Being a fan of an NFL team, or of any team, for that matter, will rip your heart out. It will make you cry in your jersey the night of an excruciating loss and make you cry in your pajamas the next morning when you wake up and remember what happened. It will make you become wholly irrational: you will start to say no to social plans because your team is playing and it’s televised; you will do strange things like yell at TV screens and jump up and down alone in your living room and nervous-eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the the 4th quarter of a playoff game. Being a tried-and-true fan will see your everyday loyalty and raise it to a lifetime of indentured servitude. It will take your time, your tears, your weekends, your perspective, and last but certainly not least, your sanity. It will put you smack dab in the front car of the wildest roller coaster of your life with no control over the intensity, duration, or direction of the ride.
In short: it’s awesome.
But if you aren’t already a fan of a team…how do you choose which one to root for? It’s a huge decision. Not to put too much pressure on you…but it’s a question that equals in gravity to whom you choose to marry. Seriously. In fact, even though I’m not yet married, I feel like being a diehard fan has multiple parallels to marriage: it’s a lifetime commitment that will bring you unlimited joy and unthinkable grief…sometimes all in one weekend.
That’s similar to marriage, right?
If you are looking for a
spouse team to tie your anchor to, here are three helpful Do’s and Don’ts to consider when choosing your team.
This is the reason most people become fans of certain teams, and it makes sense. If you live in the direct geographical area of the team you are going to cheer for you have a built-in support system. The locals are going to high-five you when your team wins and give you a knowing look of “there’s always next season” when your team loses. Living where your team lives also gives you the opportunity to cheer them on in person, and you can always count on the games being televised in your area.
If you know you are going to be living where you are living for awhile and that place is near a team, definitely consider cheering for the hometown squad. It makes life a whole lot easier.
2. Family History
Do you have a long line of Cowboys fans in the family? Does everyone gather on Sundays to cheer on the Chargers? If so, consider being part of that lineage. While it’s funny to see Uncle Ted turn a bright shade of fuchsia when you arrive to his Raider Nation Sunday Kickoff party decked out in Broncos gear…let’s just say it won’t help to create a sense of family unity. Having a family support system, like having a geographical support system, is also a plus. And you automatically know what to get everybody for Christmas.
3. Compelling Qualities
If you don’t live near a team and no one in your family is a huge fan of one team in particular, the best way to choose a team is to do a little research and compare compelling qualities. I’ll use myself as an example, since this is how I became a Packers fan. I live in Upstate New York, so my regional team would technically be the Giants, but could have just as easily been the Jets, Bills, or Patriots. I wasn’t particularly enamored with any of those teams and wasn’t close enough to the epicenter to feel like they were truly my hometown teams. No one in my family had an allegiance to any NFL team, so there wasn’t any friction there – although when I was in 4th grade I liked the Cowboys because the boy I liked was a big fan. That’s as close as I got to signing on with a franchise due to family ties. But when I was in 5th grade, everything changed. I saw Brett Favre running around the Superdome with his helmet hoisted high into the air, and it was like love at first sight: I was officially a Packers fan.
Like all incidents of immediate love, there needs to be a foundation to the relationship to substantiate the infatuation. I came to love the franchise (the only publicly owned franchise in all of professional sports), the rich history (including the title for most total championships of any NFL team), the high quality – personally and professionally – of players and coaches who called Green Bay home over the years (Bart Starr, Vince Lombardi, Reggie White, Mike Holmgren, to name just a few), the blue collar, hardworking-but-fun-loving, attitude that defines the team and the fans, and the overall nature of what it means to be a Packers fan.
It’s so important to have pride in your team, especially when you don’t live in the area and don’t have other family or friends as fans, so surveying the compelling qualities of your potential new team is all-important. Don’t necessarily look at the team right now because the current roster will change, coaches will come and go, and and good seasons and bad seasons are par for the course. Instead, take a look at the team’s history, what the franchise stands for, the nature of the fanbase, the current and former players and coaches, and ask yourself how you’d fit in.
Mostly, trust your gut. It’s kind of like choosing a college: you read a lot of brochures and take in a lot of info and visit a lot of campuses – but when you know, you know.
For the love of all that is fandom, DO NOT:
1. Jump on a Bandwagon
Just say no. The current fans won’t like you (and can spot a bandwagon-jumper a mile away) and you’ll soon find yourself looking for another bandwagon to jump onto once the one you’re on falls to pieces, as it inevitably does. The star player will get injured, the dynamic head coach will lose games, and the preseason favorite will soon become the regular season dud. Thinking about picking the team that just won a Super Bowl because you think they’re a sure bet for a future replete with victory? Think again. It’s been 8 years since a defending Super Bowl Champion has even won a playoff game. And the chances of repeating as two-time champs are incredibly slim.
Whatever you do, stay off of the bandwagon. It’s a highly unstable place to be.
2. Choose a Team Because You “Should”
It doesn’t work in dating and it doesn’t work in fandom. Picking a team just because you feel like you should pick them – whether it’s because or a hometown connection or family connection or because you like a boy who likes a team – never leads to a happy long term relationship. It’s hard enough to be a fan as it is, and it’s harder still to stay committed and not get resentful when things go south if you’re only in it because you feel like you have to be.
3. Choose Lightly with the Intention of Choosing Again Next Season
Don’t pick a team “just for now.” Just don’t do it. You’ll become a serial dater of multiple teams and really, who can keep up with that Instead, take your time and pick a team for the long haul without looking back.
Being a fan is one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer – truly. It’s the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself in the context of community, to stick with a constant through the highs and lows, to believe that there is always hope for the future. Don’t miss out on being a true fan just because you don’t currently have a team! Use these guidelines, choose wisely, and cheer on.
If you are already a fan of a team, what has your experience been? How did you pick your team? Would you add any do’s or don’ts to the list?