Monday, July 18, 2011

A (graphic) look at my sports fandom

One of the sports topics that interest me is the origin of fandom. How do people become fans of certain sports and particular teams?

Geography is usually the easiest answer, but it so rarely tells the whole story. I was born in Toronto and, with the exception of a few years in my early 20s spent bouncing around Canada in various schools and jobs, I have lived in Toronto my whole life. Yet the Leafs are the only local team I cheer for.

My father in-law is from High River, Alberta but, thanks to the French Connection (the line of Rene Robert, Gibert Perreault and Rick Martin, not the fine Gene Hackman film) he is a Sabres fan. My five-year-old son, who loves his grandfather more than just about anything, is now becoming a Sabres fan too (I know, I know…)

I decided to re-visit the history of my fandom and to do it in a chart form. It was fun to realize what put me on to certain teams and a bit of an eye opener to realize I’ve only seen teams I cheer for win four titles in 36 years. Maybe I should have been born in Montreal…

All the Teams I Cheer(ed) for

click here for a larger image

A Few Notes:

1976: Film of Darryl Sittler scoring on Czechoslovakia is one of my earliest hockey memories.

1976: My First Leaf game at Maple Leaf Gardens. Sat in the East Greens with my father. He took me to one game a season until the late 1980s. (In kindergarten, so I am told, I wanted to grow-up to be Mike Palmateer).

1977: Willie Stargell, Pillbox Hats, Stargell Stars, Sisater Sledge singing “We are Family” and waiting desperately to watch This Week in Baseball. How could I not be a Pirates Fan?

1978: Saw Heaven Can Wait (my mother dragged me along to any film that she wanted to see, I saw a whole pile of stuff I probably shouldn't have - Being There as an 8 year old springs to mind). In watching Heaven Can Wait, I was immediately taken by Julie Christie, quite possibly my first crush. Warren Beatty's character played for the L.A. Rams. Even as a seven year old, this was an easy decision.

1979: Watched the Steelers win Super Bowl XIII and I had a new team. Couldn't get enough of Lynn Swann.

1981: Realized my father was a Washington Red Skins fan. One of the few, if not the only team, I ever remember him supporting. As a typical 10 year old, I instantly became a fan of the New York Giants.

1981: My dad went to St. Louis on a business trip and bought me a Cardinals shirt. The next year, the Cardinals acquired Ozzie Smith and won the World Series. Hard not to be a fan after that (despite the sudden ubiquity of Expos gear at school and on the ball diamonds).

1982: The first World Cup I can remember. Established a precedent largely held to this day - I decided to cheer for Germany as most of my peers were cheering for Italy.

1982: Cardinals win the World Series. This is the first Championship of any sort that I remember. I can recall fighting with a neighbour afterwards who, inexplicably, was a Brewers fan.

1986: Canada's first and only World Cup appearance. English bookkeepers set very long odds of Canada scoring a single goal and they were right. Canada was blanked in the tourney.

1987: Saw Canada play USA in the Canada Cup. This was the team that Yzerman couldn’t make. Gretzky and Lemieux played on the same line. Might be the best sporting event I’ve seen live.

1986: New York Giants win Super Bowl XXI (I still have a VHS tape of this game).

1989: After nearly a decade of playing hardball (stopped in ’85) I joined a co-ed softball team, that played in weekend tournaments around the GTA. Our team wore Braves colours/logos and, as a result, I became a bit of a fan.

1990: New York Giants win Super Bowl XXV. I felt like the least popular guy in my university residence, which suddenly seemed to be nothing but Bills fans.

1991: The Twins-Braves World Series remains one of my favourite sports memories. An incredible playoff series with five games decided by a single run.

1992: Lived in a house full of basketball fans and took a minor interest in Phoenix after the Barkley trade (and Seaton Hall as well, one of my roomates was a big Syracuse Orange fan). Moved out of that house in 1993 and left my basketball fandom behind.

1994: Was fascinated by Ruudi Guillet and began a bit of pattern of cheering for the Netherlands in the World Cup.

1994: I had already drifted away from baseball, but the 1994-95 work stoppage pretty much euthanized any interest I had in the game.

2001: Ashamed to admit it, the Home Run chase of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds brought me back to the game…with fond memories of my youth and the amazing NES RBI Baseball 3 teams, I once again become a Cardinals fan.

2004: St. Louis Cardinals play in the World Series…

2006: St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series.

2006: My (then) three-year-old daughter and I make a World Cup bracket by drawing and colouring the flags of all the teams involved. Somehow, perhaps at my daughter’s request, I end up cheering for France.

2007: New York Giants win Super Bowl XLII.

2008: My wife takes part in an annual NCAA March Madness Pool. It's a big thing in her office, over 50 entries, lots of trash talking. After a few years of this, I finally decide to participate. In the past five years I’ve become a big fan of NCAA ball, but I've yet to place higher than my wife in the pool (it’s the only sport I watch despite not having a team to cheer for).

2009: I somehow became a Stoke City FC fan.

2010: Back to cheering for the Netherlands. Watch them lose to Spain on a fuzzy TV with rabbit years in the wilds of Northern Ontario.


  1. Paul Steckley4:33 p.m.

    Good post, but no CFL team?

  2. Anonymous10:29 a.m.

    As a New Zealander I find it interesting as well, I'm all over the place.

    NHL:Flames/Jets and then next the Isles
    International Hockey: Finland

    NBA: Bulls

    NFL: Saints then next Vikings.

    Not so much a Baseball fan, but Red Sox, but that was mainly because I hate the Yankee's

    Not a band wagon jumper, Most of the time, when I start to like teams they suck.