Over the past six years, in Hong Kong and New York, whenever I meet someone for the first time, and it’s been established that I love the NBA, I get asked the inevitable question: “You’re a Laker fan huh?”
“But…you’re from LA. So what’s your team?”
“I don’t have a team. I root for certain players, and good basketball.”
This logic is sometimes lost on people, especially diehard fans themselves. They almost try to make excuses for me, to justify why I’m not a Laker fan.
“Oh I get it, because you’ve been living in Hong Kong for so long, right?”
“Naw man, I was known as a Laker hater even back when I lived in LA, used to get in crazy arguments with high school friends to the point we don’t speak for days.”
At this point, the degree to which they are perplexed cannot be understated, and I sort of understand. The word “fan,” after all, is short for “fanatic,” and according to the dictionary, a fanatic is someone who is “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.” And rooting for various players on different sides and/or rooting for a side based on history, legacy, and matchups that will immediately proceed is the exact opposite of being having a single-minded zeal.
I used to acknowledge that I was an anomaly. Hell, I liked being the anomaly — the “snob” who reveled in being a fan of lesser-known or underrated players (yes, this is the “hipster mentality,” but I’ve been like that since the late 90s, before the definition of hipster and “liking things before it’s cool” existed. So in a sense I was a hipster before the hipster became a thing. INCEPTION-next-level shit here, yo).
But today, in 2013, in a globalized world, does it still make sense, or is it even possible, to have a “hometown” team? Whereas 30 years ago, fans grew up watching local television and reading regional newspapers, fans today have access to any medium, anywhere, on an international level.
To be a Bulls fan in 1983 was to watch Bulls game on WGN, read box scores in the Chicago Tribune, and learn about your favorite Bull’s interests and hobbies through Chicago area newspapers beat writers. If you lived in Chicago, you simply had more access to the Bulls — much, much more — than someone living in Oakland.
That’s not the case today, what with NBA League Pass and, specifically, the internet, the latter of which has opened up the world and sped up globalization exponentially.
So if that’s the case, why must we be limited to rooting for a team solely out of proximity to where we reside? There’s so much to the game of basketball to love — the talent level in the NBA is at an all time high — you’re doing yourself a disservice by loving only one team only. Especially if blindly.
It’s this very argument — that it’s the age of globalization, that location doesn’t matter anymore — that has every new age sports fan declaring “legacy” sporting institutions like the Notre Dame football program or the New York Knicks to be increasingly irrelevant. Back then, the argument goes, if you’re a star NBA player, being in a big market is crucial. But with the internet today, you could be just as big in Oklahoma City as you would be in Los Angeles.
The good news for me is, I’m no longer alone. Like the protagonist in a zombie movie, I’m slowly discovering there are others like me out there.
I met a good friend this year. She’s from the Bay Area but spent six adult years in Los Angeles. When I learned that she was a Boston Celtics fan, I was baffled.
“Wait, what? How?”
“Oh I just didn’t like how the Lakers and the fans were so arrogant during the Finals.”
I’m assuming she’s referring to the 2008 finals. Or maybe 2010. It doesn’t matter. Here she is, a native Californian and a Los Angeles resident….not a Laker fan.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll be waking up at the ungodly hours of 8am to watch the San Antonio Spurs play the Miami Heat. I’ll be rooting for the Spurs — because I have so much respect for Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili is one of my favorite player and after whom I will name my future dog — even though I rooted against them the two previous rounds.
I picked the Memphis Grizzlies over the Spurs because that was the “logical decision,” aka the “brain over heart decision.” I thought the Grizzlies matched up better.
The round prior, I was rooting for Steph Curry and the Warriors because Curry, his squad, and the Oakland crowd had given us some of the giddiest, free-flowing basketball in years. Oakland over the Spurs would have been a good story.
But now, I’m rooting for the Spurs. More importantly, for Duncan and Manu.
This makes no sense to most sports fans. But it makes perfect sense to me.