Saturday, May 07, 2005

How I picked my favorite teams

I always enjoy a little sports talk topic like the following emailer raised:


Please state a legitimate reason you should be supporting Liverpool -- have you ever lived there, gone to school there? Have you ever received mail there?

Please include why you happen to adopt one of the most successful clubs in Soccer history and not Port Vale, Brentford City, or Oldham Athletic.... would kinda be like me adopting the Patriots, Yankees, and Lakers even though I've never recvd mail in any of these places......

Interested in Burleson

Very fair question. And since I over-think sports issues like these, allow me to spend a few paragraphs on this topic. I get what he is getting at, that I, who often ridicules those who jump bandwagons, has actually jumped a wagon myself. I shall defend my position, and then those bored enough to care can rule for themselves.

Keep in mind, if you don't care, then don't waste your time reading this. But, I do feel everyone could use some logic in the discussion of "picking your teams". There are too many humans who are sucked in by the bandwagon, and I am here to help. The worst thing to ever deal with when it comes to this topic is the guy you meet who cheers for the Cowboys, Yankees, Lakers, Red Wings, and Earnhardt. Whatever the opposite of "die-hard" is defines these people.

Here is how I selected the teams I follow (and how you should, too).

I feel like one of the downfalls of sports fandom is that too many people inexplicably support teams in which there is no rhyme or reason other than they like following a winner. Sticking with your team through thick or thin is too tough for many people, and therefore they jump from winner to winner and while they enjoy the short-term payoff of celebration, they never experience the true joy of your life long allegiance finally reaping what you have sown.

The best way to know who you should support can be easily found by purchasing an atlas. I hate to over-simplify things here, but my favorite teams can be traced back to my hometown of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. From there, with a little help from Rand McNally at my earliest moment of awareness, I claimed the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. This was done by simply finding the closest team to my home in each particular sport and supporting them through thick and thin. To this day, they are my teams.

Of course, living in Dallas for almost 7 years, I have grown an affinity to the locals. We know so many members of the local organizations that we cannot help but have feelings for each of the teams, but I swear, when push comes to shove, I will always feel my roots with the Brewers before the Rangers. And yes, all things being equal (which they are not), give me my beloved Blackhawks of my childhood over the Dallas Stars of my adult-hood.

Now, did I feel enormous joy for the Stars Stanley Cup? Absolutely. Did I artificially latch on to a team after only 12 months in the city? Guilty as charged. But personal relationships (including the Brett Hull factor) and season tickets can build bridges pretty quickly. Honestly, it wasn't the same as my Blackhawks winning the Cup, but then again, if the Hawks ever win the Cup again (doubtful), I will not be in the dressing room with them like I was lucky enough to be with the Stars that night in Buffalo.

And if we are going to be honest here, with the exception of the Packers, I have fallen out of some love for my local teams of my youth in exchange for many of the teams that I am required to follow as part of my job. I don't necessarily love the Rangers now (that might be too strong a term), but I do feel some level of ownership since I have watched nearly every game since 1998. On the other hand, because of my responsibility of watching the Rangers every night, I seldom get the chance to watch the Brewers. There is only so much time in the day to dedicate to bad baseball.

It is just a different relationship. I was a kid then. I am a cynical adult now. I knew no one on those teams, but I have talked with nearly everyone on these Texas teams. But there is nothing like those teams you grew up pulling for.

Which leads me to the question of "Interested in Burleson. How does a guy from Wisconsin, who moved to Texas, follow Liverpool?

Since he cares, allow me to explain. I played soccer my whole life, but only watched soccer during the World Cup every four years. 1990 was solid but not as memorable, 1994 was amazing because of the run of the Americans and the location of the tournament, and 1998 was decent. In 1998, England featured a 18-year old phenom who scored an amazing goal against Argentina named Michael Owen. As memory serves, he was the youngest player to score in World Cup history (I can’t swear this is true, but it is how I remember it). I still can see the goal, and found it wonderful. I also remember being amazed at how a kid could do what he did at the highest of levels. It forever stuck in my memory, but then the Cup ended, and I went back to not watching soccer.

