Thursday, October 20, 2005

A sports entry

Having watched the American and National League Championship Series, I was really hoping for a Sox-Cardinals World Series. Although there's no doubt the Houston Astros deserve to be in the WS after thoroughly outperforming (both hitting and pitching) St. Louis, I am still disappointed. However, at least this takes care of the potential conflict between me and the ladyfriend and her father, who are both diehard White Sox fans. I may have a chance to go to the first WS game this Saturday, and I won't have to root against the Sox. In fact, I'll root heavily for the Sox although I cannot say that I'm a full-fledged fan.

If I had to rank the baseball teams I root for, as a casual fan, first would be the Cardinals, followed by the Detroit Tigers, who I rooted heavily for as a child, followed by the White Sox. I like the Sox not because I live in Chicago and not because the ladyfriend and her family are fans. I like them because I hate the Cubs and their annoying yuppie North Side/North Shore fans. Cubs fans and Sox fans strongly dislike each other, and when the two teams play during the interleague series, the city divides in half. Actually, it's more like three-fourths - 3/4 of the city side with the Cubs whereas the rest root for the Sox, made up of both true Sox fans and displaced Cardinal fans. I also like the Sox because, to me, they represent the working class and minorities while the Cubs represent your rich, white, former fratboys currently living in the city but will move out to the suburbs relatively soon to create even more urban sprawl.

I know I'm generalizing and stereotyping here, but there's no way I could root for a Texas team, especially one out of Houston. As the fourth largest city in the country, I picture Houston to be one of Earth's centers for redneck, Christian conservatives. Plus, former president Bush and his wife were at the games rooting for Houston. Fuck them. Go Sox.

While I'm at it, thinking about sports, let me share with you my sports-viewing/fan history. I'll start with baseball since I'm already talking about it:

Living in Ann Arbor from '81 to '85, I became a diehard Tigers fan. I loved them so much that I'd religiously read the sports section memorizing stats about the Tigers. I can still recite most of the starting lineup for the '85 Tigers. This continued while living in Raleigh. After moving to St. Louis in '90, I did not care for the Cardinals. However, I think it was sometime in the late 90's/early 2000s that I became a full-fledged Cardinals fan. I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect it has to do with the Cardinals fielding competitive teams every year while the Tigers sucked. Also, I recognize St. Louis to be my hometown. But I'm a casual fan at best until the Cards make the playoffs. Because Chicago's a baseball city, I've been getting more and more into baseball again, especially since I'm sick of seeing Cubs shit everywhere and want the Cards (and the Sox) do well just to spite them.

Never really been a fan. I guess I'd have to pick the St. Louis Rams as my favorite followed by the Detroit Lions. I only really watch the Super Bowl.

College Football:
I used to love college football until I started losing interest once I hit college - kinda ironic, I think. Since my dad's days as a grad student at the University of Michigan, I grew up a Michigan football fan. I guess I'm still a casual fan. I only really keep up to date with how well the Wolverines do, which is not so well this year. I don't really follow Mizzou or UNC football.

