(Note: this is adapted from a blog post I just wrote. I thought it would be okay to share here)
Since I am me, I’ve read a bunch of social science papers on the nature of sports fandom, trying to understand this attachment. They were arid and completely unhelpful. They tried to connect fandom to abstractions about identity formation, self-esteem affiliation and collective classifications.
It’s probably more accurate to say that team loyalty of this sort begins with youthful enchantment. You got thrown together by circumstance with a magical team — maybe one that happened to be doing well when you were a kid or one that featured the sort of heroes children are wise to revere. You lunged upon the team with the unreserved love that children are capable of.
The team became crystallized in your mind, coated with shimmering emotional crystals that give it a sparkling beauty and vividness. And forever after you feel its attraction. Whether it’s off the menu or in the sports world, you can choose what you’ll purchase but you don’t get to choose what you like.
The neuroscientists might say that, in 1969, I formed certain internal neural structures associated with the Mets, which are forever after pleasant to reactivate. We have a bias toward things that are familiar and especially to those things that were familiar when life was new: the old house, the old hometown, the people, smells and sounds we knew when we were young.
I’d say my attachment to the Mets is more like an old friendship. It’s not as intense as it used to be. I watch about 40 games a year, mostly on TV, and read blogs like Amazin’ Avenue and Metsblog.com. I’d like the team to thrive and win championships. But I really just want them to continue to be one of the allegiances that enrich life. I want them to continue to provide vivid moments.
Evidently Brooks thinks that this is a real tv show, and he's looking to be the next host. It's also typical of Brooks that he'd read both Amazin Avenue and Metsblog, as no doubt he reads both Daily Kos and Free Republic as well.
That said, I can't really mock Brooks that much for this article. I wrote something similar in a blog post in response to Brooks' 2005 column.
But I can never truly be a Nationals fans. Being a Met fan is part of my identity. I have given enormous amounts of time and energy for this team. I have cried tears of sadness after crushing playoff defeats in 1999 and 2000, and have also been through the enormous joy of a world championship. I still get chills every time I walk into Shea Stadium, even if it is a dump. And, as always, I get to anticipate with great optimism a season that will no doubt end in failure.
The other day I was home from work, sick. So I popped in the DVD, 1986 Mets: A Year to Remember. This was a highlights tape of the 1986 Mets season, and as a kid I wore this tape out, usually because I always watched it during sick days from school. One of the bloggers at Amazin Avenue [James] was good enough to send this DVD that he made from an old VHS copy, and watching it the other day was like slipping back to my youth. Watching it now in my mid-30s, I can see the cheesy influence of the 80s all over this thing. But I still loved every second of it.
There are several musical montages throughout the tape. There was one montage, set to Bob Seger's "Like A Rock," that pays homage to Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez. You can watch the video here. As most of you know, Carter recently died from brain cancer. Well, I teared up watching that video. No, I balled watching that. You know when else I've cried watching a video or movie? At the end of Field of Dreams, when Ray has a catch with his father, but only after my own father passed away. The reason I welled up watching that "Like a Rock" video is the same reason I weep every time I watch Field of Dreams. I am mourning somebody closely associated with my life, and through a game that helped forge that attachment. Obviously I miss my father for reasons other than baseball, but the game of catch calls me back to one of my most vivid and cherished childhood memories, and that's simply having a catch with my dad outside on the sidewalk.
I started watching baseball in 1984, when I was a 7-year old kid. The first game I remember watching was Dwight Gooden's first start against the Astros - and I wanted to watch the Yankees! Soon I was enraptured by baseball, reading every history book about the game I could get my hands on. By nine I probably knew more about baseball than I even know now. And my summer months were spent watching and listening to the Mets (and until they went to MSG, the Yankees as well.) And though there were moments when hockey became more interesting to me, and though the GIants have remained successful while the Mets have not, baseball has been and will continue to remain my favorite sport. There is an emotional attachment there that defies logic and reason. And as much as I just want to give up on the Mets because of what the Wilpons have done to the organization, I just know that by the time opening day rolls around I'll be as excited as ever to watch what will be a 75-win team.