The Home Team
Most of us are born to our allegiances. Especially for the home team. Our fathers taking us to our first baseball game, the perfectly manicured green grass and white on white of the baselines so precisely laid out before us as giants warmed up under the brilliant summer sun. From then to eternity that team was mine. It binds us to a town a city, an era, it becomes who we are, it defines us in ways beyond rational explanation. We wear our loyalty in game jerseys with our hero’s name emblazoned on the back, we paint our faces our team’s colors, we name our children after our favorite players. We’re crazy, crazy for our team.
Win or lose, celebrate or mourn we love our team. Monday ain’t blue if your team won on Sunday. But we soon get over it if they don’t, because there is always next week, next year or if you are a Cub fan, the next millennia. The best part of sport is that there always is next year, a do over of sorts. One that life doesn’t provide us with, but does for our team. That’s what keeps us coming back for more. One more chance at redemption . One more chance to be the best. To be champions. Everyone loves a winner, but the true fan, one born of the loyalty of personal connection, loves his team no matter what. There is no band wagon to jump on or off of. They are your team through thick and thin, win or lose.
I come from a time and place were loyalty was everything. At work and at play. The team was everything. Whether it was your sandlot buddies or the guys on the line at the assembly plant or steel mill, it was your world, it was who you were, it was your identity. I have lived, worked and played all over the world and there is one constant that bonds males and it is sport. I have played sandlot football in the shadow of hulking rusted steel mills belching smoke and ash that coated the snow black. Stood shoulder to shoulder with players from the other team as we walked the length of the field picking and chucking rocks that clanged off the empty aluminum bleachers. Then stood toe to toe and knocked the crap outta each other for hours or until it got too dark to play or we ran out of players. I have played baseball on fields glistening with broken glass and basketball on courts littered with hypodermic needles in the slums of Philadelphia and New York and San Juan. I’ve kicked around soccer balls in the hot sands of the Middle East with guys that played in the World Cup from Holland. I sat, in a freezing car, with four friends in Minneapolis listening to the U.S.A. beat Russia in the ‘80 Olympics, on the radio because we forgot to pay the electric bill. I’ve stood in race control at the 2000 Daytona 500 flashing hand signals to the broadcast crews who couldn’t understand why the race director had yellow flagged the race toward the end of the race as 200,000 fans screamed in anger or joy as their favorite got robbed or caught a break. I’ve watched Superbowls, World Series games and World Cup matches in bars from Bangkok to Bangor. I have partied with the great and not so great, the famous and the infamous. I have been fortunate to have traveled the world and it is the passion of sport that has broken down language and cultural barriers along the way.
If there is one thing men are more passionate about than religion or politics or women for that matter, it is sport, especially the home team. Life long friendships born of the love of sport are formed out of those passions. The internet and forums like The Sports Outlaw have given us a place to show our loyalty and passion to the whole world and to form more life long friendships.
Give me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, because I’m going to
root root root for the home team.