October 25, 2011

Smells Like Team Spirit

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Why is it that some sports teams have such die-hard fan followings? I understand that when you’re at the top of your league, like the Patriots or the Packers, or you’re just plain baller like the Yankees (seriously though), the fans will be lining up around the block to watch you play. But, what about the teams whose record is no better than a day old wrap from Trillium? Teams like the Cubs, Knicks and Cowboys don’t have the best records, or even great ones for that matter, yet without fail their fans are still breaking out the blue body paint and wildly cheering until their faces are the same color.Fan support doesn’t seem to be based so much on how well a team performs, given the histories of the teams above and their hometown fans. So, what is it that really gets fans so pumped up? While winning is definitely a motivating factor, I think that how much the fans can relate to the team is also important. Whenever I watch a game on television or see a team play live, I like to be able to pick out a player who I can follow. For the Penguins, it’s No.  87. For the Capitals, it’s No. 8. (Yes, I realize this is quite problematic). I like being able to root for “my player” and to cheer every time he does something (though sometimes more enthusiastically than others, just ask my best friend Allie). If I’m anything like most people, I think that larger fan bases tend to do the same. Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time one of my friends who likes the New York Rangers started talking about Chris Drury, I would be rich by now. Same could be said about Tim Thomas and the Bruins.Teams who have the “A-List” players always seem to have bigger fan bases, though sometimes it is not for the player’s on-field antics so much as their off-field ones. I may not be the best versed in certain sports, but I definitely know who Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are — besides being considered the six most disliked athletes according to The Q Score Company. Don’t even try to deny that you didn’t watch Lebron’s ESPN special, The Decision, a few years back. I didn’t even care about basketball at the time, but I still wasted an hour of my life watching it. I think the only reason I watched was because he was a huge name in basketball and I figured that since his decision was apparently a big deal, it was my obligation as a true sports fan to tune in and take note. This is the same (flawed) reasoning I always seem to fall back on when I turn on the television and see the Jets playing. I don’t watch because I love the Jets, or football for that matter. I watch because I can identify Mark Sanchez and rattle off the only fact I know about him: according to some unknown football announcer, the quarterback has “large hands.”Fans seem to support the teams who have the players that they can connect to most or, at least, who they know the best. I am always so amazed by the loyalty that certain teams’ fans show. One of my favorite examples is the fans from Philadelphia. I live within an hour of Philly, so I’ve grown up with “Let’s go, Phillies!”, “Fly, Eagles, Fly!”, and “Let’s go, Flyboys!” signs, shirts and commercials my whole life. Over twenty years of seeing Philly sports’ fans go absolutely crazy over their teams. I know I’ll get sh*t for this, but I’m going to say it. I may be surrounded by Philadelphia die-hards, but I don’t care about baseball all too much, I’d rather watch the Patriots play and I live and die by the Penguins (sorry, Jeff). I’m surrounded by so much enthusiasm, but still I’m just not feelin’ it. I even remember when the Phillies were actually doing well (ha!) and won the World Series against the Rays. I think that the accomplishment surprised many Phillies fans because what is the first thing they do when their team wins a major championship title? THEY PILLAGE AND LOOT THE CITY!!! I guess that the Philly fans were so used to supporting their sub-optimally performing sports teams that they were confused and didn’t realize that you only break storefront windows and set cars on fire when you lose. Even the citizens in Vancouver know that deal.I am a huge proponent of showing team spirit, so I can’t entirely fault the Philly fans for being too excited to control themselves. I think that, although maybe not to that extreme, other people can learn something from the over excitement that the fans were feeling. One of my biggest pet peeves that always seems to bother me is when I go to home games for the Cornell sports teams and don’t see many other young faces in the crowd. My friends and I enjoy showing our support for our school and classmates, so we’ll go stand in the freezing, 30 degree rain alongside the Cayuga Lake inlet at 9 a.m. on a Saturday or pack into Friedman on a Friday night. I find it interesting that students will flood Lynah to see the men’s hockey team play, yet when I go to see the women’s team play the stands are sparsely filled. I may not be the best with math, but humor me with this one. Last year’s season tickets to see the men play: $262. Last years’ season tickets to see the women play: $0. Watching the defending Ivy League champs play: Priceless. The women’s team has held the best record in the conference last year and went 31-3-1 in the previous season. However, when I would go to hockey games I would see more fans come to watch the men’s team lose (sorry, guys …) than see the women win. I don’t understand this phenomenon. There are so many teams at Cornell that are at the top of the pack and have incredible programs, yet they are the same games and matches where I’ll see more Townies and families attend than students.So, it is my firm belief that Cornell sports fans could use a lesson in team spirit. I’m not saying that everyone needs to go hit up the nearest craft store and buy face paint and supplies to make posters (though that is the plan this weekend for my friends and me). All I’m saying is go watch a football game other than Homecoming or go check out Lynah, other than to see the men play — the women are really good, I promise. If you’re any bit moved by my locker room quality, motivational speech and want to break out the Big Red hats and hoodies as soon as you can then come support our defending national champion women’s polo team play against Garrison at Oxley. Now I can’t think of a better time to come show your school spirit (face paint, posters and all). So, what do you say?

Original Author: Lauren Ritter