Men are supposed to be the logical ones. The more rational sex. And to the extent that they’ll fetch a tool or phone a repairman when something breaks — as opposed to weeping, repenting to the callous gods of karma, and then yelling at it, as I typically do — I concede that guys are largely governed by reason.
But when football season begins, their logic vanishes like a bowl of Hot Wings Doritos in front of a flat screen on a Sunday afternoon. (I know, I’m generalizing. Brace yourself because I’m going to do it some more.)
Football fans spend four months of every year hooting and rooting for teams that they’ve chosen to support for cockamamie reasons.
“Where I grew up, I was a Bears fan. It was expected of me. It was the right thing to do.” … “I bought my son a Broncos sweatshirt when he was 3. He’s still a fan.” … “I’ve liked the 49ers since I was young because games in Kezar Stadium looked so glorious when it was snowing in my native Ohio. And the red and gold looked much better than the hideous schemes offered by the Bengals and the Browns.”
Implicit obedience? Wardrobe attachment? Color schemes? These are dudes we’re talking about — right?
They pledge their undying, unsound fidelity to a team because it’s the one their dad rooted for. Or rooted against … whichever. My husband still flies the Raiders flag because, as a boy, he loved Ken Stabler’s nickname, “The Snake.” My sons chose their teams because “I wanted an underdog” and “my best friend hates them.”
The worst part is the inevitable heartache these arbitrary allegiances engender. Men don’t tolerate mediocrity in computers, hamburgers, or James Bond movies; they want only the best, they know which is best, and they’ll argue it until you care even less than when they started talking. Yet a man will cling to his football team — no matter how hair-pullingly, primal-howlingly terrible it is — with such senseless loyalty that to even question it would forever blacken his own self-image.
“It’s all about the school I went to. No matter how awful they are, they’re still my team.” … “Over the past 50 years, the Lions have sucked — even set a shameful record a few years ago by losing all their games. But I remained loyal.” … “The Ravens have really good team spirit. They have good chemistry. And even though they don’t play that well, they’re still … awesome.”
Let me ask you something: Would you continue visiting a doctor who kept botching her job? Would you keep buying wine that was only good half the time — or look down on someone else who stopped shelling out for that lousy label in favor of one that was dependably (ahem, defensively) good?
I suppose such irrational devotion points to other strengths of character: A sentimental fondness for home. An ardor for the underdog. The belief that fair-weather fans are faithless jackholes. Plus, blind hope is sort of adorable.
“Someday they are going to be dominant again,” says a sports writer and Raiders fan I know, “and I will proudly say that I have maintained my allegiance through thick and thin.” (Tee hee!)
My oldest son, a Ravens fan, admits there’s no good science — or great secret— to choosing a football team. There doesn’t need to be. “Most people just pick at random because you know that whoever you pick, there are going to be thousands of people who have that in common with you,” he says. “And if you meet one down the road, you’ll have something to be friends about.”
Wait — really? Beneath all the banner-waving and beyond the hair-pulling, these fellas are just seeking an indiscriminate sense of belonging? Call me irrational, but it’s hard not to root for a team like that.