Why do we care? What does it matter whether or not one team wins or loses? What makes one team our team and another team the hated enemy and several other teams ones that we are completely indifferent about as far as success or failure? It’s not logical.
There is geography, of course. There is an ocean of red visible in the stands at every St. Louis Cardinals game that makes it obvious that the locals love their Redbirds, even when they had Mark McGwire. Just recently, Albert Pujols returned to St. Louis for an inter-league game as a Garden Grove Angel and the reception for him was warm and wonderful. That’s a good thing and it comes close to being logical. We are constantly reminded by player agents and team bosses, however, that professional sports are businesses so that a certain coldhearted detachment is advised. We loved you yesterday, but what are you going to do for us tomorrow? Willie Mays, the greatest ever, got traded. The Dodgers left town, etc.
As a young lad, I was about as provincial as could be. I was absolutely positive that I lived in the best house on the best street in the best city of the best state in the damned best country on the best planet in the universe, which was also likely in the higher echelon of universes. Long before All Star game voting reached the ridiculous level it has these days, there were ballots printed in newspapers for fans to select their favorites at each position. I believed in the integrity of the game et cetera but, since I lived in western Pennsylvania, I tended to be prejudiced in favor of Cleveland and Pittsburgh players when casting my vote (not plural). The Indians came through and ousted the Yankees in 1954 and that got me really interested even though the (then hated) Giants swept them in the World Series. When the Pirates won it all in 1960 the world had finally begun spinning the way it was supposed to spin. Come on, though, that’s kid stuff, right?
It’s never going to happen, but I’ve always fantasized that the ideal setup for pro sports would be to have a variation of the way they did it in Green Bay, Wisconsin. For each geographical location there would be local ownership, not by big money interests alone but by people who were truly “fans” vested in local things. Do you think that the Packers would still be in Green Bay if the likes of Donald Trump owned them? No, and the real fans in Oakland or Miami or Pittsburgh would not be getting regularly hosed, either. Okay, enough of that, we’re adults, right?
There are other factors that make us, as more sophisticated, worldly adults, root for various teams too. There is the “underdog” factor, which before 2016 made so many of us root for those lovable Cubbies, right? Trump just tweeted “Losers!” to the thought of wishing an underdog well. Or we might be rooting for individual players to do well for one reason or another. Ernie Banks deserved to play in a World series. Mike Trout should have chosen a better team to receive large paychecks from so, if the Angels got close, maybe. Or we might just want a certain team to win just to keep the competitive juices flowing. Or we might want a few teams to get beat just for a change. The worst possible reason, albeit one that I fear occurs frequently, to root for a team is that we have bet money on it. The president would approve of that, I’m sure.
Whatever tribal or intellectual or sentimental motivations we may have, it’s still fun. Usually.