Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Coming Sports Diaspora

Ugh. It has not been the best of days today.

I'm sitting at the airport, waiting for a flight that's been delayed for two hours, this after working until 3am last night.

Oh, and by the way, the Flyers lost in the Stanley Cup finals in a game that I had to listen to with one earphone while simultaneously working on a presentation.

At least I missed what turned out to be a big disappointment.

The Stanley Cup finals were notable, not just because it gave the Flyers their first chance to win the cup in over 30 years (which they blew because they're goalie is very below average, but that's an aside), but because it pitted the Flyers, from my native Philadelphia, against Chicago, my soon-to-be full time residence and the home of my fiancee.

It definitely made for an interesting dynamic, one that I'd just as soon avoid in future championship games (unless the Philadelphia team is going to win).

But it raises an interesting question. Let's fast forward some medium to large number of years, and let's assume we have at least one kid and live in the Chicagoland area.

What team does our kid root for??? And this doesn't apply just to hockey. Football. Baseball. College sports. Who will be their favorite player growing up? What's the first jersey they'll wear? And who are they going to side with when Australia plays Pakistan in cricket???

OK, so cricket will be a non-issue. But the sports rooting interest is a very real issue.

Of course, for our generation, this wasn't that much of a decision. Thanks to more primitive technology, it was much harder for someone like my dad (a Massachusetts native) to follow his Boston teams upon moving to Philadelphia. It became even harder to indoctrinate his kids into similar likings. As such, not only did my dad become a Philadelphia fan, but one of his kids (hint: me) grew up into an all-time great Patriots hater.

But now, the tables have turned. Now you can get just about any sports game in the comfort of your own home. Expanded national sports coverage, premium sports packages, streaming sports radio on the internet, and internet versions of local-area papers make it extremely easy to follow your teams wherever you live.

So following your own team after you move becomes pretty darn easy. Which means brainwashing your kids into liking your teams should be pretty darn easy too (note: this may be the first time I ever make a ridiculous assumption about what I'll be able to force my kids to do. I'm sure it won't be the last)

Now there's a risk involved, and it's the risk of raising a kid who becomes a social pariah for liking the wrong team at school. To that point, I'd simply shrug my shoulders and say, 'If my kid is anything like me he'll be overweight, so they'll have bigger things to worry about anyway'

Of course there's one other issue. That whole thing about my fiancee being a Chicago sports fan. Apparently her opinion counts too, or so I read in the 'Unfortunately, your fiancee will start being right all the time' pamphlet they hand out when you buy engagement rings.

But she's a reasonable person (or at least doing a great job of faking it so far). So let's go down the list and figure out what teams will win out.

Hockey: Flyers vs. Blackhawks

Now, this one is still a little raw since it's been less than 24 hours since the Flyers' goalie threw a big pile of garbage on his reputation.

However, this one is non-negotiable. I've been going to Flyers games since I was born. I've got jerseys, I've t-shirts, I've caught pucks at games.

Even after watching the finals, I'm still not sure my fiancee knows what Icing is.

Winner - Flyers

College Basketball: Illinois Illini vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Another slam dunk, pardoning the basketball reference. College basketball is a big deal to the Illinois crowd, they have chants and everything. They also wear orange, which appeals to me as a Flyers fan.

Penn State does technically have a basketball team. I may have played for it while I went there, I'm still not sure.

Winner - Illinois

Professional Football: Bears vs. Eagles

Another major rooting interest for me. Over the past few years the Eagles standing in my mental hierarchy of sports teams has improved, mostly due to the fact that football is by far the easiest sport to follow consistently. It's one game a week, rather than hockey's 3 or baseball's 7. So much easier to watch every game.

And given that it's a naturally violent sport that's confusing for novices, I'm hoping my fiancee doesn't care at all. She likes to do other things on Sunday besides watch sports on TV, which also gives me control of what football we display in the house.

And if you thought I wasn't going to raise my little kid to yell out E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES! and hurl batteries at opposing players, you were kidding yourself.

Winner - Eagles

At this point, it's becoming clear to me that when I care even a little about the sport, I'm going to push my team. And when I don't care about the sport at all, I'll let my kid root for anyone.

So with that, let's quickly ensure some Chicago balance huh?

Professional Soccer: Fire vs. Union

There's a Philadelphia soccer team? And it's called the Union??? No thank you.

Winner - Fire

Professional Basketball: 76ers vs. Bulls

This might be close if the 76ers still had Dr. J. But apparently that was like 25 years ago.

The Sixers have been terrible most of my life, and I also don't really like professional basketball as a sport.

The Bulls might get LeBron James. So hell, even I might start rooting for them anyway

Winner - Bulls

I wish I could stack this deck a little more, but I don't know if either city has a WNBA team, and I think Arena football may be defunct? World Team Tennis???

Meh. It's about even right? Moving on.

College Football: Illinois Illini vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Another college matchup, but this time the roles are reversed as my alma mater believes in football. I'm not sure Illinois cares, although they do win points for having a native american mascot. I like mascots that can potentially be offensive.

