Mid-October, leaves oranging and my three favorite sports all happening in stadiums with frenzied fans, an entity that barely existed 100 years ago. Fandom is the creation of mass media and the more massive is media the more ardent and universal are fans.
From gentle ladies and men in proper attire at Wimbledon or Forest Hills to hooligans in Liverpool or Philadelphia or Chicago spectators give themselves over to their home team and vent their spleen at those other guys.
HOLD THAT LINE! CHARGE! DEFENSE! BEAT L.A!, OLE! , KO-BE!.
There is something ancient and tribal about this sort of animus against "otherness." Being sent into exile was like banishment to a nether world.
Consider the visiting team, braced to receive the verbal abuse from the crowd. Their players feed on that derision, like reverse acclaim and hate them back until the throng is silenced. The matador stares into the eyes of death and wins immortality, however briefly.
With the Dodgers out of the post season I needed some team to embrace and some team to hate. When I decided to give myself over to the San Francisco Giants my friend reminded me of Dodger history against the "hated ones" dating back to our New York City rivalry. How could I turn my back on this heritage as if I had betrayed a sacred trust and stepped into the enemy tent.
How indeed? Very simply by reverting back to the irrationality which is at the core of choosing sides. Most fans root for the home team if only because they get the most ink from local sportswriters. In this case my cheers go to the California squad. Do I need a reason beyond that? How's this one?........San Francisco is playing Atlanta; Blue state over Red state. Or........I like Buster Posey, the Giant catcher. I like his name. I like his face. Any reason will do.
But why (I hear you ask) must I wish one team to whip the other? Because I'm hard-wired that way. It's in my medulla and my glands. Indefensible, I know, but it ads to my enjoyment as a viewer. I cannot watch a game without cheering and jeering.
Of course every player on the field or court has a story.....this one’s brother died last week, that one overcame polio or donated money to Haitian relief ....... so I attach myself to them. I have a Zionist friend who asks himself which team's victory would be more beneficial to Israel. I recently made a decision to never root for the St.Louis Cardinals because their manager and star player recently attended the Glenn Beck rally.
I must stop now. The game is coming on and I need to find some reason to enter the skin of one of those two teams, quicken my pulse, sweat my palms, grow fangs and go berserk. Don’t worry folks, it’s only an alternative universe. I’ll return to Earth in a few hours and nothing will have changed for you mere mortals.