Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good Sports

I have been a glutton since Saturday night. And yes, I hear a few of you saying, "Since which Saturday night? The first one in 1974?"

But I'm not talking about food, but sports. In the past four days I have watched the beloved Swannies lose in an AFL (Aussie Rules football to you Yanks) playoff game; I watched college and pro US football (gridiron to you Aussies); I watched semis and finals of the tennis, a little bit of rugby, a couple of baseball games and Junior Masterchef Australia. (I added that last one so my list would have at least one thing LK watched with me.)

Unfortunately my teams haven't been doing all that well, and I am pretty fast running out of anyone to cheer for. On Saturday night Wally - who is a diehard Collingwood fan - rang to tell me he was hoping for a Swans win against the Western Bulldogs. On Sunday, Wally sent me a text message that said, "Sorry, mate, maybe next year." Wally is a nice guy, anyhow, but I think it's easy to be kind to losers when your team is the favorite to win it all.

Actually, now that I've moved from Sydney I suppose I don't have to continue to be a Swans fan. Lacking a team from Tasmania in the league, I really could pick just about any team I want and become their fan. Which means I can pick a team that everyone thinks is the favorite to win the championship next year.

Unfortunately, it feels a little sleazy to do that. Even though I only started cheering the Swans on in 1989 at my first AFL game after we moved to Sydney, I think there are pretty rigid moral conventions that prevent you from changing your allegiance. Even though the players change teams whenever they can find an extra zero in their salary, it seems we poor fans feel guilty and disloyal if we don't continue to support a team that isn't even aware we're behind it in the first place.

Certainly I cannot stop being a Boston fan. But now that the Red Sox are hopelessly far from a playoff spot with only a couple of weeks left in the baseball season, it doesn't leave much to get excited about even during the most exciting part of the year.

So today I had to content myself with watching the two teams ahead of the Sox - the New York Yankees and Tampa Rays - play for first place. Thank God it was New York playing, so at least I had a team I hated and could cheer for Tampa (who did win in extra innings, probably due to my overseas support).

At the same time I was triple channel flipping between that game, the men's final of the US Open Tennis and an NFL game between Baltimore and the New York Jets. I didn't really care who won the tennis, but again was pleased to be able to cheer on Baltimore to beat a team from New York. Which it did. And the day before, in a game where the team names sound like they're from a very bad novel, I had cheered for the Redskins to beat the hated Cowboys. Which they also did.

So perhaps I am a negative sort of fan. Can't get my teams over the line by supporting them, but I can get the teams I don't like to lose. Come to think of it, that was the whole premise of The Cooler, wasn't it? Maybe I need to go to Wrest Point Casino down the road and see if they want to hire me.

Oh well, I can't really complain too much. Even though this year is a bit of a washout, my teams have won the World Series and the Super Bowl a couple of times in recent years, the Swans did win the championship a couple of years ago as did the Celtics in the NBA, and even my old home town's college team won the national basketball championship seven years ago. Even the Sydney Kings won the national pro basketball championship before they collapsed in bankruptcy. So it's not like I'm an immigrant from Loserville who can only cheer against good teams.

But it would be nice to be behind a winner one more time. That's why it was especially heartening to see the New England Patriots win the first game of the NFL season. I just hope they don't break my heart this year.

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