollercoaster and fall in love with another organization of athletes, take into account your rivals. Do you care whom you root against? Do you have a thing against an entire city’s or state’s teams?
Consider this scenario: You don’t like anything Minnesotan, but you decide to become a Minnesota United fan because you want to cheer for a Major League Soccer team that’s close to home and there is no franchise in Wisconsin. Then, 10 years from now, MLS expands to Milwaukee. Because of the nature of rivalries, you can no longer root for United – while fandom rules state that you cannot bail on your team for their rival (barring exceptional circumstances like if your team abandons you for another city).
In that scenario, you should either take the dispassionate “appreciate the best” tactic, or find a reason to latch on to a team likely to never cross a future home-state favorite. Might I suggest the San Jose Earthquakes for your soccer choice, cuz, why not?
However, if you really cheer more for certain teams – maybe the Wisconsin slate – but not really against a geographic locale, I believe sports rules allow you to adopt an ostensible rival. We do have a surprising preponderance of Packers/Badgers/Twins fans in western Wisconsin. So, to answer the question posited at the start of this column, you have sports fandom permission to like the Minnesota Wild, without being traitorous to the Badger State. Heck, a Badger recently got signed by the Wild, and Eau Claire’s own Jake Dowell (also a one-time Badger) used to play for them.
If you are in the described example and still find yourself uncertain, then conduct a little research, learn about the teams, and trust your heart. And always root against Dallas.