By: Alexander Kenny, Columnist
For many, choosing who to cheer for this Super Bowl Sunday feels like the 2016 election. The New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles are the most hated football teams in history (except for Michael Vick’s 2007 Falcons and Adrian Peterson’s 2015 Vikings). Contentions run this deep: The Patriots win too often and Eagles fans are notoriously unpleasant. One of these teams will have happy fans on February 4th and you could be one of them.
Just dump your team.
Thirty-one out of 32 teams have an unhappy end to their season and it’s more fun to back a winner. I’m not suggesting you should retroactively love the Super Bowl winners every year. I’m suggesting you can arbitrarily love any new team just as your arbitrary birthplace probably determined the perpetual disappointments you love now.
Your fandom resembles the spouse who always forgives the cheating bum. If you’re a Redskins fan, sixteen times a year you say, “okay, but this is the last time.” The home team, like all teams, is comprised of mercenaries. The home team is simply the most visible. They don’t represent you, their wins are not your wins, and you’re not getting a cut of that paycheck. This isn’t Sparta versus Athens where the outcome determines property rights.
Let’s make sports fun again. I’d like to help you choose your new favorite team.
Some choose teams based on semi-manufactured ideology. In the 90’s, bad-boys followed the L.A. Raiders possibly because the team committed a record number of violent personal fouls or possibly because N.W.A. sported Raiders gear. Green Bay & Pittsburgh represent blue collar ideals because meat packers and steel boilers work hard. If you’re interested in social reform and kneeling, I recommend tuning in to San Francisco. For 1.5 seasons, Denver championed deeply cherished Christianity because a different player also insisted on kneeling (this time they called it “Tebow-ing”). New Orleans fans suddenly appeared two years after Hurricane Katrina, sympathetic towards an underdog. If you like hugs, apologies from strangers, and Eeyore, your team is the Cleveland Browns. To earn attention via contrarianism, you might find it fun being a Dallas Cowboys fan. Sure, you seem obnoxious and Redskins fans will ask, “have you even been to Dallas?” but you will meet everyone at the party by wearing Dallas gear. There’s more here, but you get the picture. One can align oneself with oddly specific values via team selection.
A team image is often assigned the values of its most visible players. A team has greater appeal when both a hero and an anti-hero emerge and sports writers like to create a buddy-cop drama between the two. The immobile, chubby QB is balanced by a graceful safety better known for his luxurious hair (Ben Roethlisberger & Troy Polamalu). The intelligent, calm QB needs a smashmouth counterpart known for his predator pose and luxurious hair (Aaron Rodgers & Clay Matthews). The bleached receiver with the stickiest fingers pairs well with the insanely lucky QB who perpetually needed a haircut two weeks ago (Odell Beckham Jr & Eli Manning). Unwieldy locks are a major factor when choosing your new team. Distinctive hair earns camera time, hence household familiarity, hence Adidas contracts.
This year I am a Patriots fan. I dumped the Lions and chose the Patriots Nov. 8, 2007 when they led 35-7 over Buffalo in the third quarter. Bill Belichick ordered a very rude fourth down conversion and frowned when he got the first down. Exciting, unpredictable, possibly evil. This is the team I want to watch.
Most Sundays in autumn, I join the rowdy family next door, including five-year-old Justin, to watch football and eat Doritos with hot cheese. When asked which team he likes, Justin responded: “I like the team that wins.” He is the happiest sports fan I know.
Graphic by Billy Ferguson