If you don’t care for American football, you might not be aware that the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots yesterday in the Superbowl, 17-14. The game was remarkable for a few reasons: the Giants were a wild-card team and significant underdogs (12 points), the New England Patriots were undefeated (18-0) up until the Superbowl and winners of three Superbowls in the 2000s decade.
It was a good game, and I’m not going to bother to write a post about the game, as this isn’t a sports blog and there’s a million posts already on the blogosphere detailing the game so exhaustively that you don’t need to read another one.
This post is about fandom.
A great number of people were rooting for the Patriots yesterday. A large chunk of them, of course, are fans of the team. One of the interesting things about professional sports in general, though, is that people can be fans of “the game” in addition to being fans of “a team”, not to mention the fact that the Superbowl is a bona fide TV Event, in and of itself. This means that during the Superbowl, you have four classes of people who are watching the game: Fans of the AFC Champions, Fans of the NFC Champions, general Fans of Football, and people who are just watching the Superbowl (usually for the commercials).
Some of the people who are watching the game, therefore, aren’t Fans of either team. They might be general fans of football, or they might just be people who are just watching the game because of its TV Event status. They probably have some sort of professed loyalty to some other football team.
Yesterday’s game presented an infrequent opportunity: the chance to see who really has team loyalties. The New England Patriots had an opportunity to make football history with the first 19-0 record. Now, you can be a fan of the game of football, and you can be excited for the opportunity to see something that had never been done before, but if you were rooting for the Patriots to win, you’re either a fan of the Patriots, or you’re no true fan of any team.
See, I’m a 49er fan. As far as I’m concerned, the 1994-1995 San Francisco 49ers were the best team in the history of the game (largely because they were likely egregiously violating the salary cap rules, a misbehavior that paid off in one colossal stomping of a Superbowl followed by over a decade of seriously bad teams). Steve Young was the toughest running QB (overall toughness has to go to that crazy fool Brett Favre, though), Joe Montana was the best 4th quarter quarterback in playoff history, Jerry Rice is hands down the best receiver ever, Ronnie Lott is one of my favorite defensive players. Roger Craig, Freddie Solomon, Fred Dean, Dwight Clark, Hacksaw Reynolds, Brent Jones, John Taylor, the list of guys who played for the 49ers on one of their five championship teams is a collection of some pretty remarkable players.
If it comes time for a team to accomplish something new, I want it to be My Team, by gum. Not some other collection of bums, whoever they are. If some team is in place to accomplishing something that’s never been done before, it’s going to be the 49ers… or I’m going to be pulling for the other team. Boo on the Patriots for going undefeated in a 16 game season. Boo on the Steelers and the Cowboys if they get back to the Superbowl before the 49ers do (I want My Team to be the first team to win 6 Superbowls, too). Boo on anybody getting 206 touchdowns, or 1550 receptions, or 22,896 yards in their career, or 15 seasons with 1,000 yards receiving, or 1,849 yards in a season, or 23 receiving touchdowns in a season, or 14 consecutive games with a receiving touchdown, or 9 touchdowns in the Superbowl in their career (those are all Jerry Rice, by the way, and he’s got more records than that)… unless they wear red and gold.
No self-respecting Dallas fan should have been rooting for the Patriots yesterday. Any person who claims to be a Cheesehead who was pulling for the Patriots should have their headgear privileges revoked. I won’t even get into any so-called Miami fan who would be so crass as to pull for some other team to go undefeated for a season.
If it’s going into the record book as something never accomplished, it’s My Team, or nobody. And if you don’t feel the same way, you ain’t no True Fan.