New York to L.A and Back: The Evolution of a Sports Fan
Do you know what happens when you grow up a die-hard old school sports fan? There are rules!
When I grew up in Brooklyn, you couldn't root for teams just because they all come from the same town.
In old-school New York—that would be the '50s for you newbies—that team in Chavez Ravine was the Brooklyn Dodgers. In Manhattan, there were the New York baseball Giants. And, in the Bronx, there were the Yankees.
If you rooted for one, you didn't root for the others—plain and simple. It just wasn't done. For me, today, it still isn't. Also, most rooting is local. So, for you New York Red Sox fans, you Anaheim Yankee fans... you're traitor fans, plain and simple. You have the right to be, but that's how I view you.
Now, as to the nature of the teams I root for, although I currently reside in New York, I lived in Southern California for 13 years. I consider Long Beach home and will return there Real Soon Now. So, I have divided loyalties spread between two cities: New York and Los Angeles.
I have never rooted for another [NFL] football team than the New York Giants. I started following the Giants circa 1968 at the tail end of the coaching reign of Allie Sherman. He was replaced by Alex Webster.
Over the years, I remember such players as former placekicker Pat Summerall , Fran Tarkenton , Pete Gogolak , Tucker Frederickson , Bob Tucker , and a little known running back/kick returner Rocky Thompson, (No. 22).
In 1978, Giants fans were also subject to a notorious play known in New York as "The Fumble". Quarterback Joe Piscarik ripped defeat from the jaws of victory by fumbling the ball on his own 28-yard line. Herm Edwards returned the fumble for a touchdown allowing the Eagles to win the game.
When I first moved to the West Coast, I flirted with rooting for the Los Angeles Raiders. However, the Raiders didn't stay in Los Angeles very long. I've never liked the Rams; so my loyalties are pretty much ingrained.
Note: The New York football Giants are one of the legacy franchises in the National Football League. The Giants have a storied history in the NFL. Their history dates back to 1925. The football Giants won the NFL Championship in 1934, 1938, and 1956. They won the post-merger Super Bowl in 1987, 1991 and 2008. They were also NFC Champions in 2001.
Lots of sports fans, when they don't have a dog in the hunt, root for the underdog. This would explain my support of the Los Angeles Clippers and Duke college football. More about Duke later.
When I moved to Los Angeles, in the NBA, it was all about the Lakers. Lakers, Lakers, Lakers. Who are these guys? And who are these other guys? Growing up in New York, I know there's nothing better than a good same-city, two-team rivalry. So, I picked the underdog and I don't regret it. Yeah, they're hapless, but one day they're gonna be great and then all of a sudden, everybody in L.A. will be a Clipper fan.
Trust me! L.A. sports fans are front-runners in the main.
Note : In 2006, the Clippers had their best season in franchise history in California, advancing to the Western Conference semi-finals against the Phoenix Suns.
My baseball loyalties are pretty easy to explain. I'm from Brooklyn. The Dodgers broke Brooklyn's heart when they moved to L.A. I personally remember Ebbets Field. It was imposing. And then, it was gone. Replaced by a housing project. Also imposing; not as beautiful.
When the Brooklyn Dodgers abandoned what would normally be the fourth-largest city in America (and the New York baseball Giants abandoned the city for San Francisco), New York's National League baseball fans were left without a team.
In 1962, the New York Mets sprang to life. If you look closely at the Mets' team colors, you'll see the orange of the baseball Giants and the blue of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They played their games in the Giants' old home, the Polo Grounds, across the river from Yankee Stadium. Those early Mets were unbelievably bad. They were so bad, they were lovable.
Eventually, the Mets brought professional baseball back to Brooklyn, albeit minor-league baseball. The Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League, a short-season Class A ballclub, plays its games at KeySpan Park in Coney Island.
When I moved to Long Beach— and, yes, I recognize the irony—I couldn't root for the Dodgers. I just couldn't. The other team in town was the Anaheim Angels. Like the Clippers, they hadn't won anything in a while. L.A. was all about the Dodgers. Dodgers. Dodgers. Dodgers. It was a natural fit.
1980. It was the year I was finally able to get into hockey. It began with the miracle run of USA Hockey in the Winter Olympics. Defender Ken Morrow went from the Olympic hockey team to the New York Islanders—Long Island's local hockey team. Since I lived on Long Island at the time, I followed his exploits there.
Again, like the Clippers and Angels, the Islanders were a step-child in their own region. In New York, it's all about the Rangers. Rangers. Rangers. Rangers. Even in their own building, when the Rangers and Islanders meet, most fans are rooting for the Rangers.
Man, I didn't realize how lucky I was. Billy Smith , Mike Bossy , Denis Potvin , Bryan Trottier , Bobby Nystrom. These are just some of the players who taught me about NHL-style hockey. The Islanders went on to become a modern dynasty in sports winning the Stanley Cup four years in a row from 1980-1983. It was a great time to learn and appreciate hockey.
In my years of following the Clippers, several of their better players came through the college program steered by Mike Krzyzewski. So, when my interest turned to college basketball, I started rooting for Duke.
After several years of following Duke basketball, I realized they had a football team, albeit a terrible one. It's not easy to root for Duke college football. I do it nevertheless. There is hope in the form of second-year head coach David Cutcliffe . Coach Cutcliffe is the former quarterback coach of a couple of guys named Manning .
I also follow the escapades of the Long Beach State 49ers/Dirtbags. They have a good program on the West Coast. I try to check in on my alma mater, the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, when I can get some information.
It's only lately that I've started to take an interest in rugby. The U.S. National Team's nickname is the Eagles. It's hard for a football Giants fan to root for a team nicknamed Eagles.
I also have some love for tennis, golf, cycling. The spectacle of tennis' Grand Slam and near-Slam events can't be matched for drama. Our endless obsession with Tiger Woods shows no signs of abatement. Cycling? I actually do that myself. You see so much more on a bike than you ever do speeding by in an automobile.
So, now you have some sense of my evolution as a sports fan.
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