The Right Coast

March 30, 2005
Sports Team Loyalty
By Mike Rappaport

David Brooks has a column on the conflict that many people who move from their hometown feel about whether to continue supporting their hometown baseball team or their new city's team. Brooks appears to be shifting his allegiance to the Washington Nationals from the Mets.

I know exactly what he means. I remember well the conflict I experienced when I sat in San Diego watching the Padres play the Yankees in the World Series.

Brooks discusses three reasons why you might love a team:

For some people, the love of a team is like the love of one's nation. The team is the embodiment of the place we are from, our community and volk. If my love for the Mets is of this sort, then it is proper that I transfer my affections to the Nats. For I have immigrated to Washington, and we immigrants are obliged to set nostalgia aside and assimilate to our new civilization.

For other people, the love of a team is primarily a psychological connection. It is a bond forged during a lifelong string of shared emotions - the way I felt when Tommie Agee made that diving catch in 1969, the way I have suffered through the disappointment of Mo Vaughn. If my love of the Mets is of this sort, then it would be wrong to abandon the team, for to abandon the Mets would be to abandon myself.

Finally, a love for a team can be a philosophical love, a love for the Platonic ideal the team embodies. For teams not only play; they come to represent creeds, a way of living in the world. The Red Sox ideal is: nobility through suffering. The Cubs ideal is: It is better to be loved than feared. The Yankee ideal is: All cower before the greatness that is Rome. The Mets ideal is: God smiles upon his darlings. The history of the Mets teaches that miracles happen and the universe is a happy place. If this is the nature of my love, then I can only love the team so long as it still embodies this ideal.
While I am no longer much of a fan, I think my connection to the Yankees was more of the first and third type. But that suggests, correctly, that my attachment has declined. I no longer live in New York. And I no longer have faith in the ideal -- I often think that the financial advantages enjoyed by the Yankees are unfair. I still like the Yankees, but that is mainly because I have always liked them.