Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just Root, Root, Root, for whomever you want. (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

This afternoon, after I go jogging and after I fix the bed and after I organize the upstairs closet, which has become a disastrous pile of boxes and bins and blankets and other alliterative things that fit in a closet (bastions?), I will go to a sports bar to see the Buffalo Bills play the New Orleans Saints in a game that has been advertised (by me, in an email to coworkers) as "A preview of probably the next 4-5 Super Bowls."

Which raises an important question: Is it "Super Bowl" or "Superbowl"? And which raises another important question, which is this: How do you decide which sports team to root for?

That, in turn, raises a third question: Why would mentioning Lambeau Field in an advertisement get me to buy heating services?

Let's answer those slightly out of order:

1. It's "Super Bowl", two words, which makes sense, I suppose. What didn't make sense was the NFL's effort to trademark the use of the phrase "The Big Game," apparently to cash in on retailers, who were forbidden to use "Super Bowl" in their ads. So you couldn't say "Hey, during the Super Bowl, order our pizza," but you could say "Hey, during the big game this Sunday, order our pizza," leading the NFL to try to trademark The Big Game, too, an application they dropped to lull you into a false sense of security; later this year, they plan to trademark your thought patterns.

That is a really big bowl. You might also say it is
august, capital, chief, commanding, excellent, glorious, grand,
impressive,notable, noteworthy, outstanding, paramount, prominent,
puissant, remarkable, or superior. But don't describe it as super.

2. I don't know why mentioning Lambeau Field, home of the Packers, would get me to buy heating services, but apparently someone in advertising thought it would, as I heard an ad for an HVAC company Friday while driving home, and at the end of the ad they said something like "Lambeau Field is ready for winter. Are you?", a tag line that led me to think a couple of things, which were:

First of all, Lambeau Field is an open-air stadium; are you suggesting I rip my roof off to prepare for the winter?

Second of all, the coldest I have ever been in my entire life was sitting in Lambeau Field as a kid watching the Packers play the Cardinals in a playoff game. I still feel a little chilly when I think about it.

Third of all, I'm supposed to mentally associate your company with Lambeau Field, and the Packers, and then get all emotional and call you up and say "Yeah! Go Pack! And fix my heater!"? Is that the plan?

Because I don't get it, and these things are all related to each other.

Well, some of these things are. The Super Bowl thing is not really related; it just bugged me, the way it bugs me that it's New York but everyone calls it New York City, leading me one day to think Wait a minute, is it actually called New York City? (It's not.)(I think.)(Now I'm not sure again.)

So how do you choose which sports team you're going to root for? That's related to the Lambeau Field heating question, you can see now, because the sports team we root for is deemed to have deep psychological impact: Just saying the name of a team, or something associated with it, or having a past player from that team, is supposed to link our emotions about that team (The Ice Bowl, The Catch, The Drive) to... a more efficient furnace.

But most people didn't, I think, choose their sports teams to root for; they had their sports team foisted off on them through a labrynthine system of rules and arbitrary decisions and billionaire's whims, and they don't even realize it. Most people root for teams that are "theirs" only through happenstance and mercurial fate -- and yet they are so invested in rooting for those teams, teams they adopted because of a combination of factors beyond their control -- that they react almost angrily when I suggest that they root for "their" teams simpy out of chance.

Having thought about this issue for nearly a day and a half, now (not consecutively; I first thought of it Friday, then I took the Babies! to McDonald's. Then I thought of it Saturday again but got distracted by having to keep Mr Bunches from climbing out the window I'd left open, and then I thought of it again this morning), I've derived a rule for how people choose their teams. You won't like it, but this is the actual rule most people apply to choosing a team to root for:

Root for the team that is closest to you, unless the team that is closest to you is located across the border of another state, in which case you must root for the team that is closest to you in your state, unless the team that is closest to you but is across the border claims to be located in your state, in which case you can root for that team anyway, and also, if you have moved since becoming an adult, you must continue to root for the team that was closest to you when you were growing up, following the first 2/3 of this rule to choose that team.

Got all that? That is a scientifically verifiable rule, as proven by my experiment on Friday night, when I asked Sweetie and The Boy:

If you live in Oakland, but work in San Francisco, should you root for Oakland or San Francisco? They both said Oakland.

I then asked:

What if your Oakland team moves to Los Angeles? Should you continue to root for them? They said yes. So I said: What if you move to San Francisco, and then the Oakland team moves back to Oakland? at which point they got frustrated and refused to answer questions anymore.

Ah, science.

