I was listening to the local sports-talk channel this morning ... been doing that a bit lately, the remodel leaves plenty of space in the bathroom so I tossed a little radio in there, and I catch a few minutes of Gary Radnich while I'm in the shower. Gary was making the claim that even a Giants fan should tip our caps to the Dodgers for their record-setting start to the season. The other guy in the studio, don't know his name, thought this was nonsense.
I've written about this before, often with Landon Donovan and other ex-Earthquakes as the instigating factor. I've always thought that athletes are not necessarily fans of their sport. But now I think I've got it wrong. There are at least two types of sports fans, and athletes often fall into the "other" type from yours truly. That "other" type appreciates the sport more than they cheer for a particular team. I can be like that when I have no stake in either of the competing teams. Watching two matches between Barcelona and Chelsea, I don't have a rooting interest ... what I want to see is good matches. That means I'm probably rooting for Barca, since they are generally more entertaining than Chelsea, but if Chelsea wins AND entertains, that's fine with me. (Of course, Chelsea purposely drained the first match of entertainment value, making it easier to root for Barca.)
But ... and this is where I differ from most athletes, from Gary Radnich, and from that part of me who roots for a "good match" when I don't care who wins. I am a fan of teams before I am a fan of the games they play. I am a Giants fan first, a baseball fan second. Same goes for the 49ers, or the Warriors, or Cal, or the Earthquakes. Being a fan in this manner is about more than just the game on the field. As Nick Hornby, the patron saint of all fans who also read books, puts it, when you root for your team, it's not vicarious. It is "your" team. I've been with the Giants since 1958 ... no player can match that (which is why all dedicated Giants fans know the name of the team's equipment manager, because he, too, has been there since '58). Part of being a fan of a team is that you have disdain for your team's rivals. As the saying goes, my favorite team is the Giants. My second favorite team is whoever is playing the Dodgers.
A baseball fan can only tip their caps to the Dodgers for their fine start. A Giants fan, though, must by definition poop on anything related to the Dodgers, no matter how good it is from an objective point of view. One of the most famous events in baseball history came when Kirk Gibson homered off of Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series. Eck was my favorite player, and I hadn't yet developed my dislike of A's fans (that came in 2002), so while I wasn't as broken-hearted as were A's fans, it hurt to watch Gibson trot around the bases. But ... and I remember this quite well ... as it happened, my thoughts weren't about Eck or the A's. I wanted to cry, because the Dodgers had won the game, and I knew immediately that I'd be staring at replays of that homer for the rest of my life.
So no, I am not tipping my cap to the Dodgers.
One thing has to be admitted, though. The reason I am such a shit is likely connected to the fact that the team I like best, the baseball Giants, have never won the World Series. It's hard to be magnanimous when you're lying on your back. Especially when you have the dark suspicion that you'll never get up in your lifetime.