College Basketball:
Since moving to Raleigh in '86, college basketball has been the one consistent sport I followed closely or semi-closely. I grew up a Michigan fan, and I remember being pissed and embarrassed at school after Michigan lost to UNC in both the '87 and '88 NCAA tournaments. And I remember wearing my Michigan sweatshirt with pride in '89 when Michigan beat Carolina and also won the championship. Because my father was going to school for his doctorate at NC State at the time, I was also a State fan...but they were always a distant second to Michigan. Even when I was an undergrad at Mizzou, I rooted for Michigan. I actually didn't start rooting for Mizzou until around the time I got ready to leave Columbia for Chapel Hill. Once I moved to Chapel Hill for grad school, I wasn't immediately a Carolina basketball fan - I was a Mizzou fan, followed by Michigan - it was first time ever I didn't root for Michigan first. However, things started changing in the four years I lived in Chapel Hill. It was partially influenced by how I loved living there, and I started to have some Carolina pride - moreso because of the school itself and the town, not so much "Carolina basketball." It was also partially because I became disenchanted with Quin Snyder's coaching - he's a phenomenal recruiter but a shitty coach. (Can any Coach K disciple coach? So far, the answer's been a resounding NO.) It was also partially because I really started hating Coach K and Duke University. I have immense respect for what Duke has accomplished, but I hate them nonetheless. But mostly, I became a true blue Carolina fan after learning more about the program and the ways of the great Dean Smith. Not only do I feel that he and Wooden are by far the two best coaches ever, I just liked the way he approached basketball, the program within the university, and life in general. Now, although I hesitate to say that I'd root for Carolina over Mizzou, if it really came down to it, I really don't know if I would choose Carolina or Mizzou. Having said all that, my favorite team of all time is still the Fab Five of Michigan, despite what we all know about players being paid. I was so heartbroken both times they lost in the finals, and after Webber called the timeout, it was probably the worst feeling I've ever had as a sports fan. Until 2003, I swore that Carolina got lucky because of that. That game pained me so much that I missed at least one opportunity to see a replay of that game until then. But after watching the game again on ESPN Classic in '03, it was clear to me the genius of Dean Smith, and Carolina deserved to win the game.

I'm an off-and-on fan. I really don't pay too much attention until the playoffs. I grew up loving the Pistons, and they're still my favorite team. I especially love the fact that Rasheed Wallace plays for them. And Isiah Thomas is still my favorite NBA player ever. I even like Bill Laimbeer. However, like many college basketball fans, besides the Pistons, I root for teams based on which players I like. And that's typically based on whether I liked them in college or not...they're usually former UNC, Mizzou, or even Michigan players. I still am a fan of Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwan Howard despite the cheating.

After moving to St. Louis, I very quickly fell in love with NHL hockey. I still maintain that there was not a more exciting sport than NHL hockey until 1995, when the New Jersey Devils made the low-scoring, clutching and grabbing, defensive, and ultra-boring hockey the popular style of play. Ironically, during that era was when my beloved Detroit Red Wings won 3 Stanley Cups, which, to me, trumps the more exciting hockey that was played before. I knew I couldn't root for the St. Louis Blues, so I quickly adopted Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings as my team...this was '90-91, when the Blues were one of the top teams and Detroit was still sort of a shitty team. Man, hockey was so exciting to watch then: extremely fast-paced, high scoring, non-stop action, EXCITING fights. I was a huge sports fan then of basketball, football, and baseball, and I thought this "new" sport I discovered in St. Louis was BY FAR the most exciting. With the rule changes this year after the lockout, I guess hockey's supposed to be fast-paced and exciting again. I'm not convinced. I don't think they really needed to change some of the rules so drastically. JUST CALL THE FUCKING PENALTIES WHEN YOU SEE THEM, YOU STUPID-ASS REFS! From '95 on, what used to be penalties - the clutching, grabbing, illegal stickwork - stopped being called and slowed down the game to the point that if you weren't already a fan, you were never going to be a fan. It's Gary Bettman's fault. In his quest to rid the game of fighting (which 90% of fans love, and which I'd argue to be necessary), other penalties were ignored. The only real change I like is that there is now a standard to how big the goalie equipment can be. No more Patrick Roys looking like the Goodyear blimp. Now, I just casually follow the Red Wings, but I've lost a lot of interest in the NHL in general.

My family loves tennis. I used to. I watched a lot of tennis as a kid, and I was a big fan of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. I was also a fan of women's tennis. Now, I never watch it...unless I'm with my parents and they're watching Wimbledon.

So, that's my history of being a sports fan. Besides college basketball, I'm a casual fan at best. Because of living in Chicago, I'm starting to become more of a baseball fan again. So, Go Sox. Go Cardinals (next year). Fuck the Cubs.