I’ve grown up with sports, starting with my earliest memories of the Bills – Redskins Super Bowl playing on two TVs in our house and my dad letting me stay up and watch the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series. I started playing Little League Baseball when I was five, and I play inline hockey now at the age of 26.
This started as a more chronological assessment of who I’ve rooted for and why, but I felt that such a topic would be long-winded and boring. The short version is that I root for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres because that’s where I’m from, and most Seattle teams because that’s where I am, and what really connects me to teams is having players or members of the organization that show themselves to be good people in addition to skilled athletes or managers or whatever.
It’s weird to think of how fandom changes (for the nuanced of us) over the course of time. How when we were young the losses of our team felt like death, and how we dreaded going to school in our starter jackets the next day. And conversely how the thrill of victory brought utter adulation upon us. I miss that a little bit. I mean I like that I have a deeper perspective now, but I miss getting such happiness from something so inconsequential.
In the past the news of Jim Kelly’s cancer would have horrified me and while I’m glad he’s overcome it for the sake of himself and his family, all I can think about now is how obnoxious it is that people give so much of a shit about this guy they’ve never met when he’s had a literal team of people making sure his body is in top condition for most of his adult life when for most people cancer is financial and physical Death being summoned to the door.
Lately it’s become less about wanting my teams of choice to win and more about simply wanting to enjoy watching them, and this isn’t about me approaching athletics better or worse than other people, it’s about coming to the realization that it is asinine to tie so much of my happiness to organizations that I am not a part of beyond spending money on them. It’s less about fighting for superiority and more about wanting to share moments, good and bad, with good people.
I find individual athletes to be really laudable and intriguing. Guys like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo who have so ardently stood for LGBT individuals and Brian Moorman who has worked so tirelessly to give back to his communities. I also have come to enjoy watching leagues as a whole, even ones like MLB or the NBA or NCAA Basketball where I don’t really have a team to root for. Watching the various idiosyncrasies of these entities is at times fascinating.
My interest in individual teams has definitely waned. Don’t get me wrong, if the Bills or Sabres defy universal odds and a culture of losing to make it to another championship in my lifetime, I will be there, but I’m not going to be especially regretful either if it never happens. I’ve already made contributions to this world that I am proud of. I don’t need fandom to be among them.