You can see my point, there, and there are a lot more points to be made about the foolish way in which we choose teams to root for. A few weeks back, I was in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and I saw someone with a bunch of Packer stuff on their house.

Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, is about as far west as you can get in Wisconsin and still be in America's Dairyland:

Why, I got to wondering, does this Prairie du chienster like the Packers? Because he lives in Wisconsin? It must be that. It can't be proximity. It's 240 miles from Prairie du Chien to Green Bay, but only 213 miles to Minneapolis, where Favre and his Vikings play. It's only 244 miles to Chicago, making rooting for the Chicago Bears a roughly 1 cheese curd-longer drive. And it's only 385 miles to St. Louis, which is what I meant to put on that map, but I put "Kansas City" instead, and I'm too lazy to change it.

So the Prairie du Chien Packer fan lives closest to the home of the Vikings, and roughly equidistant from the Packers and the Bears -- but roots for the Packers, presumably because he lives in Wisconsin. But why should that matter?

To see why residence doesn't matter, and location of the team doesn't matter -- or shouldn't -- in choosing a team to root for, let's examine a test case: Me.

Ah, science.

I live in Wisconsin. But I didn't choose to live in Wisconsin. I live in Wisconsin for a couple of reasons. First off, I was born here -- but I had very little to do with that. I was only along for the ride, so to speak. Then I grew up here, but again, not really my choice. I'd have picked "Hawaii" if given the chance, but I didn't get the chance, as a kid.

Then, once I was an adult, I went to school here, because school was cheaper if I attended an in-state college. Then, once I was even more of an adult, I went to law school here -- again, for the same monetary based reasons. Then, once I was about as adult as you can be, I opted to stay in Wisconsin for two reasons: First, I was in love with Sweetie and going to marry her, and she lived here, and second, I could practice law in Wisconsin without taking a bar exam.

So I live in Wisconsin because my parents lived here when I was born, and because our court system decided Hey, we don't have to test these guys before we let them litigate your million-dollar case, and because Sweetie's parents lived here when she was born.

And that's how I'm supposed to choose my team to root for? (For the record, I live 136 miles from Green Bay, and 146 miles from Chicago, and 1,282 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which doesn't have a team, but should, because I'd like to see if newspapers would print the city's name all the time. In fact, I'd like to see Albuquerque have a team and make the team's nickname even harder to spell than Albuquerque, something like the Albuquerque Quetzlcoatls.)

Headline I'd Like To See:
Houshmanzadeh catches winning TD for
Albuquerque Quetzlcoatls in Big Game.

Let's make those typesetters work for their money for a change!

And even if you deem me having chosen to live in Wisconsin now, when I could simply up and move to Hawaii if I could convince Sweetie to do it and find a job there and somehow get all our stuff there because I don't want to leave any of it behind, not even the piano that's out of tune but which I intend to get tuned someday, maybe next week but probably not... even if I've chosen to live in Wisconsin, why does that mean I have to root for the Packers? After all, Wisconsin's own borders were chosen by others and I had nothing to do with that; but for some negotiations back in 1848, it's entirely possible that Green Bay would be in Michigan, and I'd be living in Illinois.

Or that I'd be living in Wisconsin, but Wisconsin would include Minneapolis. The original Wisconsin Territory, created in 1836, included all of present-day Wisconsin (even Eau Claire! Ugh!) all of Iowa, all of Minnesota, and parts of North and South Dakota (or, as they were known then: Boring!)(Seriously: If you watch closely that commercial promoting North Dakota that was on TV this year a lot, you'll notice that they show the family having a "vacation" in North Dakota doing the same three things over and over: biking, watching an Indian dance, and running, presumably away from North Dakota as fast as they can.)

So I'd be faced with a real dilemma if there hadn't been some negotiations between Congress people back in the way-olden days (before 2002), negotiations that probably went something like this:

Legislator one: What say we carve five different states out of that Wisconsin territory?

Legislator two: Why would I do that?

Legislator one: Because this musket is loaded and pointed at your head, and I want to have my state have it's own team someday.

Legislator two: You know, there's a roughly even chance that musket will backfire and kill you.

Legislator one: Then I guess what you've got to ask yourself, punk, is why do we all wear such heavy clothing all the time? God, our era reeks of body odor!

Legislator two: You've convinced me. But if we do this, then Wisconsin gets to have someone build an Octagon House for school kids to tour.

This is what passes for a popular tourist site in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin:
a house with double the usual number of sides.

