Tuesday, February 19, 2008

At what point does a transplant fan get on Terry Frei's nerves?

[Edit! Thanks, Greg Wyshynski! To everybody coming over from Deadspin, I encourage you to poke around the site a lot more. The Greatest Hits are to the left.]

I have made it no secret that I haven't rooted for every home team ever in my life. I'm a Seahawks fan based primarily on my love for the logo as a three-year-old. But I've stuck with them, through Denver and St. Louis. I've rooted for the Cardinals and Blues while living far outside St. Louis (It's a real shame that Interleague baseball never took the Cardinals/Rangers rivalry deeper.) As a second grader, my brother and I cheered a Blues goal in Dallas. We got flipped off. To this day, it's my favorite classless fan story. So as I sat down tonight determined to find something to augment my next YouTube video post, Terry Frei's article caught my eye.

At what point do transplant fans deserve to get grief?

I'm not saying that visiting fans can't be idiots. But it just sounds like a bee got into Mr. Frei's bonnet because somebody made fun of his team and he didn't have a witty one liner to say back, so he wrote an article instead. Observe!

The fans take the Blackhawks jerseys out of drawers or off hangers. The jerseys might have Jeremy Roenick's, Tony Amonte's or Chris Chelios' name and former number on the backs, because those were the most recent good ol' days. Maybe the fans don't like the new style or the price tag of the jerseys, but they know, at some point, they will update to Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews models.

I own a Rich Pilon jersey. This guy played eight games in the Bluenote before breaking his wrist and never playing in the NHL again. It was the only sensible alternative to Pierre Turgeon. I also find it unnecessary to determine the interest level of the fan by the merchandise that they own. With teams constantly rolling out third jerseys in the previous years, I find it hard to fault any hockey fan for not running out to buy the brand new RBK Edge jersey. But this article hasn't gotten that bad yet.

Then, they head for the arena, joining friends -- even instant friends they've never met before -- who consider the Hawks and such things as Nancy Faust, Big Al's and the train ride in from Evanston to be parts of their heritage.

As they high-five following Blackhawks goals or merely walk down the concourse, they accept not only the good-natured teasing, but also brave the withering looks, the snide comments, and maybe even a spray or two of beer from other fans.

It was always a thrill to see a fellow Blues fan in Denver. I would at least attempt to egg them on to join me in local tradition or chants to no avail. But I have never witnessed anything as asinine as a 'spray or two of beer from other fans.' Who does that?

They're not in Chicago.

They're in any other NHL arena.

What a twist! I didn't suspect that from the teaser or the headline.

Maybe it's Raleigh or Tampa or Denver or Southern California or San Jose or Columbus or Nashville or … virtually anywhere else. They've paid their $74 per seat or put the first claim in on the company tickets for that game the second the schedule came out.

And, of course, the road team in question doesn't have to be (and usually isn't) the Blackhawks.

I had assumed that it was the Blackhawks in every case. Nothing worse than a drunk Blackhawks fan at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at MSG, slowly chanting the name of the French Poodle until it shits all over the carpet.

It plays out at virtually every NHL game, especially in the U.S., with the Red Wings, Sabres, Rangers, Flyers, Blues … and on and on. I'm not talking about the affluent Rangers fan who still lives in New Rochelle, taking a California junket to San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim for games in late January. I'm talking about the fans who have moved to another market, often out of choice, and take great pleasure in flaunting their retained athletic loyalties to advertise that they're citizens only on the driver's licenses.

How is it that rooting for your favorite team means that you hate the city you live in? I lived in Dallas and loved it. But because I didn't change my favorite team when we moved there, I hated it. So the large amounts of immigrants in the country hate America because they love their country's national team instead of Team USA. What a dolt.

Usually, it involves a franchise with deep roots, but not always, because fan affinity simply can come from picking out a team without geography or tradition as major issues. Maybe someone is the great nephew of the Igloo's original Zamboni driver and despite never having been to Pittsburgh, always has rooted for the Penguins.

Again, I'm a passionate Seahawks fan. My reason for picking the team is stupid, and I accept that. But I follow them very closely and I don't see how I'm such a bad person for going to the game in St. Louis every year wearing as many logos as you can without resorting to Zubaz pants. It's not like I go around punching Rams fans in the face.

Hockey fans often are good-natured, tolerant and accepting of it.

But at what point do the fans of the "other" teams have it coming? At what point do they deserve to get grief?

If the answer does not involve alcohol, he's wrong.

Yeah, sometimes -- sometimes, not always -- the relocated fans of the "other" team might deserve it. When they cross the line to obnoxiousness. When they act as if they believe anyone who actually has deep-rooted affection for the area just fell off the turnip truck. When they act as if their new area's history didn't begin until they did the area the favor of moving there. When they come off as fans who might not even have cared as much about (fill in team name) when they lived in (fill in city) until they moved somewhere else and could flaunt their non-native status. And when they aren't smart enough to at least have an inkling that if rooting for the opposing team seems to reflect any of that, rather than simple and genuine affection for a team, they at least should be self-conscious.

