I’ve always feared being labeled a bandwagon fan, a fan who shows no loyalty and conveniently roots for the best teams. Despite having rooted for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Chicago Cubs, I’m not a bandwagon fan, and despite spending the last nine years rooting for Boston’s sports teams, I’m not a bandwagon fan. But I don’t quite belong to any team. I’m a sports orphan.
My parents aren’t sports fans, so I didn’t grow up rooting for a team alongside them. My mom is from Chicago, and as a girl, she watched the Cubs, which was reason enough for me to root for them. But we never watched a game together, so despite growing up with a Cubs’ poster, my ties were shallow – I’d later become a Red Sox fan.
Growing up in Fredericksburg, over four hours from Houston and Dallas, I had few geographic ties to teams. The only nearby team was an hour away, the San Antonio Spurs. This suggests I should have been a Spurs’ fan, but because of my brothers, I rooted against the Spurs.
When we moved to Fredericksburg, I spent a lot of time with them and their friends, especially playing ultimate frisbee on Sunday nights. As a 5th grader in a sea of High Schoolers, I was the slowest and shortest. I had no chance of catching a contested throw, but I learned to position myself to make an opportunistic catch if the frisbee was tipped. I found unique ways to contribute, and I loved competing with people six years older and a foot taller than me.
My brother’s friend group also watched Spurs’ games together. I don’t remember consciously deciding to root against the Spurs, but when I did root against them, I received attention I otherwise wouldn’t have. I couldn’t simply root against the Spurs, I needed a team of my own. I adopted Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves despite having no ties to Minnesota. My brothers’ friends gave me the nickname Timberwolf and would throw me in the pool when the Spurs lost. I think they threw me in the pool when they won too. I loved the attention.
Once my brothers went to College, the foundation of my fandom proved weak, but I enjoyed the role of an anti-fan. I replaced the Spurs and focused my energy on rooting against the Dallas Cowboys, my friends’ favorite team. This was more fun because when I rooted against the Spurs, they were in the middle of a dynasty. The Cowboys, however, were competent enough to give my friends hope, but incompetent enough to always lose the most important games.
Once again, I needed a team of my own, so I adopted Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys’ main rival. One year on my birthday, my mom made an Eagles’ themed cake. In high school, I rooted passionately for the Eagles, but once again, my fandom would prove weak.
Since I grew up without a sports home, staying with the Timberwolves and Eagles was better than sleeping on the streets, but they were temporary arrangements. I’d soon find a more stable situation rooting for a team, not against a team.
The summer after high school I lived with my brothers in Boston for a month. I had visited cities on vacation before, but that summer, I felt like a resident. Living in Boston showed me the potential for life after college – the food, the history, the subway rides, the parks, and the energy of the city. I loved it all, but my favorite part was going to a Red Sox game.
My brother Paul scalped tickets in right field. Looking back, the game was relatively uneventful, but for my first professional sports game, the atmosphere was electric, especially when the Red Sox’s closing pitcher entered the game to Dropkick Murphy’s Shipping Up to Boston.
Since tickets are expensive, going to the game was a treat. Boston Sports still became a part of my brother Paul’s daily life. On Thursdays, my brothers and their friends met at Harry’s Bar & Grill, a sports bar one subway stop from their apartment. They watched the Boston Bruins win a Stanley Cup championship at Harry’s. They weren’t hockey fans, but because of the excitement, they watched every game. A year earlier, Paul was interviewed while watching game 7 of the NBA Finals at a famous bar.
“Paul Giese, 23, an accountant from Brighton, counted himself among the lucky fans who had made his way inside the House of Blues.
“Giese said, early in the game, that ‘it would be the greatest day of his life’ if the Celtics triumphed.”
That excitement doesn’t come from rooting against a team. I wanted what Paul had. With no legitimate ties to other teams, I left that summer a Boston sports fan.
When I started college, I acted like my previous fandom never happened. I explained to my friends that my parents met in Boston and that all my brothers and I were born just north of Boston (which is true). My college and Midland friends think I’ve been a Boston fan my whole life while my high school friends don’t know that I’m a Boston fan. After the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 52, a high school friend sent a congratulatory text. Afraid of being labeled a bandwagon fan, I didn’t tell him that I’m now a Patriots fan.
While my ties to Boston are more legitimate than with any other sports city, I don’t fully belong. I never truly lived in Boston, but I’ve also yet to live in a city with a professional sports team I can call my own. Nine years ago the city of Boston took me in off the streets and placed me in their sports orphanage, but I still long for permanent adoption.