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Point of View: Terms of fanhood: Laying down rules for sports loyalty

Nov. 10, 2010

By James Byers
News editor

All the explosive success of local sports teams - Baylor football, Texas Rangers baseball - has me thinking about what it means to be a fan. Or, more precisely, what qualifies us to be fans.

I reject the idea that we can be fans of just any team.

There's nothing I loathe more than someone who calls himself a Lakers fan because Kobe Bryant is really good, or someone who arbitrarily professes love for Duke basketball because Mike Krzyzewski is an excellent coach. No, I believe we're all cosmically destined to root for certain teams. We don't get to choose them; the teams choose us. I call these rules the rules of fanhood. Defining them is still a work in progress, and I'm open to suggestions, but as I see it, there are three basic rules:

1. The rule of geography

The basic element of the rule of geography is this: If a team is based in the state where you live, you can root for that team without any misgivings. If you live in Wyoming and you want to root for a professional football team, then pick the closest one. The rule of geography is easy when you're from a state with only a few teams.

I'm from Indiana, so I root for the Colts and the Pacers, unequivocally.

It's more complicated when you live in Texas and there are a billion professional teams.

Ideally you should root for the teams nearest to you, but as long as the team is in your state, I won't give you any grief.

You're only allowed to like multiple teams if you've

lived in multiple states.

2. The rule of family

You're allowed to like a team if your family raised you to like a certain team. If you live in Texas, and your parents brainwashed you into being a Green Bay Packers fan from birth, you're allowed to like the Packers, however annoying that may be.

3. The rule of school

This one's pretty obvious, but it needs to be said. If you go to a school, you're automatically a fan. Haven't given a thought about Baylor football before now? That's OK.

I won't even accuse you of jumping on the bandwagon. It's never too late to develop school spirit. But the rule of school extends to more than just your school.

If your big brother went to Florida State, you can root for Florida State.

If your parents are Ohio State alumni, you can root for the Buckeyes. But keep in mind that the rule of family only covers immediate family.

If your second cousins live in New York, that is not a reason to root for the Yankees.

I'm not trying to suck the fun out of sports. I'm only trying to establish some order. Keep in mind that I'm not saying you can't passively watch a game on television and root for a certain team.

If you're watching the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl, or even a random college football game, by all means, pick a team to root for. That's what makes watching games fun. Just don't declare yourself a "fan" of that team. Fanhood is nothing to throw around.

James Byers is a senior business journalism major from Indianapolis, and the news editor for The Lariat.