So because that guy wanted to corner the lucrative Octagon House market, Wisconsinites have to root for the Packers, while Minnesota-ers have to root for the Vikings and North and South Dakotans have to wish they lived someplace decent.

It's even worse for people whose state doesn't have a team. Who, I asked Sweetie and The Boy, are they supposed to root for? To which they responded: We already told you, we're not talking about this anymore. We're bored.

If you've moved to a state without a team, then you have to follow your old team. And if you've moved to a state with a team, you have to follow your old team, judging by my brother Matt, who lives in Tampa but roots for the Packers back "home." But what if you had the misfortune to be born in a Nebraska, or an Iowa, or a Utah? (Note to self: check to see if Utah is still a state, and also if it has a football team.)

I don't know what the rules say, then, about which team you have to root for. You may be a free agent, able to select any team -- except that everyone, everywhere, will assume that you'll root for the team located closest to you. I say that because that's what TV networks will do: They'll assume that you want to see the team closest to you, and if there's one thing TV networks are good at, it's "being representative of what everyone everywhere thinks."

Yes, you all really do like Gary, Unmarried that much, and shame on you for it.

TV Networks in areas without a "local" game on - -"local" meaning "a game featuring the team that happens to have been placed in this haphazard geographical boundary" will opt to show you the game featuring a team that's kind of close to the place where you live. So, this afternoon, viewers in Wisconsin at 3 p.m., when the Packer game is over, will not get any teams from California, or Denver: we're typically given a choice of Pittsburgh, or Indianapolis. The thinking seems to be "If you like Green Bay, you'll probably like Pittsburgh," based, as far as I can tell, on the theory that you'll like things that are closest to you.

So if you live in an area without a team of "its own," you'll probably be force-fed a diet of "The team that's kind of near us," and you'll be deemed to like them.

Teams assume that you'll like them if they seem to be close to you, and it seems to work, too. That's the only reason the "New York" Giants and the "New York" Jets have New York in their names -- they play in New Jersey, so if New Yorkers really wanted to root for the "home" team, they'd root for Buffalo, the only team that plays in New York. Ever wonder why it's the New England Patriots*? It's not just because Massachusetts Patriots is harder to say; it's because then people all over New England will root for them.

The Washington Redskins don't play in Washington; they play in Maryland. But people in Maryland don't root for Washington -- God Forbid! -- they root for the Baltimore Ravens, "their" team.

Even though the Baltimore Ravens have only been the Baltimore Ravens since 1996 -- before that, they were the Cleveland Browns, and played in Cleveland. Presumably, people who were Ravens fans on opening day, 1996, were not Cleveland Browns' fans nine months before that when "their" team was finishing up its last season in Cleveland. But the two teams had virtually the same roster -- Vinny Testaverde was the QB for the 1995 Browns, and then opened the 1996 Ravens' season as the QB on that team, which was the same team.

And yet, Baltimore fans did not root for Cleveland the year before.

What of the Houston Oilers, who became the Tennessee Titans? Should Tennesseebees root for the Titans, if they didn't like the Oilers? What if you lived in Tennessee, and didn't have a team, and so you liked, say, the Colts, but then Tennessee got a team? Do you now have to like them?

I think I've made my point. That's why, this afternoon, I'll be at a sports bar watching the Bills -- my First Favorite Team (second being Brett Favre's Vikings, and third being the Packers) play the New Orleans Saints, which are the favorite team of a coworker of mine who grew up in New Orleans and lives here now. (He's following The Rule Of Rooting For A Team. I'm not.) I have to go watch it at a sports bar, because it's not on TV around here, because around "here" "we" all love the Packers, and because the other games on at 3 are played by teams which are geographically closer to Wisconsin. Rather than show a game featuring a 2-0 team that scores a lot of points against a team that lost a close, exciting game in Week 1 and won in week 2, networks here are going with the They'll like what's closest to them theory.

It seemed fun when I first thought of going, but now
I'm kind of regretting it, on account of I hate people.

Which is crazy. It's crazy to like a team just because they're located closest to you. People should choose teams however they want to choose them, and choose them in ways that aren't arbitrary and which make perfect sense. Like how I chose the Vikings -- because Brett Favre went to play there. Or how I chose the Bills -- because I lost money betting on them in four consecutive Superbowls.

I mean, Super Bowls.

Now, on to the The NC! Incredibly Accurate (But Arbitrary) NFL Picks! Last week, I went head-to-head with Ron Jaworski, who people in Pennsylvania loved when he was an Eagle, unless they lived closer to Pittsburgh, PA, in which case they hated the Eagles and loved the Steelers.