Penn State is also one of the winningest football teams in all of college. They have Joe Paterno, and they've got tons of cute kids merchandise. You can dress your kid up as a lion, you definitely can't dress him up as an Indian (well, you could, but I think it's weirder)

Winner - Penn State

Baseball: Phillies vs. Cubs White Sox

The last big enchilada actually gets pretty easy. It would be one thing if my fiancee was a Cubs fan (and by Cubs fan, I don't mean one of those fake Chicago Cubs fans that defines 'fan' as hanging out and getting drunk in Wrigleyville). National league opponents would make for a potential rooting conflict. But given that she's an American league girl and I'm a National league guy, there should be room to co-exist.

Our kid should be able to root for both teams with little risk of disaster. But just in case a White Sox - Phillies world series is in the cards. I'm going to indoctrinate for the Phils anyway


Lee Arbus said...

I am not in the habit of reading my future son-in-law’s blog and certainly not in the habit of posting comments. But after my wife showed me Jared’s diatribe on which teams my future grandchildren will root for (and which laundry, as Jerry Seinfeld most aptly put it they will wear), on this proclaimed “Chicago Blackhawks Day,” I feel compelled to set the record straight. Now because Jared has sought to limit the number of characters in a response (although he has unlimited rights), I will post this in two separate parts.

Part I

Now when Jared first told me that he wanted to marry my daughter, I responded that I wanted to be a good father-in-law, which by my definition meant that I would stay out of the kids’ business unless asked. Well, as you can see, that promise has only lasted until today. Fortunately so far we have been thrilled by their decisions, especially the one to reside in Chicago. But I see that they will need some help here.

Now to set the record straight, I have never stepped foot in Philadelphia, so I have nothing against the city, except how Flyers fans unmercifully booed my Hawks the other night while they skated that magnificent Cup around the Wachovia Center ice. Hey Flyers fans – you lost to a better team. Get over it!

But, after all, this is a city that claims as a delicacy, a wonderful Italian beef sandwich that they ruin by smearing it with Cheeze Whiz, of all things. C’mon guys, you call it a cheesesteak and it’s not even real cheese. It’s made, of course, by a Chicago company, Kraft Foods, but even Chicagoans know better than to eat it.

Back to sports.

NFL Football – Bears v. Eagles. Now all of you in Chi-Town may be surprised that I’m going to give this one to the Eagles. I have never been a huge pro-football fan. I guess that may emanate from my jealousy that football has really stolen the title of “National Pasttime” from my first love – baseball. Around here it is Bears all day, every day, even when they stink, which is more often than not. So go ahead, dress up my grandchildren in Eagles green. See if I care.

NBA Basketball – Bulls v. Sixers. I have often felt the NBA is a just one step ahead of professional wrestling. And recently one of their refs was jailed for throwing games, proving my point. So with Michael Jordan just a fleeting memory, and no imminent sighting of LeBron James here, Jared, you can have this one too. (To be continued.)

Lee Arbus said...

Part II

Professional Soccer – Who cares! I hear there is some kind of Cup thing going on a million miles away in South Africa, where a bunch of guys run around aimlessly for a couple of hours hoping upon hope to maybe score one goal. The only Cup that really matters is Lord Stanley’s, and that one can be seen parading around the streets of Chicago this weekend!

Baseball – This one is easy due to the 2 leagues. I grew up a White Sox fan, first following the game as a 7 year old in 1960. I married a Sox fan – that was a prerequisite – who subsequently gave birth to 3 great Sox fans. In our house it’s “ABC” – Anything But Cubs! In fact, at Jared’s future brother-in-law’s 4th birthday party, someone gave him a Cubs T-shirt. He held it up for all to see and then proclaimed “my dad won’t let me wear this.” I was never prouder. So if it is necessary for my grandchildren to root for a National League team, the Phillies are ok with me. But remember – if and when the Sox ever play the Phillies in the World Series – those grandkids will be wearing the Silver and Black! Oh, one last thought – you can’t take them to any Phillies games in Citizens Bank Park where Phillies fans think it is great fun to vomit intentionally on other fans!

Now for the real toughies – College Sports. It seems that Jared’s family takes pride on trying to attend every major school on the east coast. That will never be true here. Jared is marrying into an Illini Family. If Jared’s fiancĂ©e were to paraphrase George M. Cohan in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” it might go like this “my father went there, my mother went there, my brother went there, my little brother went there, and I went there.” Now I really have nothing against Penn State – a fine University. And until they joined the Big Ten (or Big 11 or Big 12, as seems to be happening these days) they used to dominate east coast football, beating up on the likes of the Lehighs, Temples, Rutgers, etc, each week.

As for college basketball, this one’s easy as I don’t think Penn State even has a basketball team, so it’s the Fighting Illini all the way. I grant that Football is a little tougher. Illinois’ football program most of the time is just a tad better than intramurals. But school loyalty must prevail here. So Penn State can be my grandkids’ second favorite college football team and if someone wants to get them a cute little lion, that’s ok with me. But they will be born and bred as true Illinois fans.

And I must take great exception to one point Jared made about our (Illinois’) mascot – The Chief. First, it is NOT a mascot. It is a symbol. And a revered one at that. Second the University, much to the chagrin of many, has retired the Chief, caving in to political correctness (that doesn’t seem to have affected the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, the Florida State Seminoles, the Fighting Irish and many others).

So Jared, as you can see, I’ve tried to be fair, giving you some, and keeping some. And I know that deep down you will agree with what I’ve posted. And if you don’t – well you can pay for the wedding! -