Today was a good day to be a fan.
It started with an early morning Spurs victory (4-0, to keep the pressure on table-leading Chelsea), and finished up with a 3-2 University of Denver victory in the NCAA Men’s Hockey championship game.
These two teams, and my perhaps complicated reasons for loving both, had me reflecting on both what it means to be a fan and on what being a fan means to me.
Many of my loved ones dislike how I choose the teams that become “mine.” This list includes an adolescent best friend and a brother-in-law, to name a few.
For both of them, a team is the representatives of where you were born, of the community you grew up in. A team is a long-term relationship, and I have absolutely nothing wrong with any of this reasoning.
For me, it’s always been different. And while I note the complete divergence in philosophy, I also note a logic which I find far more consistent than many may find my choices to be.
My teams, midway through this journey called life, have included at least two sets of fierce rivals (Yankees and Red Sox/ Raiders and Broncos – no, never at the same time), something which would have me criticized by even the most casual sports fan.
My teams tend to change when I move, and in this there is logic, for I don’t re-locate, I tend to burn the place down. I don’t say this with pride, just acknowledgment. I don’t cheat, I don’t two time… I do however seek divorce in the most concrete of ways when I depart a place, and this makes any memory of that place seem far more artificial than the adoption of my next home might seem to another.
When my wife and I knew we were coming to DC, we immediately began following the Nats and Caps. The reason was simple: I’ve always recognized the value of a hometown team, and if this place had any chance of me “giving myself to the relationship” then a team was going to have to be part of the equation. (Note: When choosing where to move, sports franchises – the presence of them, not the who – was at the top of the list of considerations.)
My love for Spurs has been devout. I challenge anyone to have logged as many hours watching matches that started at either 1 or 4am on illegal Russian/UAE websites as I did for much of my time in Korea. So early were the matches that myself and the half dozen or so other fans I knew in Afghanistan, Singapore, Indonesia and Korea would tweet using #YAWNarmy, in reference to a similar hashtag often used by Tottenham fans.
I chose Tottenham, they didn’t choose me. I’m hardly a London boy, and in fact it was once inconceivable that I’d love anything from the capital of a country I was unsure I could ever love. (See here for more on that.)
My love of Spurs came from a desire to have someone to cheer for consistently, as I began watching English football more and more. I loved how they played, I loved their history, and I loved that they were not one of the four big money teams that reminded me so much of the Yankees, for whom my love quickly faded as distance between myself and the Apple increased.
As for Denver, well there is something as well. Denver is my alma mater. I mean, I should love them, but still, one must ask why… I owe Denver – or their crony at the Dept of Ed – FAR more than the school ever gave me. My Master’s from a small school in New Mexico has opened far more doors than the overpriced, Dawson-Leery-version-of-an-Ivy BA I got from Denver ever has or probably will.
Still, Denver is home, which is fitting in my logic, since my hometown is actually about an hour up the road in Boulder. The school in that town, CU, is somewhere I once attended, to great success, and loathe; like I said… I’m complicated.
In the end, my love of Denver hockey comes to two things, who I was when I was watching hockey (and tutoring the team’s young European players) at DU, and a need for some kind of port.
When you graduate from a place, it becomes another family to you. I can’t break up with DU, their alumni office won’t let me… Let me try that again. I can’t break up with Denver, because I would never wish to distance myself from the one thing I did do while there: completing something.
Graduating from DU was perhaps the first thing I’d ever finished. It to this day is still among a very, very short list of such accomplishments.
DU is a hockey school, and so I recall those days (especially the last one) by way of that team.
I felt pride as they won the title tonight in some part because it feels like how I would hope that school feels when I accomplish something. I don’t care about the logic; that’s not what love is built on anyhow.