Why do we root for the teams we root for? Why do we get so obsessed with a specific team and live or die with their success? What makes it possible for us to say, “That’s my team?”
It’s no secret that my favorite teams are the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (football only). But why is that? Did I just wake up one day and say, “Yup, those are the teams I’m going to follow for the rest of my life?”
When it comes to why we root for the teams we root for, I think it comes down to a few factors: location, family, players, history and uniforms.
The reason for my lifelong love for San Francisco teams started with my grandfather, Charlie Dossi. Charlie was the child of Italian immigrants and grew up in Sonora. After graduating from high school, he, like most in that era, fought in the war. After the war ended, he met my grandmother and they set up shop in San Francisco.
Even though the 49ers were founded in 1946 and joined the NFL in 1949, the main attraction was college sports. Stanford, Cal and UCSF were the main attractions. In 1951, my father was born. His early memories of watching football with his dad were going to Stanford games. And because of that, Stanford is the college football team he roots for to this day.
As time went on, the 49ers became a bigger deal and both my father and grandfather became fans. Then in 1958, San Francisco was given the Giants. Previously, the Giants were in New York and you can bet that grandpa didn’t follow an east coast team. But when the Giants headed west, he embraced the new club with open arms. And because of that, my dad became a Giants fan as well.
Fast forward to 1988. I entered the world in August and, within weeks of being born, my father had me wearing little baby Giants and 49er outfits. So yeah, I guess I was born into being a fan. And rooting for the Giants and 49ers is a bond my father and I still have.
What about Notre Dame? How did I get wrapped up in rooting for a team from Indiana? Again, it goes back to Grandpa Charlie. Grandpa was a huge fan of college football and would watch whatever game was on TV. And because Notre Dame has a national TV deal with NBC, all Irish home games are available to watch. So, in the days before satellite TV, the one team you were pretty much guaranteed to see every week was Notre Dame.
I would visit grandma and grandpa nearly every weekend and during the fall, there was a good chance the Irish game would be on. I’d sit there with grandpa and watch Notre Dame play and at a young age, made the declaration that, “This is my team.” Had grandpa not watched the Irish, I might have never had any interest.
Location plays a huge factor in rooting for a team. I’m a Northern California guy. So, it makes sense to root for the 49ers and Giants. But what if, hypothetically, one of those teams packed their bags and moved to Florida? Would I still be a fan? The sad reality is no, I probably wouldn’t. The DNA of the team wouldn’t be the same anymore.
Now, that’s just me. My buddy, Rory Anderson, who is one of the biggest Raider fans I know, could honestly not care where his beloved silver and black played. In Rory’s lifetime, the Raiders have played in Oakland, Los Angeles and now, Las Vegas. Heck, they could move to Rome and he’d still be a fan. Rory believes that the Raiders are just the Raiders and where they play makes no difference.
But what if you move away from your team? My father-in-law grew up and lived much of his life in Canada. He watched the CFL, but because he was on the eastern side of the country, rooted for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Buffalo Bills. In the early 2000s, he moved his family to California. Being so far away from his Canadian roots, and because of regional broadcasts, he was unable to watch those teams on a regular basis and decided to root for the Giants and 49ers. And while he still has a soft spot in his heart for the Blue Jays and Bills, he’s totally committed to the San Francisco teams.
Some people tend to root for a player, rather than an organization. Growing up, I had a friend named Stephen King (no, not that one). He was a huge fan of Ken Griffey Jr. Because he loved Griffey, he rooted for the Seattle Mariners. But when a trade sent Griffey to Cincinnati, Stephen got rid of all his Seattle stuff and replaced it with Reds gear. And just like that, the Reds were his new team.
And finally, some people might pick to root for a team simply based on the uniforms. If you’re going to spend a good amount of time watching a team, they might as well look good. So, in my biased opinion, the classic 49ers uniforms, the current Giants uniforms and Notre Dame’s duds are all great. But some may root for the New York Yankees because of the pinstripes, or the Green Bay Packers for their simple, yet timeless green and yellow. A good-looking uniform can often help bring in new fans.
So yes, there are many reasons why you could root for a team and honestly, there isn’t a right or wrong way. Whatever reason may be yours, embrace it, because that’s part of your story with your team. There’s always a good reason to root for your team … unless it’s the Dodgers. There’s no reason to ever root for the Dodgers.