How does one become a fan of particular professional sports team? Well, first of all, one has to love the sport, I think. I am never going to be the fan of any NBA team because I don't like to watch professional basketball, or any other basketball, on television. I do love to watch football, though.
I have very early memories of my dad and I watching football on tv together. We were probably watching college ball as my dad has always been more interested in that than the pros, but the same rules - for the most part - apply. I know that my dad was amazingly patient, especially for him, explaining the rules to me over and over again, game after game, season after season.
I don't remember specifically, but I am sure we watched the Browns during their 1964 championship season. I know my dad disliked the great Jim Brown, terming him "yellow" because he was so good at running away from his would-be tacklers. Even as a child I was confused by that. Wasn't that what he was supposed to do? So for many seasons I was a Browns-hater because my dad was, but gradually that changed, and I became a member of the long-suffering tribe of Browns fans. I lived and died - but mostly died - with the Kardiac Kids and their last-minute victories. I hated John Elway and the Broncos more than any other sports team. Elway's nickname at our house was "Bucky" due to his protruding teeth, and I loved to hate him.
I had to break up with the Browns, though, after "The Fumble", as it is known in Cleveland sports lore, left me sobbing in front of my television set. I just can't care this much any more, I thought, and although I remained a fan, I drew back to protect myself. I never liked Art Modell, but, along with everyone else in Northeast Ohio, I hated him with a passion after he stole the team away to Baltimore and left Cleveland bereft.
I loved watching Joshua Cribbs play, having spoken to him a couple of times on the Kent State campus. Once, in particular, Julie and I were walking Bobo and Lucie on campus, when we saw Josh playing with his young daughter near the MAC Center. His daughter wanted to pet the diminutive (but mean) Lucie, but we steered her towards mellow Bobo instead. Josh's kickoff returns were electrifying, and when other teams started kicking the ball away from him, it only validated his skill.
So I think I have established that I love watching football. We faithfully watched the Browns week after week until we moved, mid-season, two years ago to the greater Baltimore area. And you know what? They don't show the Browns' games here. They show the Ravens. The reviled Ravens. The team stolen away from us. I had to watch football, though, so it was the Ravens or nothing.
Which brings me to the second - and equally important - factor in how one becomes a fan of a specific team: proximity. Reading the local newspaper or watching the local news, I learned more than I wanted to know about the Baltimore Ravens and their players. I had to admit, I liked Joe Flacco, the young quarterback who was at the University of Delaware during the time Julie was there. And I learned that the party line around here is that Ray Lewis "was young, and running with a bad crowd, and has really turned his life around." Seriously. Everyone says that. Even the guy who came out to give me an estimate on a new fence told me those exact words.
So, yeah, I watch the Ravens' games now, and I do cheer for them. When the Ravens played the Broncos in Denver several weeks ago, I was filled with delight that my team knocked the Broncos out of the play-offs. It was deeply satisfying in a way I had not anticipated. Take that, Bucky, I thought to myself, as John Elway seemed to smile even in defeat up in the owner's box. With sincere apologies to my friends and family in Northeast Ohio, I will be cheering for the Ravens in the Super Bowl this year. They're my team, after all.