Ron based his picks on his lifetime of football knowledge. I based mine on the alphabet. So how'd we do?

Ron went 8-7 -- just over 0.500 -- for the week. So if you relied on Ron, you just-more-than-broke-even.

I went 10-6. 10-6! So if you forget about "experts" and remember The Alphabet Song, you'd be rich and living in Hawaii right now.

This week, I will go head-to-head with another Brain Trust guy, Mark Sclereth. Mark's another former football player turned analyst, and his whole life revolves around knowing about and talking about football. Mark will pick the games this week based on that extensive knowledge of sports.

I, on the other hand, to celebrate and promote the future Albuquerque Quetzlcoatls, will pick teams based on which team's nickname is longer. Let's go with:

The NC! Incredibly Accurate (But Arbitrary) NFL Picks! For Week 2. (My season record: 21-10, 67.7% right.)

Lions@ Redskins: Every expert in the world is picking the Lions to win their first game since Vasco Da Gama discovered the Pontiac River and invented the internal combustion engine. Lions. (Mark: Redskins.)(Every expert except Mark, I guess.)

Packers @ Rams: The abbreviation ESPN uses for "Green Bay" is GNB. How is that better than "GB?" I had to actually think for a moment, when I read that, and wonder "who's GNB?". Rams. (Mark: Packers.)

49ers @ Vikings: The 49ers pose a problem for the Arbitrary (But Still Incredibly Accurate!) Predictions, what with their number-and-letter mix. But it still looks shorter, so 49ers. (Mark: 49ers)

Falcons @ Patriots*: If only the Patriots* had opted to be the Patriot, they'd have this game iced. Plus that'd be kind of new-wave, wouldn't it? The New England Patriot. Nah. On second thought, it sounds like a boring newspaper. Falcons. (Mark: Patriots*)

Titans @ Jets: If you live in New Jersey, do you root for the Giants or Jets, or do you resent them for not being willing to put New Jersey in their name? Jets. (Mark: Titans.)

I can't think of a single reason why you wouldn't
want your professional sports team associated with New Jersey.

Chiefs @ Eagles: The Chiefs play in Kansas City, Missouri. Take that, Kansans. But the system says "your" team will win, anyway. Chiefs. (Mark: Eagles)

Giants @ Buccaneers: The Buccaneers, as everyone knows, play in Tampa BAY. They've opted to try to attract the all-important Merpeople demographic. Giants. (Mark: Giants.)

Browns @ Ravens: As befits a game between two teams that are actually the same team -- the Ravens being the former Browns, and the Browns being the current Browns, the system says: TIE! (Mark: Ravens.)

Jaguars @ Texans: I seriously think that Houston went with Texans for their nickname on the theory that it would get more Texans to root for them. "They may be located in Houston, but they're TEXANS, so sign me up!" It didn't work. Texans. (Mark: Texans.)

Bears @ Seahawks: Two second rule. Bears. (Mark: Bears.)

Saints @ Bills: Once again, the system lets me go with my heart. Or, as I told Sweetie yesterday in explaining why I was choosing the chicken sandwich with the fried onions and Ranch dressing on it over the one that didn't have ranch dressing, "The heart wants what it wants." Bills! (Mark: Saints.)

In this case, the heart wants angioplasty. And soon.

Steelers @ Bengals: Ohio has two teams, Pennsylvania has two teams, Florida has three football teams, and, yet, Arkansas still gets to mispronounce its name. Is that fair? Discuss, using the word hyperbole incorrectly. Bengals. (Mark: Steelers)

Broncos @ Raiders: Two second rule, and also, the second tie game this week. Tie. (Mark: Broncos.)

Dolphins @ Chargers: This may not be the best week for the Arbitrary (But Still Incredibly Accurate!) picks. Then again, if there are three ties this week, I'm going to be the King of the Sports World. Tie. (Mark: Chargers.)

Colts @ Cardinals: The Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis, and then to Phoenix, but then changed their name to the Arizona Cardinals. Still feeling loyal to "your" team, Arizona? Colts. (Mark: Cardinals.)

Panthers @ Cowboys: The "Carolina" Panthers chose as a designation a location that doesn't exist. They didn't want to alienate South Carolinans, who are so shallow and narrow-minded that they couldn't possibly root for a team that had North in the name. See what the NFL thinks of you, South Carolinans? Whereas I have nothing but respect for you. Snicker. South Carolinans are dunderheads! (I hope you didn't read that last part.) Cowboys. (Mark: Cowboys.)

For Week 2. (My season record: 11-4, 73.3% right.)

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