I've been spending a lot of time with the new Baseball Prospectus this week. That's become pretty much a rite of passage for me. First week of March, with fantasy drafts upcoming, I stick my head into this book at night and rarely come out.
First team I read about this year? The San Francisco Giants. Why? By the end of last season, they were my team.
When the Giants finished off the Phillies and then the Rangers in last year's postseason, I jumped and hollered. Very few things in sports elicit this level of excitement from me anymore. One thing that does? Being right.
I didn't root for the Giants because they won it all. I did because I picked them to.
Whether it's my fantasy players, teams I picked or wagered on, or someone I have some other personal connection with, these are my rooting interests these days. I need to have some kind of a connection in order to care. Without it, a sports team is just a bunch of rich jocks that I don't know.
Mostly this is a baseball thing. My interest in baseball teams changes all the time. If I go to your stadium and love it, I'll probably root for you for a while. I'd be rooting for the memory. Still, it's the personal connection that defines that. If my best Strat-O-Matic fantasy player plays for you, I'm watching your games a lot and probably rooting for you. Unless, perhaps, I make a Vegas trip and align elsewhere.
When I lived in Rochester I rooted for Syracuse in basketball. But Syracuse doesn't feel like mine anymore. So now, if I draw Georgetown in a pool, it's Go Hoyas.
Is any of this wrong? Is my behavior dishonorable in some way? I don't know. I don't feel bad about it. Players and coaches change teams all the time. Why shouldn't fans?
At least there are bigger crimes, right? It's not like having sex in college. I mean, that's reprehensible.
There's one team that is pretty much immune to this for me: the Sabres. (See last week's blog post for more on that.) I'm not involved with Fantasy Hockey this year so there's really no potential for conflict. I do run a big hockey pool in the playoffs though, where people try to pick the year's highest-scoring playoff players.
So I'm telling you now: If it's Sabres-Flyers in Round 1, and Claude Giroux has a big night, don't look at my face for tears.