A Guide to Fandom and Team Loyalty

The other day at work someone asked me a question: “Is a person allowed to have more than one team?” The question was asked with the suggestion that I could support the Steelers in addition to the Raiders. I quickly slammed the brakes on that idea.

The simple answer is no, you can’t have more than one team. That would be like being married to two wives. But while polygamy is clearly defined, polyfandom is a bit more complicated. So, let me do the honors of breaking down the rules of sports fandom once and for all.

As far as I’m concerned, your team allegiances should pretty much be set by the time you’re learning to read. By that point, you’re either fully indoctrinated by your diehard parents or have been swayed by something—a player, a jersey color, a team name—to choose to call a team your own. Let’s hope that something wasn’t that the said was always winning. Nobody likes a bandwagon.

Once, you’ve got your teams, there’s no turning back.* The fact that the Raiders have set an NFL record as the first team to ever lose 11 or more games in five straight seasons doesn’t change the fact that I support the silver and black 100 percent. Michigan football missed a bowl for the first time in my lifetime. But I’m no less enthused for next season, and have three—count ‘em—three Michigan calendars displayed in my office right now (Page-A-Day desk calendar, mousepad calendar and a wall calendar.

Once your team is eliminated from the playoffs, it’s fine to pick a team to root for, but the rule is to go for the underdog, unlikely and unproven team. Do not jump upon the bandwagon of the hottest team. Do not cheer for a rival team. And if your underdog does win, don’t gloat or enjoy it too much. It’s not your team.

It’s also important to note the difference between professional and college sports. The guidelines are a bit more lax for college allegiances but not much. In the NFL, there are 32 teams. The NBA has 30 as does the NHL and MLB. Meanwhile, there are well over 100 Division I NCAA football and basketball programs. So, it’s permissible to flirt with a second college team permitted that they play in a different conference. Most times the rooting interests will never cross paths, but you need to have a clear number one designated if they ever should meet.

For me, it’s Michigan. I like UCLA, but if they ever play Michigan (as they did earlier this season), there’s no doubt in my mind who I’m rooting for. Maize and blue all the way! If you hesitate or need to weigh the pros and cons of one of your teams beating the other, you’re in serious trouble of being labeled a non-serious fan. Don’t hedge your bets. Pick a horse, saddle up and enjoy the ride. It may be bumpy along the way, but the finish line means more if you were riding from the start.

Being a true sports fan isn’t that hard (even if being a Raiders fan is). It requires commitment, loyalty, enthusiasm and optimism. “There’s always next year” beats “I think I’ll just switch and cheer for someone else this year” any day. So make your allegiances clear. Stand proud when they win. Stay firm when they lose. And you’ll be just fine. Trust me.

*Exceptions apply if you’re a fan of the team in your city and that team that moves away (Cleveland Browns fans should not have cheered for the Ravens) or your city suddenly gets a new team (People in Charlotte were free to switch to become Bobcats fans when the franchise began a few years ago.)

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

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