I grew up in a little town in the middle of the desert just outside of Palm Springs, CA called Desert Hot Springs. Its two claims to fame were that Al Capone had a hideout there, and for several years in the late 80's and early 90's it was the Meth Capital of the World. We had more crystal meth and less teeth per capita than any place on the entire planet!
(The second part of that sentence may not be true, but any visit to the local supermarket sure made it seem that we only had enough teeth to make a complete set for about a third of the town’s population)
I was what you would call an “Indoor Kid,” and when you live in a place that gets in the 120’s in the summertime, quite frankly I can’t see why all Desert People aren’t Indoor Kids.
The only local sports for kids was a non-AYSO soccer league that I played on for one season during my third grade year. I can’t remember the position I played, but that’s because I am pretty sure it isn’t a real soccer position. The lazy Indoor Kid that I was, running wasn’t my strong suit, but I wasn’t nearly agile enough to play goalie, so my coach had me hang out maybe a dozen yards away from the real goalie as some sort of pre-goalie. I don’t think my foot ever touched the ball in any meaningful way the entire season. Thanks in no part to my awesome pre-goalie footwork, but mostly to a giantess of a girl ringer who towered over and intimidated everyone else on the field, we went undefeated that year. Even then, I knew the benefit of going out on top, so that was the last year I played any kind of organized sports, unless you count the ones I was forced to participate in during P.E. classes.
Being from a crappy town, and without the benefit of any decent local sports, I never developed either any interest in sports or any sort of pride in my home town. Which is why I will never understand the phenomenon that is the Sports Fan. What mystifies me about sports fandom is very akin to what tends to mystify me about patriotism, and that is the fact that both things pretty much come down to the circumstances of your birth, and very little else. But both things also inspire so much passion and fervor that it seems downright blasphemy to question either. Now, those of you who know me know that I LOVE blasphemy, so let me first start off by questioning patriotism and the knee-jerk tendency of most people to blindly proclaim patriotism without giving it so much as a thought, let alone a second one.
Sean Hannity is a big fan of saying that America is, “The single greatest, best, freest country God ever gave man.”
And I am sure millions, maybe even hundreds of millions, of Americans would agree.
But why? How do they know? And who’s to say that if they hadn’t been born in Mexico they wouldn’t say the same thing about Mexico, or Canada, or Pakistan, or Iran for that matter.
I am reminded of a conversation I was having with a friend from Nebraska who was considering moving back there from California, and I ask, “Why would you want to go back there? Nebraska sucks!” She said, “Hey, I’m from Nebraska!”
Well? So fucking what? Just because you’re from a place doesn’t make it good. Just ask the Indoor Kid from the former Meth Capital of the World! I mean, the FORMER Meth Capital. We couldn’t even keep it together enough to hold onto that dubious distinction!
And just because a sports team is from the same place that you're from doesn't make them good either. I don't think I will ever understand the undying allegiance to a team that just happens to have your hometown name on their jersey.
Perhaps if there was Desert Hot Springs Speed Freaks team playing Major League Baseball, I might feel different. Perhaps if I hadn't been a terminal Indoor Kid, I may have played more sports and gotten a different perspective, but alas I did not.
And so what if they are good? How do people let the outcome of a game between groups of strangers affect their lives so strongly? So much in fact that they get into fights and destroy property if their local team wins a game!
I wonder about the Good Old Days, back when teams were made up of people from the local area. So when you were rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, you were actually rooting for people from Brooklyn. If you grew up there, you felt a connection to these people who may have been your neighbors, or your friends, but something tells me that it wasn't very long before sports got to the way they are now.
If you're from New York, you might love the Yankees, but if you were born a short few hours away, say if your dad had gotten a great job and your parents moved shortly before your birth, you would hate the Yankees and cheer for the Red Sox. Why? The people who play on a team aren't from the town they play on. Sometimes they're not even from the same country as the team they play on. A team rarely has the same members for very long, what with trades and free agency, people called up from farm teams and sent back down, and so on and so on.
So in the end people are rooting not for a home town bunch of heroes, but rather for a uniform, a name on a jersey that happens to be the name of the place you call home.
Don't get me started on the people who love teams from a place they've never lived! I can almost understand the love of your home town's team, it's pretty much expected. But people who love a team from a town they've never even visited, let alone lived in, boggles my mind more than people who wait until they get up to the register before deciding what they want to order.
I enjoy a good game every now and then. One of those real nail biters that comes down to the last few seconds on the clock, or the final inning and one last pitch. I am not immune to the come-from-behind victories where the underdog finally triumphs over the juggernaut favorite. I understand the love of Sports, and the thrill of competition. But the undying devotion to a bunch of guys who get paid to play games in multi-million dollar arenas is something I think that will bewilder me to my dying day.