Monday, December 12, 2011

Philly fan's deflated "Dream Team" expectations inspires (a moral dilemma)

By Marisa Mandos / @marisamandos

As an Eagles fan, I’ve been burned this season. 

Like, "left a bagel in the toaster oven then left for work" burned

Chargers fans, I thank you for your implicit empathy. 

It’s become difficult for me to even speak the words “Andy Reid,” as I often avoid ESPN on Mondays - not to mention I shudder at the thought of wearing my Dream Team basketball jersey. I've even been considering disavowal of my Eagles fandom!

When considering my geography (Philadelphia suburbs), the entertainment caliber of the NFC East, and the fact that my father is a season ticket holder, I am forever compelled to be an Eagles fan. That is to say, I did not jump on the bandwagon when they signed a certain felonious quarterback. 

Since Y2K, us Philly football faithful have been repeatedly elated, and then deflated by nine post-season appearances with no Super Bowl Championships to show for it. 

I witnessed the Giants sack McNabb 12 times in one game (the cheerleaders provided more protection than our offensive line that day). Year after year, I've seen Andy Reid manage time more poorly than I do during second-year law school finals. 

And I have to say, I’ve seen enough.

This tension – this moral dilemma, if you will – is nothing new. It’s one of the most universal human processes, accountable for relationships, paradigm shifts and renaissances:

  1. Invest in something consistent with personal values.
  2. Feel repeatedly disappointed.
  3. Become ultimately dissatisfied to the point of terminating the loyalty.

If we accept an American divorce rate of almost 50%, embrace social changes to the point that Obama’s campaign was based around it - and let’s face it, most of us abandoned our Blackberries for iPhones - why does the subculture of fandom abhor application of this process to team loyalty? 

I’m no social scientist (yet), but I've developed a hypothesis to answer these questions which can best be illustrated by deconstructing the affinity I have for “my team.”

Lack of socio-economic boundaries: I grew up a tomboy and attended quite a few games. I also lived in downtown Philadelphia. Not “upscale urban living” Philadelphia. South Philadelphia. 

I had a local bar where I went (many times unaccompanied) to watch games. I socialized with plumbers, soldiers, attorneys and accountants alike. And though we touched lightly upon topics such as broken toilets, broken countries, the bar exam, and the economy – our conversations always led us back to what was on the television: the Eagles. The same goes for the scores of strangers I've high-fived with at games, and for those with whom I've complained on Monday-morning convenience-store lines. 

“How ‘bout them Eagles?” 

As a 2L hailing from the California Western School of Law, San Diego, I'd like to think I have a bright future.  Still, I'm not sure of my personal, current socio-economic status. 

It’s not that of the pink collars I meet on the train, and it’s sure as hell not that of the CEOs I meet at the bar, but I can certainly converse with both types about the Eagles. We are a community – card-carrying members of the same fan club – and that’s why I’d be excommunicated if I left. My empathy would seem feigned, the relationships: meaningless.

‪Nostalgia: Remember, my dad is an Eagles fan. My uncles are fans; my grandfather, too. They all remember that one play, one game, or one season that changed their lives. They’ve shared those memories with me and, by silence, I’ve accepted the invite into their club. If you’re a third-generation Chargers fan and you’ve decided that Philip Rivers is starting to have some very Romo-esque tendencies, how do you retire the blue and gold? Trade it in for a Jacoby Ford jersey? Absolutely not. Stick to your roots.

Geography: Wisconsin isn’t exactly known for its weather, but have you ever seen the stands empty at Lambeau? Since around 400 A.D., Packers fans have had virtually nothing else to do on winter Sundays. Every weekend is a holiday. Same goes for SoCal, except Southern Californians are using those holidays to surf, day trip, or sleep off a PB hangover. In high school and college, we Northeasterns didn’t have much else to talk about. Plus, football represents winter and holidays. It’s not 72 degrees year-round everywhere, ya know?

It all comes down to this. In a rapidly changing society where we are forced to adapt to technological innovation and frightening political change, we can still cling to sports. One by one, we’ve left our Blackberries and our American exceptionalism behind. If we leave our sports communities, what will we have left?

A whole bunch of empty stadiums!

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If you want to read more articles by Marisa Mandos, she also writes for the California Western School of Law, San Diego student paper, "The Commentary," as well as for her personal blog, Out of Your League.

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