Where’s Your Sports Loyalty?! Wherever I Want it to Be….
In the wake of the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Chicago Bears 21-15 in Lambeau Field Sunday night, it has come to my attention that a certain question of loyalty to a city’s teams is a must in today’s sports world. Many angry Bears fans had just watched their aging defense give up a game-winning touchdown in the last 77 seconds, their savior quarterback throw more insults at his wide receivers than he did completions, and their best defensive player in the last 20 years go down for the season with a wrist injury.
That being said, Sunday night and the days following sucked for Bears fans. The season is hardly lost because one game never has and never will make a season for any NFL team, but it sure got harder for the Bears after their debacle against the Packers.
After the game, my naturally excited state of mind prompted me to go on Facebook and talk smack to Bears nation. All of the trash talking was good natured and while some of it got a little out of hand, it was nothing that lasted more than that night. However, there was one argument Bears fans were making against Packers fans that got me upset and wondering why there was an issue at hand.
Being from Illinois and a suburb of Chicago, Bears fans from my hometown chastised my Packers fanhood and called out my friend, who is a fan of all Chicago teams other than the Bears, for not being a true “Chicago fan”. They stated that if a person is from Chicago and does not root for all of his or her sports teams, that person is not a fan at all.
One upset fan even claimed that a person who did this was “less than scum”, which brings me to the heart of my argument. Does a person who comes from a particular city have to root for every team in that particular city, with no exceptions and no questions asked?
The answer is a resounding NO.
When my father was growing up, everyone in his family was a die-hard Chicago Bears fan. Every Sunday, the boys of the house would go to the local church and watch the Bears take on their weekly opponent. But my dad was different. Always one to go against the proverbial grain (if you know my dad, you just laughed at that and nodded your head), he decided to take up a liking for the rivals from the North, the Green Bay Packers.
Born in 1959, his career as a Packers fan got off to a fast start in the mid-60’s, but the 70’s and 80’s made it almost unbearable to watch. But the one thing my dad always said was that his father, my grandpa, told him that once he chose a team, he had to stick with it and not become fair-weathered. So there he was, watching the Packers amount to four winning seasons between 1970 and 1991, winning just one playoff game.
When I was born in 1990, my father molded me into a Packers fan from day one. I had always been a huge sports fan, and football was always my favorite sport, so naturally I wanted to cheer for the Packers. My dad and I would go to games yearly and would always share information on the team at the dinner table, sparking debates that still give my mother headaches today.
Back to the main question of all this: In becoming Packers fans despite living in Illinois basically our whole lives, did my father and I do something wrong or go against our city?
The greatest freedom that we have in out country today is the freedom of speech. We are allowed to choose our leader, speak publicly about issues, and not have to worry if our house will be burnt down in the morning. This may seem like a stretch of an analogy to some, but it really is not. The same goes for sports in that we should be able to decide who we want to root for.
For children our age who watched football growing up, how could you not love to see Brett Favre zip a touchdown to Antonio Freeman on a snowy day in Lambeau Field? The Packers were a fun team to watch and their leader had one of the most lovable personalities in all the game. It became almost impossible to root against Favre, and for some people this meant coming over to the side of cheering for the Packers on a weekly basis.
You don’t choose which sports teams you love. For the most die-hard fans, there is an actual bond between the teams we love and ourselves. Even if we wanted to root for our hometown teams and thought that we HAD an obligation to do so, we just couldn’t. There’s something about the team we chose that we love, and we wouldn’t change that for the world.
Another argument presented during the Facebook face-off Sunday night was that being a “Chicago fan” meant cheering for ALL Chicago teams, and once you cheered for another team, let alone a rival, you could no longer call yourself a Chicago fan.
Since when is there such thing as a Chicago fan or (enter the name of a city here) fan? It’s one thing if you choose to root for all Chicago teams and it just so happens to work out like that, but fan loyalty has nothing to do with where you live. What is the record of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky this season? How about the Chicago Fire? Will either team make the playoffs? Come on now, you’re a “Chicago fan”, aren’t you?
No one chooses where they are born, so the argument of fan loyalty out of the the womb makes little sense. This isn’t a dictatorship of a country where I have the potential to be shot if I wear my Packers jersey out in public. Do I have to be all for Chicago politics just because I reside in Deerfield? Why are sports any different from anything else in Chicago?
Sports are an amazing entertainment for every kind of fan who has ever loved a team. There are few things outside of sports that can ignite so much passion inside of us, make us sit in front of a TV for nine hours straight on a Sunday, and even shell out hundreds of dollars just to get a glimpse of our heroes in person.
Sports can be a getaway from the harsh realities of life, they can create futures for those talented enough to work in the business, and they can bring together a whole city, state, or country. Just ask the Yankees after September 11th or Team USA in the 1980 Olympics.
But above all these things, the best part about sports is that we get to decide on our own who we want to cheer for. We find those sports figures in our life who turn into our heroes who make us want to be the best at what we do, just like they do. We decide what jersey we put on as we imitate our favorite basketball player in the driveway.
Sports are a passion and wherever we find that passion, all that matters is that we back the team we follow, through thick and thin. It isn’t a mortal sin to cheer for the rival and our loyalty isn’t some binding contract that has to match up with our zip code.