Football began in earnest last week. Not that kind. The oblong American kind. The “hoorah!” kind.
For now, I couldn’t be happier. BYU‘s undefeated and ranked 25th in the country. Seahawks look dominant enough to repeat as Superbowl champions. And even the most jaded fans are full of hope, smiles, and optimism right now. That always makes the world a more enjoyable place to live.
Of course, that’ll change as the season wears on. For most of us, frowns are just around the corner. But there’s a simple trick I’ve learned over the years to avoid letting an uncompetitive or unlucky sportsball team ruin your night, day, week, month, autumn, or even year. It is this: Embrace fair weather fan status. Be proud of it. Bandwagons are fun.
Of course, most of us are already fair weather fans, even if we don’t admit it. Low tick prices, the inability to watch a bad team on TV, and poor attendance prove this. Problem is die-hard fans — the ones that willingly subject themselves to unnecessary aggravation and misery — use “fair weather fan” in a pejorative sense, even though being one is actually a good thing.
The reason: Sports are entertainment. When entertainment stops being interesting, it should be abandoned. That’s what smart people do when quitting books, music, hobbies, movies, TV, and other pastime entertainment they no longer enjoy. The same is true of sports. When my team is no longer fun to watch (i.e. bad weather teams), I suspend my interest in them for another year and move to more immediate interests.
Obviously, there’s something to be said of lowly Red Sox fans that endured decades of losses before winning the World Series. They understand elation like no other. But those are crap shoot, once in a centrury odds. Most teams are like the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Braves, or worse. They’ll let you down a lot more than lifting you up when it comes to winning it all.
Of course, there’s more to life and watching sports than winning. I realize a lot of fans watch for different reasons, myself included when it comes to my favorite teams, which I’ll get to in a moment. But for me and my house, embracing fair weather status has served us well, especially since big time sports are pay to play entertainment. In that sense, you really should consider becoming an unabashed fair weather sports fan.
To make it more fun, you should also pull for lots of different teams. To that end, I chant for the following football teams in this order for these reasons:
- BYU Cougars. My first memory watching football comes from the early ’80s seeing these guys in royal blue mesh jerseys baring midriffs and beating up Utes. My dad was and is an enormous fan and indoctrinated me in all things Mormon, including the religion’s unofficial football team, aka “the Cougs,” aka a poor man’s Notre Dame. I didn’t know what “playing with heart” meant back then, but I learned it watching these guys. Of course, they’re not as talented as the opposition. They’re mostly slow white guys. They false start more than any other football team I’ve watched. But they also adhere to high academic and moral standards or else. They’re proof that you can punch above your weight, win in life by playing it clean, and sometimes even it all if the conditions are just right. As an idealist — and also a slow white guy — I can relate. So I wear the white and blue and cheer “Ra! Ra! Ra! Gooooooooooooo Cougars!” first and foremost. In the unlikely event they make the NFL Super Bowl someday, I’d root for them over the next team on my list.
- Seattle Seahawks. My wife grew up in metropolitan Seattle as a Seahawks fan. She has lovingly embraced my Cougs, so it was only right I return the favor. My first memory of this team was watching a controversial player named “The Boz,” also known for his midriff baring jerseys, Vanilla Ice inspired haircuts, controversial lip, and for being a flop. Then I watched a losing Seahawks team make the playoffs a few years ago and even beat the reigning Super Bowl champions. “Plucky,” I thought to myself. “I like these guys.” From there my wife and I started watching them more. The year after they signed Russell Wilson, we watched them a lot, all the way to losing a thriller. Last year, we watched nearly every game, including their Super Bowl win. What an exciting team to watch, both offense and defense. I’ll admit, my fandom has been fortuitous. But I don’t care. I’ve had a lot of fun on the Seahawks bandwagon and plan on staying on it so long as they keep playing an impressive, gutty, and inspired brand of football. Go, Hawks!
- San Francisco 49ers. NFC West fans say “What?!” Let me explain my conflicting interests. Before I married the beautiful Lindsey Smith that supports me, cheers me, loves me, and likes me for who I am more than anyone else, I grew up watching Montana and Young pass the lights out to Jerry Rice and John Taylor for the Niners with my dad and brother. Air raids, just like BYU. Offense wins championships. A hold your breath kind of team that didn’t disappoint. After Dad soured on professional sports in the early ’90s, I quit watching the Niners in my adolescence. But I still have a soft spot for them and really like their quarterback, coach, and team now. As last year was proof, the real Super Bowl was the NFC Championship the week before between the Seahawks and Niners. I still think they’re the two best teams in the league, even though they hail from the same humble division. Let me be clear, I still root for Seahawks first, and not just because I want to sleep on the bed at night. But I’ll cheer on the Niners during ever other game so long as the weather stays nice.
- Georgia Bulldogs. My brother-in-law Clay will clamor “Say it ain’t so, Blake!” upon reading this, but I like the Georgia Bulldogs better than Georgia Tech, the team I grew up cheering for in high school, due to their underdog status when compared to the Bulldogs. Here’s why I changed sides. The Bulldogs are a better representation of my experience as a Georgia boy. They’re more gentlemanly. They’re more consistent. And when that same brother-in-law took me to my first game between the hedges against the Yellow Jackets, I was impressed with the spectacle. That and I think bulldogs are rad, especially ones with air conditioned crates. That and the Yellow Jackets are exhibit A in what I do as a fair weather fan: I abandon them. That team hasn’t had an identity since the ’90s. Sure they have the rambling wreck, nice street parties in downtown Atlanta, and a picturesque stadium surrounded by skyscrapers. But it’s hard to pull for something that doesn’t know what it stands for. So I cheer for the Bulldogs instead.
- Indianapolis Colts. This one’s real simple. My best friend sent me a Colts jersey a few years ago. Been a fan ever since. That and I believe Luck will end up being a more impressive quarterback than the one he replaced.
- Oklahoma State Cowboys. I like this team for three reasons: I cheered for them as a hometown fan for 12 years before moving to Georgia. I played tackle football on their field after hopping the fence with friends. And I watched Barry Sanders, my favorite football player of all time next to Bo Jackson, destroy defenses while playing for them. Their recent debauchery is disappointing, but I still like ’em more than the Sooners. Go, Pokes!
- Atlanta Falcons. I like this team solely for home town ties. Not much of a history with them beyond that, although I did see my NFL game at the Georgia Dome. But I’ll root for them so long as they’re not playing any of the above.
- Central Lions. I played full back for these guys in middle school. Then I watched them lose to Carrollton High, the richer more athletic school, my entire high school career. They don’t have much heart and lack a winning football culture. But I’m still pulling for them to beat Carrollton someday because I want to believe that even little, rural guys can beat city slickers ever now and then.
- Anytime an underdog is playing. Deep down, I think every human being cheers for an underdog. I’m no different. In many ways, seeing underdogs succeed is more satisfying than seeing my own team win, provided they’re not playing each other. Wherever an underdog’s playing when my team isn’t, I’ll be there cheering them on.
Readers: Who are your favorite teams and why?
Author’s note: All picks subject to change, depending on weather, bandwagon, and circumstantial life status