That's when they have it coming.

Who the hell was sitting next to Terry Frei? I will say this about Denver sports fans: there are two types of them in the stands. There are informed fans that know their sport and there are fans that are there because somebody gave them the tickets. And it's painful. But as a transplant fan, you laugh at them, you do not erupt into violent outbursts. As a home team fan, you have to respect that somebody came into your building with the other team's jersey knowing what was waiting for them. But I have never - ever - known of a fan to act like this has been laid out. Drunk fans have it coming when they start insulting you, but even then you have to realize they're drunk. Half the fun of a drunk out-of-town fan is watching the ensuing security/usher scuffle when they get kicked out. That's just the way it is.

It's a gauche, lowbrow, unrealistic view, and I should be both more pragmatic and understanding of the All-American phenomenon. Embracing one team of mercenary athletes over another team of mercenary athletes is not the measure of commitment to a community. I know that. And I should know better.

It's still how I feel.

Oh, well you know you're wrong but there's no reason to change your view. Good thing you kept writing. You know, I don't particularly find the slam dunk to be worthy of a SportsCenter Top 10 highlight, Terry, but I keep watching and just wait until the next number. I don't fire up the Blogger to seethe about it.

Those "visiting team" fans deserve it when they're obnoxious transplants whose retained childhood or family-roots sports loyalties are part of a more aggravating bigger-picture attitude.

That attitude can be summed up as a complete lack of sensitivity or concern about how galling it all can be to natives who in their course of everyday life are reminded at every turn that 87 percent of their metro area can seem to be made up of transplants.

87% of any one metro area doesn't care that much about one particular sport. I would be surprised if you can find 87% of any given metro area that speaks the same language. But they sure can root against the home team!

We're a mobile society. I don't live in my native area, either. There's nothing "wrong" with moving somewhere, whether reluctantly for work reasons or even because you patented the greatest invention in the history of the world (the ATM card) and decided that moving into a Bel Air mansion was the way to go, and then retaining sports franchise loyalties.

But …

It's so aggravating to have to put up with folks who act as if the history of the area, especially when it's an area those folks have chosen to move to, didn't begin until they moved there.

Again, this seems as if one person that Terry Frei ran into acted like this. I'll lay it out like this - Tampa Bay came into being in 1987 and ceased to be in 1991. Because I didn't root for the only local team - the Buccaneers. Who thinks like this? Is there any one transplant fan that you know of that could possible think like this?

Believe it or not, there are some Southern California natives. A few, not many. Some of them are hockey fans who, depending on their ages, grew up on the old Western League Blades or the Triple Crown line or the arrival of The Great One. There are Colorado natives, who not only remember when Wilf Paiement and Barry Beck were the cornerstones of the original Colorado Rockies, but also when Loveland Pass and not the Eisenhower Tunnel was the major way to get to the ski areas or to the Western Slope. There are Bay Area natives whose parents debated who was better, Willie McCovey or Orlando Cepeda, and who went to Sharks games in the Cow Palace. There are Hurricanes fans in the Research Triangle or Lightning fans in the Tampa Bay region who either are natives or decided to sign on and make the emotional attachments to the teams when they arrived.

Got it. So because I'm young AND I don't root for the home team, I'm a fucking moron. Get over yourself. You know who is the rude idiot in this situation? Terry Fucking Frei. I never considered how people got to the ski resorts before the Eisenhower Tunnel was built. So by wearing my Blues jersey to the Pepsi Center, I am pronouncing that Denver and all of the residents of Denver - of which only 13% have a different point of view that I do - can go fuck themselves.

It can seem like there are a lot of transplant fans in your area because instead of buying season tickets to see half a season of games, they get to see two or three games.

How come there are 14.2 million folks who have moved from those, ahem, more traditional hockey markets to Los Angeles or Denver or San Jose or Raleigh or Tampa -- yet there seems to be about 11 (eleven, period) folks who have moved from those "newer" hockey markets to, say, Boston, Detroit or Chicago?

Because who wants to move from Denver to St. Louis? Who wants to leave LA for St. Paul? Who wants to move from Tampa to Detroit? Who would want to live in Detroit period?

Why do folks move someplace, then spend 87 percent of their time bragging about how great the place they left was? If it's that important to them, why not move mountains, so to speak, to move back?

1) The Al-ighty -ollar. A job won't let them. Sorry that the economy moved your job, person from Chicago. Now you have to move to Oakland and root for the Warriors.

2) There are certain things that I miss about every place that I lived (Tennessee excluded). But I certainly don't pine for them during a hockey game.