In spring of 2000, a P1 named Jake Lawson tried to talk me into watching English soccer. Before that day, my only English Soccer thought was that there was a team named Sheffield United, which occurred to me as cool since Gary Sheffield was a Brewers Shortstop. Also, there was a team from Nottingham Forest, which always made me think of Robin Hood.

Jake was a fan of a fairly obscure club, Leicester City. He explained plenty to me about the English game, and also the joy of his life, which was a new channel on satellite, Fox Sports World. They showed fairly regular coverage of the English Premiership. For reasons, I cannot quite comprehend, he convinced me to watch Leicester City play Leeds United in a game that would end the season for both teams. By extension, I felt a tie to his team for a few weeks, as my interest in the sport deepened.

During the offseason of 2000, which extends from May to August, Fox Sports World showed the best games of the 2000 season. I watched at least a game a week, but quickly found out that Fox Sports World never showed Leicester City. They showed about 5 teams on a regular basis. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle United, and Liverpool. I guess they decided that those were the teams with the most world-wide appeal, and if you liked them, you could watch them nearly every game they played. However, if you liked another team, you would only see them rarely, when they played one of the Big 5.

Well, when watching these 5 teams play replayed games from the past season, I reacquainted myself with Michael Owen, whose club team was Liverpool. Liverpool is one of the most historically dominant teams in world soccer, but has gone through a drought since 1990 without a premiership championship, and for the most part have disappointed its fan base. I suppose if you were to find a similar organization who enjoyed wonderful success a generation ago, but is having a hard time in the last 15 years, it might be the Boston Celtics.

For people who think that is like "cheering for the Yankees or Lakers", that would be Manchester United. ManU has won the premiership in 93, 94, 96, 97, 99, 00, 01, and 03. Liverpool hasn't won since I was in High School. In fact, this is now my 5th season of hardcore fandom, and they have never finished higher than 3rd.

Since the summer of 2000, I am sure I have seen 90% of their games. I watch them every weekend (spending way too much on pay-per-view and all-access website subscriptions), and suggest that despite Michael Owen departing last summer, I am as hardcore a fan of Liverpool in Dallas as there is. I read their papers every day, and feel like I could give you a pretty good rundown of not only their senior club, but also their youth system if you so desire.

I have yet to complete a journey to a home game, but that will be done very soon.

And finally, I did my atlas test. And, to the surprise of many, if you locate Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and Liverpool, England, you will find that the closest English Soccer team to my hometown is in fact, the Reds. 3,778 miles separate us, but that is the closest English team, and therefore my birthright. Sue me for following Liverpool.

English soccer is every bit as exciting as the sports over here. Ok, maybe not the NFL. I recommend that everyone follow a team from week to week through a season and you will likely be hooked soon. But, if you are wise, you will pick a team you can actually watch. Had I chosen Port Vale, I would still be waiting for their first television appearance. I have never received mail there, either.


Andy Douthitt said...

Bob, since we are on the topic of following sports... I have been a BaD Radio listener since the first time you and Dan were on the air and haven't missed one since. Since you have been in the area, I have a 2 part question for you..
What has been the best sports moment you have covered locally since you have been here? Also, who is your favorite team that you cover here... I have always wondered that... go mavs

Anonymous said...

Wow...that almost makes me want to start watching English soccer. Does Portsmith have a team? I have tenuous ties to that place.

Anonymous said...

portsmouth has a team in the premiership. and are right, man utd have the most bandwagon fans in the history of ever. it makes me sick. blue moon!

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is a fan of:

Red Wings

I refer to these as the "default" teams. And ALWAYS rip into her since she has NEVER lived anywhere near these places, nor has ever been to a game in these cities. She is one of those VERY annoying fans who show up at the AAC when the Stars are hosting the red wings. She wears a jersey, her red hat, and acts as obnoxious as the a-holes from the north. I really hate those type of fans.

