Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pulling for Purdue

Fans experience an interesting phenomenon in postseason settings when the team that they follow is eliminated from contention. These fans fall into two groups:
  1. Fans who align with the team that eliminated their team, and
  2. Fans who align with the team that opposes the team that eliminated their team.

I’m ignoring a third group of fans who don’t care one way or the other because their Swiss-like neutral perspective is boring; much like I ignorantly perceive Switzerland to be having never been there myself. I just know that it’s expensive and that they’ve got banks, I know this because I’ve watched Matt Damon’s Bourne movies.

As a sports fan in the Seattle area, I have experienced this tug of allegiance numerous times in recent history because my teams fail to advance (or even enter) in the postseason.

Most recently, this allegiance question focuses on Purdue.

Here are two some possible thoughts fans may be having and the reasons that they feel the way that they do:

  1. I’m rooting for the team that beat my team to validate that while my team lost, at least it lost to a good team.

    Clearly this fan is adopting a loser’s mentality, but it is pervasive and has some merit. Many people feel this way. It also makes some sense because while it’s a loser’s mentality, there’s a reason for that that: Because the team this fan roots for LOST.
  2. I’m rooting for the team that beat my team to play well because I don’t want my team to look bad for losing to a team that gets its ass handed to it in the next round.

    This fan roots this way because he doesn’t want his team (that already lost, mind you) to look bad. This thinking is somewhat convoluted because the team already looks bad because it did lose, but to lose to a team that looks bad makes his team look much worse. It’s like losing twice and constantly makes this fan think “Why couldn’t they play like that when they faced us!?” or worse, “We’re so bad we lost to garbage team.” Neither alternative is good.

Both scenarios are face-saving justifications, but I tend to go with number 2 because it seems like the fan is still primarily focused on his team and is slightly more negative at its core, which sums me up nicely.

Another phenomenon that creeps up occasionally by some twist of fate is focused not on the team that beat the fan’s team, but is more outwardly focused on the opponent of that team. In this case: the hated (and evidently cheating) UConn Huskies.

UConn has dramatically ended tourney runs by UW twice in the last decade. One was Rip Hamilton’s buzzer beater that makes me want rip up the carpet in my TV room, find anyone with any ties to UConn, roll them up in the carpet, and kick the carpet down a hill into oncoming traffic anytime I see it. (By the way, thanks, a lot CBS for constantly replaying that goddamn commercial, it’s not funny. Why didn’t Patrick Femerling tip the ball high into the air? Why are you doing this to me?)

Thinking of UConn also reminds me of Mike Jensen’s brainlocked foul on Marcus Williams… it’s killing me just thinking about it. By the way, I was born in Connecticut and own a UConn sweatshirt that my dad brought back from a visit he took back east. I guess this means that I'm should roll myself up in the carpet... I really should burn that thing and flush the ashes down the toilet, although I’m sure it would clog my pipes and cause the sewer to back up; such is the power that the Eastern Huskies wield over me.

So, instead of just rooting for Purdue to save face, I’m rooting against UConn for historical, pain-inducing reasons. That’s double rooting interest coming from my house, which should be more than enough to topple Calhoun and his merry bunch of thieves and hooligans (that’s unfair, but I don’t care right now). Go Boilers.

The Purdue/UConn scenario also applied to the Super Bowl last year because of the visceral hate that Seahawks fans have for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a result of that horrible game in Detroit in 2005. As I’ve written in the past, I, like many others, was pulling for Arizona in that game. My hate for Pittsburgh was mighty and my desire for an NFC West team to win was much less mighty, but it was there.

A similar rooting-interest corollary arises when a fan’s team is eliminated, or didn’t make the tournament/playoffs at all. It’s interesting to see how people feel when this happens. I enjoy watching games where I’ve got a rooting interest, that’s obvious. I don’t gamble, so that’s out, I’m talking about pure, emotional interest. There are times when I watch a game and I really don’t care who wins, but it’s impossible for me to not lean one way or another, oftentimes for no good reason. For instance, when I was watching Florida State play Wisconsin I couldn’t care less who won, but I did pick Wisconsin in my bracket, so you’d think I’d be pulling for them. But I hate their style of play so much that I was definitely pulling for Florida State. There are times when I root for the underdog because it’s fun to do that, but there are times when I root for the favorite because it almost disgraces the game if the favorite loses to such a gross team like Wisconsin.

Yet another reason for rooting for a team is proximity. I’m rooting for Gonzaga for the simple fact that they are from Washington. If this same cast of characters and the same coach were based out of Texas, or worse, Oregon, then I’m certain I wouldn’t give them a second thought. I wouldn’t care about a guy like Micah Downs who looks like he definitely would be Eminem’s best friend in “Eight Mile.” But since he’s from Washington, I pull for him. I definitely would hate Matt Bouldin for the simple, adolescent, preposterous reason that he has longer-than-normal, messy hair. I’m petty that way sometimes. But I like the guy because he plays in Washington (and is a very good player). Austin Daye would receive the heat of my fury for being a waste of size and skills, but he plays for a team in Washington (wait, that one doesn’t work because I kill him now despite who he plays for—scratch that one). I’m even pulling for Arizona because they play in the Pac10. But I’m also pulling for Louisville because Terrance Williams is from Seattle—worlds colliding in that one. Since I have Louisville in the title game, I suppose that’s the trump card.

I don’t know what will happen if both Purdue and UConn fail to advance to the Final Four, but I’m sure I’ll figure something else out. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to root against Missouri because they fired Quinn Snyder who is from Washington…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So this doesn't really apply here, but your discussion of UConn reminded me of the weird way I felt after the Mike Jensen game, when UConn then proceeded to lose to George Mason. The amount of anger I had at the UConn loss was intensified by some unidentified factor by the sheer outrage at having had UConn steal one from us and then turn around and get whupped like that - simply because I felt at the time that there was no way in hell we would have lost to George Effin' Mason.

As far as your other points, I agree with most - I tend to root for the conference (UO excluded) and the division (I too was pulling for the Cards), although I have a hard time getting behind Purdue and I think it's because I feel like we should have won that game. I have no problem cheering on a team that rolls us to go far though. If Purdue was playing anyone but UConn I might be more inclined to cheer for their opponent. But for all the reasons you said as well as the fact that they are also the "Huskies", the hate for UConn burns within me like the fire of a thousand suns.

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