Friday, April 07, 2006

A fickle fan

I should have learned long ago to base my sports allegiances on the teams and the cities rather than on the individual players. That way I wouldn’t get soured on a sport each year when I learn that half the players I liked are no longer on my favorite team. Some people are diehard fans of a team every year regardless of who is on the team - Cubs fans and Red Sox fans tend to be like that. But I would always get too attached to individual players such that when they left, so did my loyalty for the team.

I suppose I’ve always rooted for the Texas teams because it was my home state, but calling them my favorites would be a stretch. Growing up on military bases and moving around the country in the 1970s made it hard to form an attachment with struggling teams like the Houston Astros, the Texas Rangers and the Houston Oilers. For one thing, I rarely got to see them play since we lived so far away, and secondly they had no standout players back then and never were in contention for a pennant or a Super Bowl.
The Dallas Cowboys were the exception. Roger Staubach was my hero and the fact that he played for a Texas team made it easy to call them my favorites.
But baseball was another story. My favorite team from my youth was the Cincinnatti Reds because I loved Johnny Bench and Pete Rose. At the time, my father was stationed at Grissom AFB in Indiana and I could often see games featuring the Reds on TV. But I never had any connection to Cincinnatti, so when the Big Red Machine was dismantled in the latter part of the ‘70s I lost interest in the team.

I didn’t really have a “favorite” team again until 1998 when Chuck Knoblauch was traded to the New York Yankees. I had a personal connection with Knoblauch in that we both attended Texas A&M at the same time where I got to see him play and he had been one of my wife’s high school classmates at Bellaire High School in Houston. During Knoblauch’s first year in the majors in 1991 he helped the Minnesota Twins win the World Series and was voted Rookie of the Year. When he went to the Yankees, something seemed to click with the team and they went on to win three World Series championships in a row in dominating fashion.
So for a while I was a big time Yankees fan. Even after Knoblauch had his throwing problems (and ended up being benched and then traded to Kansas City where he ended his career in obsurity,) I continued to root for the Yankees because I had become attached to the other players on the team - Paul O’Neil, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, and so on.

But once again I am torn. The Yankees are still a good team with a lot of great players (but not the chemistry they had in ‘98-’00), but the only people left from the time I was a big fan are Jeter, Posada and Bernie Williams (on the verge of retirement). Even the coaching staff has changed with the exception of Joe Torre.
So do I continue rooting for the Yankees, or find someone else? (I had considered becoming a Texas Rangers fan a while back, but then they turned around the next year and traded Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, etc. and I said the heck with it.)
Last year I decided to root for the Astros in earnest. I thought it was pretty neat when they picked up Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens from the Yankees so I decided to follow them for a while. Until San Antonio gets a team, the Astros are the closest thing to a home team for me now so I will keep rooting for them. But they haven’t risen to the level where they would replace the Big Red Machine or the ‘98-’00 Yankees in my estimation.

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