And speaking of, I spoke to a bandwagon Sox fan last weekend, and she roots for them because she thinks the clothes are "cute"

Anonymous said...

I like Wisconsin sports through and through but my girlfriend likes Minnesota sports so on game days we go in different rooms

meredith said...

good stuff, bob.

Anonymous said...

Bob, well said. As a Midwestern gal who has transplanted to Texas, I still love the teams of my youth (Ohio St, Red, Browns) but I now enjoy following Texas teams (Rangers, Cowboys, UT). I enjoy these teams because I watch them all the time and now know these players.
Chicks dig BaD Radio. Sam

Anonymous said...

I was very interested in reading this explanation of yours Bob. Growing up as a young kid in Dallas and now a 25 year old, I've become a diehard of all the local teams, Cowboys, Mavs, Stars, Rangers, FC Dallas pretty much by default. I've stuck with these teams through thick and thin, and you're right, the joy you receive watching your teams win the ultimate prize when you've experienced the lowest of lows cannot compare with the short term satisfaction of the fans that bounce around.

Like you, I've also gotten very much into Premiership soccer in the last 5-6 years and have developed a strong following of Arsenal. I can't say I've seen 90% of the games, but I do watch them FSC when I get a chance and read about them online all the time. My first encounter with high level soccer was the 1990 World Cup. In 1993, the Gold Cup was played in Dallas, and featured several matches with the U.S. National team. I went to several of these matches and then my dad bought tickets to all the Dallas matches for the 94 World Cup. I was thrilled when Dallas was awarded a team in the MLS, but the level of play was clearly inferior. I still follow the MLS, but it's clearly not the same as watching the big boys in Europe.

After the disappointing showing of the U.S. in the 98 World Cup, I found myself rooting for England and Holland because I enjoyed watching a few of their players. In particular, I became a huge fan of Dennis Bergkemp. Growing up in the PS2 era, I have bought every FIFA game made for the playstation and started playing my seasons and tournaments with Arsenal b/c Bergkemp was on the team. Over the years, I have been watching them on FSC every Saturday/Sunday morning they are on.

I can't say I've received any mail in the Highbury area or have gone to school there, but I consider myself to be a pretty strong supporter now. I'm also pretty sure I don't pass the atlas test. I also plan on going to a game sometime soon, when my schedule will allow. But just thought I'd offer another perspective on how an American picks his soccer team. I don't know how else a guy in America new to European soccer would select a team other than watching games on t.v. or playing video games.

Ridhwan A. said...

Please visit!

steve said...

Would you still root for any of the local dallas teams if you leave?

Big Daddy said...

I started following Arsenal because Dennis Bergkamp was sold to the Gunners back in '96. Prior to that, I had followed him with Ajax, but since Ajax isn't exactly on TV mush (or ever, any more), I didn't really start watching regualrly until he went to Arsenal. This was before their recent run of success, so I don't really think I'm guilty of "being on the bandwagon".

Needless to say, Dennis will be leaving Arsenal soon (Too soon!), but I'll still be glued to the TV watching Arsenal.

Anyone interested in Arsenal and living here, please go to . We're the North American supporters club for Arsenal, and we'd love to have anyone interested join up. I'm the secretary for the club, so, if you want any further info, please click on my name here and drop me an e-mail!

Now, Bob, are you ready to see 'pool get drilled at Highbury tomorrow?

QualityPantalooner said...

Bob that was a great post.

I think that the development of the internet is going to change the way that we choose and keep our favorite teams.

My dad is from Pittsburgh and has been a Pirates fan his whole life. We moved to Texas when I was about 5, and started going to/watching Rangers games. Certainly the Rangers are my favorite team, and they may be my dads as well since he's been watching them for 20 years now. Obviously in an AL city he has had very little chance to watch the Pirates these past two decades.

