If you've read "Now I Can Die in Peace" by Bill Simmons (ESPN.com's Sports Guy), he has a list of rules in the book's introduction on how and when you can be a fan of a sports team. Essentially, you need to cheer for the teams in the region that you grew up in (for college sports, you or your parents need to be alums or you grew up in a town or region where college sports dominated the scene) or the teams that your parents that transplanted from or went to school elsewhere raised you to root for unless your favorite team relocates to another city (or, as in the case of the Blackhawks, the team's owner destroys all will of the fan base completely). Dan Shanoff, also from ESPN.com, has some more flexible rules regarding how you can pick a team (such as "fan-in-law" status by marriage – I don't know if I buy that one). Finally, Minnesota Red Sox broached the subject of raising your child as a fan of a team other than your own in order to avoid constant heartbreak (great article, although Minnesota Red Sox must freely admit that he broke a number of the Sports Guy's rules, such as committing "sports bigamy" by being a diehard fan of both the Cubs and Red Sox along with having to answer questions from a higher power at the pearly gates in the future as to how he could ever, ever, ever cheer for the Packers after being raised in Chicago).
I tend to agree with the more restrictive tenets set forth by the Sports Guy. It's one thing to jump on the bandwagon of a great story, such as the Red Sox comeback in 2004 or George Mason this year, but a person should only be a true fan of one team for every sport. For me, it's the Fighting Illini, Bears, White Sox, and Bulls. There are other teams that I follow with a lot of interest, such as DePaul and the Cubs, but make no mistake about it – there will never, ever be an instance where my rooting interests aren't 100% clear if any of those two teams meet. I spent three years in law school at DePaul and want the Blue Demons to do well, but if Illinois ever plays them in basketball, every ounce of me will be cheering for the Illini.
What infuriates me are sports cherrypickers. For instance, I read a Steve Rosenbloom interview with Penny Marshall a few months ago where she expressed how she is a diehard fan of both the Yankees and the Lakers. Jack Nicholson and a host of other celebrities claim to have the same loyalties. This is why half of America believes that Hollywood doesn't have a soul. Certainly, it doesn't have a sports soul when its citizens pick the two most powerful franchises in sports to root for that, by the way, are located on opposite ends of the country. It's like rooting for both Hitler and Stalin. That's just sickening.
Almost as bad is our favorite Duke apologist Dick Vitale also being honored as an honorary alum of Notre Dame as well as being a season ticketholder for Irish football games. A Duke basketball/Notre Dame football fan – could you imagine anyone being more insufferable? At least Dicky V has somewhat of an excuse since he's sent his kids to Notre Dame. In his aforementioned column, Shanoff states that a parent that spends $40,000-plus per year sending a kid to a school gives that parent every right to cheer for that school. Considering that tuition for a year at Notre Dame could buy me White Sox season tickets for the next 40 years, I'll side with Shanoff on this one. Still, just the thought of a Duke/Notre Dame combo gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I'll grant that there are large sections of this country that might not have a natural rooting interest dictated by geography or people that went to schools that either don't have sports teams or don't care about sports. So, at first, I thought that those people could be entitled to a "team draft" of sorts, where they could pick teams to root for but couldn't get greedy. For instance, if I'm a person that lives in North Dakota, I could root for the Yankees, but since I picked such a dominant baseball, I would need to take, say, the Arizona Cardinals as my football team. That would ensure that evil combos such as the Yankee/Laker fan wouldn't become a nationwide epidemic.
As I started thinking about it more, however, it became clear to me that there are just certain teams that no one should ever cheer for unless there is some type of geographic/family/alumni connection. Here's my top ten list counting down in reverse order:
10) New York Knicks – Every year, teams vie for the ESPY Award for The Most Putrid Team That Sportscenter Pays Way Too Much Attention To. We've had a banner year in this category, with the top contenders being the Eagles ("T.O. is selfish, crazy, and wants to get paid? This calls for a breaking Sportscenter Update!"), Cubs ("Prior and Wood are both hurt at the same time? I haven't heard that one before!"), and Lakers ("From an unconfirmed source, Shaq reportedly said he saw Kobe and R. Kelly handing out room keys at the Brookwood Junior High graduation dance"). Unfortunately for all of these teams, the Knicks have captured this award for the 57th year in a row, which just happens to be how long the NBA and its New York franchise have been in existence.
9) Indiana Hoosiers – If you went to a different Big Ten college, you don't need any explanation. If you didn't go to a Big Ten college, all you need to know is that they're evil.
8) Michigan Wolverines – See #9 above.
7) San Francisco Giants – This doesn't have anything to do with the franchise itself, which has blessed baseball fans with Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" and Willie Mays. The Giants are here simply because of the "Despicable Athlete" exemption (other qualifiers from the past and present: any team with Terrell Owens or Bill Laimbeer), although Bay Area fans seriously need to get some perspective. I know all about blindly cheering for your team, but c'mon, folks, this is beyond being in denial.
6) Dallas Cowboys – Honestly, I really don't care about T.O. that much – he just seems to be a common thread on this list so far. With or without T.O., however, the Cowboys would be high on this list one way or another as a carryover from their high-minded attitude during their dominance in the 1990s. Now, with T.O. plus Bill Parcells, the Cowboys might become the foremost challenger the Knicks have ever had to that ESPY Award described in #10 above (as long as Isiah Thomas is at the helm, though, put your money on the Knicks).
5) USC Trojans – If you skimmed the top 1% of the Laker fan base in terms of income and snobbiness, you'd be left with USC supporters. In addition, have I told you how much I hate their fight song? For some reason, the average person on the street believes that the USC Trojan Marching Band is an elite group since they appeared on some televised Fleetwood Mac concert a few years ago. Rest assured, I heard them play that goddamned fight song live for four hours straight at the first college football game I ever went to in Champaign – they royally suck. Of course, I'll be the first to admit that it would have been a ridiculous amount of fun to go to school there.
4) Notre Dame Fighting Irish – To me, just because you're Irish Catholic doesn't mean that you've got to worship the Golden Dome (which seems to be common refrain here in Chicago). Now, I'll grant Irish fans that going to a game is quite an experience for any sports fan. It's a beautiful campus and seeing Touchdown Jesus on gameday is spectacular. In general, however, if you took away the nice weather, attractive women, and recent national success from their rivals at USC but raised the pompous arrogance up a notch commiserate with having a contract with N(D)BC, you'd end up with Notre Dame.
3) Los Angeles Lakers – All of the other teams on this list do have one admirable thing in common: they've got rabid fans that would die for their teams (even if they are annoyingly insufferable). Lakers fans, however, are without question has the biggest bandwagon jumping fan base of any franchise in sports. The beautiful celebrities show up for games in droves when the Lakers are winning and flee for better clubbing atmospheres when they're losing. The Lakers would be #1 on this list if their fans weren't so pathetic.
2) New York Yankees – In the Sports Guy's book, he noted that one his favorite emails of all-time from a reader stated the following: "Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack." Absolutely perfect.
1) Duke Blue Devils – A combination of all of the worst traits of the aforementioned rest of the top 4: the Borg-like perfection/conformity of the Yankees, the loudmouthed and spoiled fan base of Notre Dame, and the bandwagon backers of the Lakers. Coach K doesn't consider himself a basketball coach that happens to be a leader; Coach K considers himself a leader that happens to coach the team that no one anywhere should ever cheer for (unless they fall into one of the exceptions and even those people are suspect) if they have a sports soul.