How come the transplants with retained childhood athletic loyalties don't have any idea about how aggravating they can be? This might be the most significant point of all: They're the most aggravating when their attitudes come with the kicker beliefs that their friends who dare to switch their loyalties to local teams, or have rooted for the local team or teams all along, are saps.

Absolutely, there are fans in Raleigh who root for the Hurricanes -- except for the four times they play the Rangers.

But they're in the minority.

I would say it's more aggravating when a person stays loyal to their own team until the new one finds success, then they switch. But how is that aggravating? Isn't that what a fan is? I have endless loyalty to some of the worst franchises in the history of sport. I would never think of changing these if I were to move.

Again: I will concede there's nothing wrong with -- and it even can add spice to a game -- having good-natured fans of the "opposing" team in the seats, and hearing the teasing go back and forth. To various extents, it's part of the dynamic at every NHL game. Twenty guys wearing the winged wheel, with only Brian Rafalski from Michigan, going against the defending Stanley Cup champions, none of them native Californians, in the Honda Center? That does not set up a test for good Orange County citizenship. This involves selecting one group of mercenaries over another, not moving to one area and refusing to pay taxes or mind the laws because it's not the area named on the birth certificate. This is sports, not life. I know that.

And when did where the player is from enter this? Players also worship the -ollar. They also go through a drafting process that decides where they go unless they are J.D. Drew. If you're a pro, you don't get a choice in where you go unless your childhood team is in the market for what you are.

But: Sometimes they've got it coming.

And sometimes, you realize that you just read something that a man was paid to write. One bad moment in his life has just been poured out in front of all of us, and we had to pay for it in this awful article.

Yeah, transplant fans would be annoying if they were ANYTHING like they are made to act like in this column. But they aren't. I can't imagine that a normal person would ever think that local sports never existed without them there. The best part about mocking the home town is when you know about the past of the franchise and can bring up that the Nashville Predators have a banner celebrating the first time they made the playoffs because they never have won a playoff series. What this whole article boils down to is that one single person made this terrible impression on this writer, and now a giant wave of incorrect stereotypes came flooding down upon the rest of us. This article didn't need to be written, but Terry Frei felt it necessary to tell us why he leads a better life than I do.

I hope he gets moved to Memphis. Enjoy the Grizzlies, assclown.


pnoles said...

<3 the Simpsons reference! Al-ighty -ollar! =)

louis c said...

Great point about the Preds - went down there last season to catch a Stars game (the one where Modano tied and set the record for goals by an American-born player, actually) and in between their "fans" booing offsides calls, and booing historic, record-setting goals, got to take in the glory of one of the stupidest fanbases I have ever been subjected to. But yet, according to Mr. Frei, transplant fans are somehow worse than this. Makes perfect sense to me.

Chemmy said...

I'd say home fans being shitty to out of town fans (except in the case of things like Sox-Yankees style large rivalries) is a lot worse than a guy in the stands cheering on his favorite team, but what do I know?

Jibblescribbits said...

I like your site and normally i agree with you, but this time I think you missed the point of this article.

It wasn't so much admonishing all visiting fans, but it was admonishing visiting fans who come in and act like they are better/ know more/ than the home fans. He went out of his way to point out that visiting fans who acts like non-assholes are fine.

And I think he wrote this with the anticipation of the Red Wings coming to his town (Denver), and if you're ever been in an arena when the Red Wings play, well it's like being in a stadium when the Patriots are on the road, or Yankees. Lots of visiting fans acting like asses.

Like i said love the site, but I think you missed the mark on this one

Jarrett said...

pnoles - come for the animated show references, stay for the food.

louis c - Nashville has a very odd mix of fans. A very large amount of them enjoy hockey and took the time to learn the sport. On the other hand, I never can imagine going there and thinking "Geez, these are the classiest fans in the league."

Chemmy - I agree with you on this 100%. I hate it the most when fans wait until the outcome of the game is decided to be belligerent to visiting fans.

Jibblescrbbits - I haven't been in your arena when the Wings and Avs have played; frankly it's no place for a Blues fan. A Wings/Avs game in Denver was the only time other than a Blues game that I could sit through John Kelly and Peter McNab. Then John Kelly came to St. Louis...

I didn't say he's admonishing visiting fans at all, it's the fans that live in the home city and don't root for the home team. There are a good amount of bandwagon/transplant fans for the Red Wings that live in Denver and they usually go to The Can to be dicks. If I were an Avs fan, I would just say "2003 Mighty Ducks." and dismiss whatever they had to say.

However, he also went out of his way to admonish any fan like me. I have childhood roots in favorite teams. I also lived in 5 or 6 different states after those teams were chosen. So should I change my favorite team every city I move to? That's why I'm so upset over the article. I took the time to learn the home team. I would stay up to watch the Kings and Avs play in the playoffs. So don't address transplant fans as a cancer on the sport.