As you might have noticed if you read my first post, I have somewhat scattered sports allegiances. While some of my teams make sense given where I’m from, several don’t. So I wanted to author a short post as to why I root for the teams I root for, starting with the most obvious.
The reason behind this one is simple enough, as I graduated from UVA in 2011. Even a few years before I went there, however, I was a Virginia fan. UVA’s blend of solid academic and athletic tradition combined with state pride attracted me. Even if we don’t always have the best football or basketball team, we still have our good years, and excel at most every other sport. We also have the best logo in college sports, in my opinion.
The other schools I tend to root for (except when they’re playing UVA, of course) tend to have this same blend of academics and athletics, such as Stanford and Vanderbilt (who really just need to stop pretending they’re someone they’re not and join the ACC already). The other school I root for on occasion, Oregon, doesn’t have an especially highly-ranked undergrad school, but have some good programs, including teacher education. I like them mostly because they have a quirky iconoclasm about them, from their football team’s great uniforms and breakneck offensive style to their basketball team’s insane court design.
This one also makes sense, since I was raised in Virginia and for years the Orioles were the closest team to me. Baseball was the sport I fell in love with first, when the nine-year-old me bought an almanac of the most recent baseball season and devoured it, immersing myself in stats and stories. My father and I would frequently watch games together, and the Orioles were his favorite team. So, naturally, they became my favorite too, so much so that when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, DC and became the Nationals in 2005, I chided my Dad for “rooting for Virginia Tech” when he became a little partial to them. Dad and I have set a goal of making it to every baseball stadium, and we’ve made it to a good number of them (our next scheduled destination is Marlins Park this summer), and baseball has always been something we’ve bonded over.
After the Orioles, I’m a fan of the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners. The former largely because of my hatred for the New York Yankees, and in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Braves were considered the “anti-Yankees.” My favorite player was, and will always be Ken Griffey Jr. Until recently, I had a cardboard stand-up of him in my room, and I have a commemorative baseball with his signature lasered on, so that’s where my Mariners fandom comes from.
Okay, now we’re drifting a little further afield. I got into the NBA soon after baseball, when Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls ruled the roost. While I admired Jordan, I wasn’t a Bulls fan, because I didn’t like anybody else on the team. Not Scottie Pippen, not Luc Longley, and certainly not Dennis Rodman (though his hair was entertaining). So I searched through basketball history for an alternative team. That’s when I learned that the Celtics had won more NBA titles than any other team. The more I read about the Celtics’ tradition and legendary players like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, John Havlicek, Bill Russell, and Bob Cousy, the more I liked the team. So they became my favorite. There was only one problem: the Celtics absolutely stunk when I first rooted for them, having been set back years by the tragic deaths of top draft picks Reggie Lewis and Len Bias. It wasn’t till my college years that the team was good consistently again, finally winning another title in 2008. I’m hoping the Celtics go on another Finals run soon, because their last title run came during one of the few three month stretches where I was without a TV, and thus missed most of their run.
Funny enough, I actually rooted for the Lakers a lot in my youth, not really putting much stock in the old Celtics-Lakers rivalry. Now that I know the rivalry is still alive and well (and because the Lakers are threatening our NBA titles record), I don’t really back them anymore, though I do respect their history. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jerry West were great players, especially compared with the diva-ish stars that dominate the Lakers now. My second-favorite team now is the San Antonio Spurs, who combine great fundamental basketball with a classy attitude, even despite their level of success. David Robinson and Tim Duncan have always been favorite players of mine, along with the recent Celtics stars like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. I also followed Shaq’s career with interest, as I always admired his sense of humor and non-thuggish attitude combined with dominant play. He also has one of my favorite nicknames in sports, The Big Aristotle.
Green Bay Packers
The day was January 26, 1997. I was ten years old, and discovering this other new sport called football. I sat down with my Dad to watch my first Super Bowl, which also happened to be my first football game. The Packers were playing the New England Patriots. For reasons I’m not certain of today, Dad and I decided we were going to root for the Packers. Lo and behold, the Packers won behind Desmond Howard’s two kick returns for touchdowns, and the great play of the young, just-happy-to-be-here Brett Favre at quarterback. I rooted for the Packers that day, and haven’t stopped since. The next year they also made the Super Bowl, and the eleven-year- old me was decked out in a cheesehead pulling hard for them. They lost a heartbreaker to the Denver Broncos, and it was the only time I remember crying because of a sporting event. The Packers have been perennial playoff contenders the whole time I’ve known them, and finally reached the NFL summit again in 2011.
I’m also partial to the Baltimore Ravens, because of the Baltimore connection with the Orioles, and I was happy to see them win Super Bowls in 2000 and 2013. I rooted for the Washington Redskins some in my youth, since they were close by. I grew tired of Dan Snyder’s running them into the ground in the 2000s, and gradually stopped following them until the drafting of quarterback Robert Griffin III reenergized the franchise last year. Griffin reminds me a lot of Shaq, carrying himself with a non-thuggish class, and not taking himself too seriously.
Okay, now we’re way out in left field. I’m not an intense hockey fan, and I’ll admit that my reason for liking the Ducks is kind of silly. In 1992, the film The Mighty Ducks was released. When I started to get into hockey, I noticed that there was an NHL team called the Mighty Ducks, and I thought it was awesome that a real team could get named after a movie, so I became a Ducks fan. Highlights of my time as a Ducks fan include a thrilling seven-game Stanley Cup Finals tilt with the New Jersey Devils in 2003 (my high-school friend Mike and I were at each other’s throats the whole series, as he was a Devils fan), and their first Stanley Cup win in 2007. I also like the Detroit Red Wings, because of their rich tradition as a club.