I won't ever have the problem though, thanks to the internet. Since moving to San Francisco, i've often had the choice to make the easy decision and turn on the TV to the Giants or A's, or to make very slightly more effort and go watch my Rangers on the internet, getting to listen to Josh and Tom or Eric and Vince. I've made that choice every single time. There is very little reason for me to watch a local team because of how easy it is to still follow the Rangers.

It makes me wonder what team my kids may watch one day. No doubt, it will be even easier for me to watch the Rangers a few years from now, so presumably they will grow up watching them. So will the atlas method hold and they like the Giants or A's, or will Rangers fandom get passed down through them thanks to the ease of the internet? Who knows.

Anonymous said...

That was probably the best piece of writing I have read from you ever. Good job!

Permit me to date myself. I have been a Cowboys fan since day one. I am originally from west Texas and actually remember the day the Cowboys came into being.
I remember the Ice Bowl, I remember it all..
All the disapointing seasons of losing in those early years. The fan of "Next Year's Champions".
I went through all the turmoil that would happen when Jerry Jones bought the team. I survived that.

Long story short, I have been a life long fan of the 5 time World Champion Dallas Cowboys, and I have always been proud of them and still am.

As a true fan, I have been at the very bottom, and been on the highest mountain. You are correct Bob, being a fan, and staying true to a team is what it's all about. True fans have a sincere investment or stake in a team. I can't stand people who claim to be fans, and are just getting on the bandwagon because they are winning that year.

Therein lies a problem. With the advent of free agency, I think major league sports hurt themselves to a degree. Why? Well, if a player signs with another team for more money, there is no allegiance to the fans so to speak.

But I digress.

I am not a soccer fan. But that doesn't mean I hound and make fun of you because I don't have the interest in the sport. I certainly don't claim to know everything about every sport, nor do I want to. So if you say you like soccer, cool, more power to you. I certainly wouldn't rag on you for liking soccer.

Go Nascar!


Anonymous said...

Nice post Bob.

My sports fan history is simple. Lived in the DFW area all my life. Been a fan of the local teams (Cowboys, Mavs, Rangers, Stars) all my life.

I occasionally develop an affinity for individual players (for instance, I remember following Shaq in college, and have been a fan of his ever since -- therefore next to the Mavs, I would root for his teams).

P.S. Soccer sucks.

Anonymous said...

My reasons behind the English team I've selected is a little different than the rest of your's. I picked the Blackburn Rovers while they were still a Division 1 team. Basically the way I selected them was through my first experience playing the Championship Manager (Now Football Manager, or Worldwide Soccer Manager as it's called in the US) game (I think it was the 98/99 edition). I wanted to pick a team that I could take into the premiership instead of taking an already good team in the premiership.

I'm not sure how I eventually decided upon Blackburn, but I tried a number of teams and really like playing as Blackburn. From there it grew into me supporting them. I really started supporting them when they got Brad Friedel from Liverpool which gave me a player I knew a bit more from first hand experience.

So in essence, Championship Manager and my sense of needing a challenge instead of going with an already big dog is how I chose them. I didn't even know they'd been a real successful team in the past when I took them, but have grown to learn some of their history since I started supporting them.

Anonymous said...

So Bob..... to borrow a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail... "you can't go around saying you're a Liverpool fan just 'cause you fancied an 18 yr old Michael Owen"..."If I went around saying I was a Lakers fan just 'cause I liked Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, they'd put me away!"

Sir, you have been exposed.

Interested in Burleson

Sturminator said...

Exposed as what? You wanted my story, and I gave it to you. Not sure what exactly you want me to do other than answer your inquiry.

Oh well, 1600 words is all you get for free. I got game 7 to fancy now.

Big Daddy said...

Geez, Burleson, he admits to starting to follow 'pool way, WAY after they were really a forced to be reckoned with on the continent (last week's result notwithstanding) and you're still riding his ass about it? So, if someone in Europe wants to follow the NFL and they pick the Cowboys even though they've never been in Dallas, then they, too, are "exposed"?

Geez, you sound like some pissy spurs fan...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I didn't know Nicholson played for the Lakers...bad analogy coach, bad analogy...

