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Measure of a fan

Loyalty to team tells plenty about type of person you are

Posted: Monday August 30, 2004 11:59AM; Updated: Monday August 30, 2004 3:00PM
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Earlier this summer, I had lunch with an acquaintance -- we'll call him Mr. Weathers -- who works in book publishing. During the course of the meal, he mentioned in passing that he wasn't on speaking terms with an old friend, and hadn't been for something like six years.

The dispute was rooted back in a decision Mr. Weathers had made in the '90s, when he 'adopted' the Houston Rockets as his basketball team, despite the fact that he'd been a Knicks fan for the first 40-odd years of his life. These were the Rockets of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and so on. Which is to say, these were the Rockets that were very good. Mr. Weathers had also similarly 'adopted' the Mark McGwire-led Oakland A's as his baseball team.

His friend thought this was, in so many words, a load of crap. He argued that once you were a fan of a team, you couldn't just go around changing your allegiance just because you felt like it. A heated debate ensued, offense was taken, and now, six years later, the two men communicate with each other solely via their spouses.

At the end of this anecdote, my lunch acquaintance looked at me and asked, "You're a sportswriter, what do you think? There's nothing wrong with changing teams, is there?"

Seeing as we are business peers and I'd never met (and likely never will meet) his friend, I took the diplomatic route.

This is what I said: "Yes. Absolutely, there is something wrong with it."

Because there is. You cannot spend your whole life in Houston and then, upon moving to New York, decide that you like Manhattan so much that now you're 'from' New York. Likewise, you cannot take your black lab to the park and -- while he is off chasing pigeons, terrorizing picnickers and happily rolling in manure -- see another dog who is fetching tennis balls for his master with the alacrity of a U.S. Open ball boy and decide, right there on the spot, that this other dog is now your dog. (Well, you could, but his owner would probably not be pleased).

MAILBAG
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This is not to say that you cannot watch other teams and appreciate them. That's fine. But then let's call you what you are: an appreciator. Feel free to go around telling people, "I'm a Yankees appreciator," if you like, but let's save the word 'fan' for those who deserve it. I am talking about those who've spent the last 11 years arguing, during every training camp, that this year is, indeed, the Warriors' year. I also speak of the Expos fans, the Brewers loyalists and everyone else who knows what it's like to start thinking about next year, this year, and do it every year. For these people, it will mean something when their teams finally win. You can't be invested in the Cardinals if, last season, you were invested in the Marlins.

I have a friend from college who goes so far as to use fan loyalty as a litmus test when meeting people at work. Those who have it, he feels he can trust. Those who don't, well, as he says, "I gotta keep an eye on them."

A good read

Good piece last week in the New Yorker on NYC sports radio duo Mike and the Mad Dog. It's the issue with the Dick Cheney cartoon on the cover. The writer hung out at both their houses and describes some very funny scenes, such as Mike Francesca in his basement with his feet up, watching horse racing and pontificating.

The sartorial splendor of Craig Sager

Seeing Craig Sager doing interviews for NBC at the Olympics was a little disappointing. Not because his interviews were bad, but because he was wearing a conservative blazer/tie combo.

This from a man who pioneered tacky clothes on sports TV. A man who, after wearing a reflective silver suit to the 2001 NBA All-Star game, inspired Charles Barkley to say, "I don't have anything against black people, white people or any kind of people, but when you start letting pimps interview people, that's where I draw the line."

I did a story on Sager for SI in 2001. Here's what NBA players thought of his sartorial style.

Said Tim Hardaway: "Everybody looks at his clothes to see what he's wearing."

Mused Dan Majerle: "He dresses awful, but I think he takes pride in it."

Then, a dissenting voice, none other than our friend here at the Blog, Sam Cassell: "Sometimes," Sammy said, "He gets jiggy with it."

Who would have thought? Sager and Cassell, kindred spirits.

Mailbaggin' it...

On the subject of NBC's blanket coverage of all things gymnastics, many people emailed in with their thoughts. A large number expressed their feeling -- some rather strongly -- that the sport had pre-empted any and all Olympic coverage. Of these, Chris Bengele from Noblesville, Ind., went so far as to CC me on the letter he wrote to NBC. Here is an excerpt:

"To Whom it May Concern,

While I am interested in the gymnastics competition and the swimming events to a certain degree, I must say that the incredible lack of attention to the other sports and athletes is truly discouraging .... After 45 minutes or so of pouting Russian gymnasts or after hearing the moniker 'Thorpedo' for the 29th time, I get disgusted enough to change the channel or do something much more interesting ... such as scooping poop from my cat's litter box."

Mr. Bengele, in his note to me, closed with 'fight the good fight.'

Four of you wrote in to say you felt there had not been enough gymnastics coverage. Here is a representative e-mail from that bunch.

"[I] am sorry you feel gymnastics is taking over the Olympics coverage," writes Mr. Jayashree Ramani of Herndon of Herndon, Va. "For one, NBC and other networks owe gymnastics its due. Especially men's gymnastics. I have a son who is a gymnast and I know how he longs to see more of men's gymnastics. They learn from seeing elite gymnasts, you see."

Mr. Ramani makes a fine point. One which, if I may take the liberty of interpreting his email, can be boiled down to: My son is very important to me.

Nominations for best song covers came in from a few folks.

Todd from Champaign, Ill., mentions Metallica's take on Thin Lizzy's Whiskey in the Jar.

Ernest from St. James, N.Y., nominates "the 1972 cover of Simon & Garfunkel's America by YES," which he calls, "the best cover of any song, ever." Ernest, buddy, it's OK. You can put the bong down now.

And now, the part of the Blog I'm sure you've all been waiting for: Important Sports Thoughts From My Friend Owen. For those who aren't familiar with Owen (that is to say, nearly all of you), he is an N.C. State grad who occasionally dabbles in hyperbole.

His thought for the week:

"This is the last straw. Stuart Scott, U.N.C. Class of 1988, just called Philip Rivers, "Phyllis Rivers" on Monday Night Countdown. I say it was HARDLY an innocent slip-up. Sorry, man, N.C. State prosecutes blasphemy of its icons with all the subtlety of a Sharia court. PUBLIC BEHEADING MUST FOLLOW."

Owen is, of course, kidding about the beheading part. I think.

Look for more exciting opinions from Owen in this space next Monday. Until then, keep this or that real.

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