We are deep into the summer doldrums here at Pop Culture Has AIDS. The Dilemma is off on his Great Pacific Northwest road trip. I’m deep into the Neverending Job Hunt. Television is in repeats; only the premiere of Mad Men on July 25 offers any hope. This may be the worst summer for movies ever; the release of Inception on July 13 presents the sole ray of genuine anticipation. The big political story is the Gulf of Mexico continuing oil spill; unless you are one of the idiots that thinks Obama could have legitimately done anything to stop it (maybe he should start taking scuba lessons?), there’s not much interesting to say about that. There hasn’t even been any great music; the song of the summer is increasingly looking like this annoying, but undeniably catchy, pop tune:
Thank god for the World Cup. From the falls of France and Italy to the unbelievably exciting and improbable U.S. extra-time goal, it has lived up to the hype and given us something fun to spice up this thus-far bland Pop Culture summer. One of the great things is that its global nature sparks wide-ranging discussions. As much as I hate disagreement, the Italian loss today caused one between myself and the Husky Canadian. As his name implies, he is a proud son of the Great White North (even if he’s suckled at the teat of the U.S.A. since moving out of his parents’ home… but I digress). He’s a huge Canadian hockey fan and was understandably psyched when “we” won the Olympic gold medal. When Italy lost today, he tried to console himself with the fact that “we” have four World Cup titles. I contend you can’t call the national teams of two different countries “we”. He argues you can, as long as you pick one country per sport. Unfortunately for him, in addition to being wrong, he doesn’t have a blog.
I think this helps bring a murky problem into specific relief (a free Michael J. Fox reference for you, T.D.) Most people would agree that the habit of describing a group of millionaire strangers as “we” isn’t rational behavior for grown-ass men, but sports is built on a foundation of irrationality. Given how much time, money and energy most Americans spend on their favorite teams, self-identification is inevitable. However, it is also overly rampant and, many times, undeserved. This has been recently apparent in Chicago. People who wouldn’t have been able to name Chicago’s hockey team six months ago are now talking about how great it is that “we” won the Cup. Even as a non-Blackhawks fan, it’s nauseating.
Unlike T.D., I have no problem with people pulling for whoever they want in a game. Sports are more fun if you have an interest, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. You can have a limitless amount of teams that you “like” or “root for”. But the designations of “we” and “us” should only be reserved for the true fans, the people that support a team emotionally and financially regardless of their level of success. As part of my ongoing quest to make the world a better place by getting everyone on the same page as me, I present The Rules of “Us”:
For some reason, people love patriotism. And while it’s a huge cause of bandwagon jumping, it’s impossible to argue that fans don’t have a right to call their nation’s teams “we”, especially if they’ve bought in as taxpayers. There are a few conditions though. You have to either have been born in the country or have grown up there. You have to be a citizen of that country. And you have to pick one country as your “we” country (sorry, H.C.) If you’re somehow torn between two, imagine that they got into a war… the country you would kill the other for is your winner.
The Immigrant Exception (or The H.C. Rule): If you are born and live in country A, but your parents were citizens of country B and not of country A at the time of your birth, you can choose country B as your “we” country. For instance, the U.S.-born child of an illegal Mexican immigrant can call Mexico “us”, as long as he forsakes U.S. teams.
You are allowed to call the teams of the college from which you got your undergraduate degree “us”, regardless of your level of involvement. Odds are you paid the place six figures and that’s enough of a buy-in for any team. If you dropped out… no “we”. If you only got a graduate degree there… no “we”. College sports is about the undergraduate experience; just because you spent two years getting an M.B.A. from Michigan doesn’t mean you get to call the Wolverines “us”.
The Hometown Exception (or The Vinny Rule): There is a circumstance when you are allowed to call a college you didn’t attend “we”. If you grew up in an area dominated by college sports, where a school provided the big hometown team that you continue to follow fervently, you’ve earned your “we” stripes. However, you must forsake any “we” rights to the college you attended. And you had to have not gone to that college only because you couldn’t. If you grew up in Ann Arbor, but didn’t have the grades or money for Michigan and ended up going to Aquinas College, “we” away. However, if you got into Michigan and chose to go to Harvard, you missed your “we” window.
Kids are stupid. They believe in things like the Tooth Fairy and god, and think that Elmo is entertaining. However, they are also the incubators of future sports fans. Therefore, most of the “we” rules for professional teams stem from childhood.
This category is the most ridiculous one to call “we”; at least you have some tangible link to your nation or your college. Pro teams are an ever-changing, random group of players whose only connection to your community is usually the jersey they wear. The real bond is with your fellow fans. You are part of a group when you’re, say, a Yankees or a 49ers fan; your group membership marks you as an asshole or a douchebag, respectively. You can “like” any pro team you want. However, to refer to a pro team as “us” you must: 1.) Have counted them as your hands-down favorite since childhood; 2.) Still follow them closely; 3.) Still follow the sport that they participate in closely; 4.) Call no other team in that sport “us”, ever. While the most respectable options are your hometown teams, that isn’t a requirement. If you started rooting for a team because your dad liked them, or because they had nice jerseys, or because you were a natural-born frontrunner… as long as you’ve stuck with them, fine. You were half-retarded back then anyway.
I grew up a Bears, Bulls and Cubs fan. They are still my favorite teams in their respective sports. I follow the NFL and NBA closely; I retain my Bears and Bulls “we” rights. However, I no longer follow baseball at all and the Cubs very little. Therefore, while I can say I “like” or “root for” the Cubs, I can no longer identify myself as a part of them. If they were to win the World Series, I undoubtedly would slip back into “us” mode; but I could and should be called out for it, assuming I hadn’t gotten back into baseball a respectable interval before. But what can I say… I’m a flawed human being.
The Decade Exception: Let’s say you “like” the teams of the city you’ve made your home… they are your favorites in those sports. When can you start calling them “us”? After a decade of following the four conditions above and having been a tax-paying resident of the area, you can officially graduate into “we”dom.
The Death Penalty:
Even if you follow the rules above, if you ever, ever, EVER call another team in a sport “us” or “we” when they win, you lose all “we” privileges. If you ever, ever, EVER call your team “they” or “them” when they lose, you lose all “we” privileges. No exceptions, no appeal.