Anonymous said...

As I sit here watching portsmith v bolton, i have to ask myself "self, would you be watching this if you weren't so toned..."

Since I am always stoned the answer must be I don't know...huh.

I am against all sports that allow ties...except football, not futbol...Ive said too much

Anonymous said...

Nice Bob, I've wondered this myself as well. I'm a Barcelona fan because my wife is from there, and I've been to a game in the Nou Camp. Incredible. Barca will win the Spanish league this year but they've been since 99 without any silverware, around the time I became a fan.

For all you soccer junkies, if you are familiar with BitTorrent you can download many matches every weekend from this website:
You'll have to register, but if you're a hardcore fan like me you can watch a fair bit of games each week (including Liverpool) and its free.

Anonymous said...

I do not know how old you are but, here goes.

In the early 70s a Liverpool team packed with stars managed by the graet Bill Shankly had to visit a place called Field Mill, home of Mansfield town.

In the team that night was Yeats, Lawler, Smith, St John etc. Well they huffed and they puffed and scored not one single goal that night. The place was packed to the rafters, which included me.

Boy what a night I had watching Liverpool struggle to overcome little Mansfield. It sticks in my mind even now.

Alas at Anfield we got absolutely stuffed, 4-2 I believe.

I have since been very lucky in being able to visit Anfield to watch them. The first was a night game, I went up the stairs in the Kop end and came out and it simply blew me away.

Another night in heaven, Reds won 3-0 against Villa.

Unknown said...

Interesting stuff as to how you pick your team.
Now I suppose one of the reasons you decided not to stay with Leicester City is that we have never one the FA Cup.
Here's the reason why.

Punky said...

Ok Bob, I agree that the Cowboys, Yankees, Lakers, and Red Wings are the default "Winners" teams. However, I take exception with your pick of Earnhardt. If you were picking a driver based on popularity it would be Jr., if you are picking based on success it would not. As you've stated in your blog, he is overrated and has never finished 1st in the Nextel Cup standings. I would suggest that another one of your favorites, Jeff Gordon, would be considered the Yankees of NASCAR. How did you become a Gordon fan? I'm fairly certain he isn't from Wisconsinin.

Unknown said...

Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea,

Flying high up in the sky, we keep the blue flag flying high, from Stamford Bridge to Wembley, we keep the blue flag flying high!

Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea!

Drop point Manure so we can take the prem! Champions League final May 21st....Chels V. Manure.

Come on Chelsea!

Anonymous said...

No way!? A fellow Red's fan from DFW! I also have been watching Liverpool since 1998 and actually wrote about the same exact thing on my blog, you should check it out.


Unknown said...

Bob, I moved to DFW from Scotland in 1999 and listen regularly to the ticket. I like the comedy and the HSO's on American sports however, when it comes to Football (soccer) you guys are real novices with very little history of the game.
I do agree with your rationale for picking a team, it also helps that they are regularly on TV and are unlikely to be relegated, any time soon.
I am a Glasgow Celtic fan, and over the years there are links between Celtic and Liverpool which go back a long way. In the 60's and early 70's it was a famous Scottish manager who turned the whole thing round for Liverpool, the great Bill Shankly, who was a good friend of the great Jock Stein who was the Celtic manager during the same era (Jock Stein managed Celtic in 1967 when they became the first British team to win the European Cup and played in the world club championship game, check out the "Battle of Montivedeo" on youtube. The other great manager of that time was Matt Busby who managed Manchester Utd to become the 2nd British team to win the European Cup in 1968. These three guys were all from small mining communities in Scotland and understood what a "hard" job was. Stein's other claim to fame was that the team that won the European Cup were all born and brought up within 20 miles of the Celtic park in Glasgow.
In the late 70's the great Kenny Dalglish was transferred from Celtic to Liverpool and went on to become one of their greatest ever players and managers.
I think this is the type of background any supporter needs to pick "their" team otherwise just pick Man Utd, Man City or Real Madrid and get on that band wagon!!