I’m reading Will Leitch’s “God Save the Fan” right now, and it’s often pretty funny, and it’s often really repetitive (Yes, ESPN sucks. WE GET IT ALREADY), but one essay really jumped out at me last night.
Leitch writes about sticking with his boyhood football team the St. Louis Cardinals when they move to Arizona. He even goes so far as to suggest that a person who doesn’t follow a team through a geographical move is not a real fan. This idea blew my mind mostly because my instincts tell me that if the Sabres ever moved, I would devote my life to rooting against them.
See, here’s the thing: Being a sports fan is a year-round job. At the end of the season, You’ve got your free agency period and then the draft and then your salary cap cut date and the next thing you know, it’s training camp. So, when exactly was I supposed to switch loyalties? Was there one day that I cared about Vai Sikahema, and another day when I was supposed to stop? I read some piece of information about my Cardinals every day of the year. I know the fifty-three-man roster. I know the draft picks, I know the coaching staff, I know the name of the guy who plays the mascot. It’s a full-time position, rooting for a football team….so how am I just supposed to say, “All right, yesterday I cared about these players, but now I care about these”? If something as wishy-washy as geography guides your rooting interests, isn’t it wishy-washy to move your loyalty around just because someone realized the franchise could make more money in Boise rather than Topeka?
He loses me a bit when he argues that geography is a silly reason to choose one team over another (the reason I became a hockey fan was so that I had an excuse to cheer for Buffalo- nothing wishy-washy about it), but he does make a good case for loyalty. Once you have your team, you have your team. Plain and simple.
Although the Bills are the most obvious comparison (and the most likely to actually leave) I’m going to use the Sabres simply because I just don’t care enough about the Bills to make this interesting. If the Bills left town, I’d be sad for all the Buffalonians who love them, but NO WAY would I cheer for Marshawn Lynch if he were running girls over with his car in Toronto or LA instead of Buffalo. The Bill can just forget it.
The Sabres might be a different story. Would I suddenly STOP rooting for Goose and Crunchy just because the team moved away? It’s difficult to imagine. As much as I bitch about the Sabres and claim that I want them ALL TO BE TRADED, it’s hard to picture rooting against them as a group. If Lindy and the whole gang were playing in a different city, would I still cheer for them?
I’m not bringing this up to get everyone depressed imagining a bleak future without the Sabres, I just think it’s an interesting way of thinking about the team. It’s an interesting way to measure what it is that we’re cheering for. I really think I’m mostly cheering for Buffalo, but I spend so much time watching these players that I do have attachments to them. I am cheering for the players too. In the absence of an NHL team in Buffalo I might find myself cheering for the Peoria Sabres just out of habit.
I really don’t know!
Please don’t get yourself depressed by thinking about this too hard, and please don’t spend any time trying to figure out what kind of terrible situation would have to evolve in order for the Sabres to leave. This is just a simple exercise. If the current Sabres were plopped down in Peoria, Illinois tonight, would you still be a fan tomorrow? I think it’s interesting and kind of fun to ponder.
After a lot of thought, I voted for “I’d probably keep cheering for the Sabres,” but honestly, I might devote my life to hating them. It’s a really tough call.