Youâre a football fan. Youâve been waiting all year for the biggest game of the year, the Super Bowl. And now itâs here ... without your team.
Unless you are a fan of Green Bay or Pittsburgh, the game provides you with a yearly quandary that must be settled by kickoff -- for whom should you root?
The participants this year do not make it easy. These two teams know the game well. The Packers have the highest winning percentage in the playoffs while the Steelers have won the most Lombardi Trophies (named for the legendary head coach of Green Bay). Do you think fans of Cleveland or Detroit or Tennessee want anyone to win this game?
But when the game starts and you find yourself gritting your teeth in disgust as the pressure gets turned up on a quarterback that doesn't play for your team, here are some tidbits about this yearâs alternatives: Historically, Green Bay is known for its dairy products while Pittsburgh was famous for giving its residents black lung in the early part of the 20th century. Itâs currently classified as the county with the second-oldest median age among residents, behind Palm Beach County. So theyâve got that going for them.
Then there are these other options you have for game day should you choose to carry no rooting interest -- you can show up only to watch the halftime show while the rest of America takes a break from watching; you can use the opportunity to clean the gutter on your house; you can enjoy no lines at the mall. If youâre a Raiders fan, you can fill the time in the prison library until the warden orders you back to your cell; or you could cheer on the commercials -- could we get another Betty White/Abe Vigoda pairing? -- but thatâs about as much fun as, and as probable as, bipartisanship in Congress. No, you simply MUST choose a team.
Assuming you do watch the game, here are the different motives you may use to display your temporary allegiance:
The Enemy of Your Enemy is Your Friend
Rooting for one team or another is a public demonstration of fandom, which is an acknowledgement that you are fair game for trash talk. And anyone can antagonize you. Youâll hear from people you havenât heard from in years. They even may not have been fans of the team, perhaps they are only residents of the victorious teamâs city, but theyâll choose now to reconnect with you. These are grown adults. They have nothing better to do than rub it in your face, something they had nothing to do with and donât benefit from.
Letâs say you come from Cleveland, and Pittsburghâs playing. You want the opponent to win. In fact, you would rather pull your eyelids over your head, then jump into a chlorine-filled pool teeming with piranhas than watch the Stillers win.
As was the case two weeks ago, when Baltimore played Pixburgh, you rooted for a million locusts to engulf the stadium on a Biblical scale of pestilence even though the smart money takes the under of that ever happening.
When your rival wins, it brings forth all those deadly sins -- greed, wrath, pride, envy, Bashful, Curly, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The last thing you would want is to see your arch rival, they who have already caused so much pain rubbing it in, basically dancing on your grave; because a teamâs elimination is the metaphorical death of it.
Losing is exponentially worse when you know someone rooting for the other side. Take for instance, those neighbors along the Mason-Dixon line back in 1865 after the Civil War ended. Mustâve been hell, when a Union supporter ran into his secession-supporting friend at the Pony Express Office and said, âHey, Beauregard, whatâs new? ... Howâs your slave, Kamchatka, doing? ... OH, thatâs right! Heâs free! ... Hahahahahahaha! ... Welp, see ya âround.â
If you know anyone who could potentially rub it in, you will be loathe to root for that team.
In Brotherhood Always
To those with whom you can relate, you got their back; the division rival, the conference competition, a former player from your team, whatever connects you to one team is the one you will choose.
You may choose Aaron Rogers because he went to the University of California and you once ate at a California Pizza Kitchen, or perhaps your name is Simon Andrews and you are particularly fond of people with two first names.
The Sportsmanlike Way
The team that beats your team is the one you choose. Itâs the most sportsmanlike way ... and also the most outdated.
âI say, olâ chap, jolly well done. A yeomanâs effort you put forth. I am most humbly defeated.â Itâs rare today that people take this tact, but sometimes, a relationship is more important that the outcome, so youâll suck it up and side with your opponent.
In fact, if you even mention the other team, itâs frowned upon. Look at the Chicago car salesman who was fired for wearing a Green Bay tie to work in memory of his grandmother. He got fired. Thatâs an affront to grandmothers everywhere, but typical.
So if youâre worried about future repercussions and the possibility of a backlash, your forbidden alliance would be more acceptable if done while lighting some team paraphernalia of his on fire.
The Transitive Property
If you beat a team in the regular season, it allows for you to employ the transitive property, if only secretively. That, for you non-mathematicians, is If A=B and B=C, then A=C.
In this case, that is, you root for whatever team you beat in the regular season. That way, you can lay claim to the fact that if the Super Bowl champ is the best team in the league, and your team beat the best team, then your team is actually the best!
(On a side note, if you think Iâm being pretentious by bringing scholarly gibberish into the mix, I can tell you that it took me five tries to spell âmathematicallyâ ... this, from the guy who won his middle schoolâs spelling bee. . . S-a-d spells sad.)
Root for the Underdog
You always pull for the upstart -- you want David to slay Goliath. Heck, this is what America was founded upon. You never want a team to have too much success -- the Yankees, the Patriots, Duke basketball, etc. No one likes that team that dominates -- unless itâs actually America that's doing the dominating.
For the Love of Your Love
Itâs how most allegiances start. Your dad likes a team, so you like a team. Itâs easy if you live there, but you can live in Oklahoma and be a huge Red Sox fan. Or your husband is a fan so you are, if for no other reason than he becomes such an obnoxious lout when his team loses that you do it more for your sanity than his.
Their Failure is Your Success
Ah, Schadenfreude, you are a sports fanâs best friend. Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and Ben Roethlisberger all have wronged women or pets in their lives . . . some both. You will never forgive them for this. This is the same reason why people donât watch Woody Allen movies or listen to James Taylor songs, even though theyâre existentially funny or soulfully melodic.
So youâll be pulling for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers because, as far as you know, he isnât as big of a jerk as âBig (Jerk) Benâ is. But just so you know, if youâre expecting Karma to come into play, you may be disappointed. As weâve discussed before, it may take a while for Ben to get his. But when he does, you do not want to be standing within 500 yards of him.
Now we enter the realm of some of the lesser utilized reasons for rooting:
-- Youâve visited the city and you really like it.
-- The hot guy plays on that team.
-- A company you own stock in is headquartered there.
-- You like the team colors better.
-- You have their mascot as a pet. (This one is probably not viable this year.)
-- When you chant âLetâs go â,â you like how it rolls off your tongue.
-- Someone holds you at gunpoint and forces you to cheer for that team.
-- Or simply you flipped a coin to determine which team.
There are many reasons that those of you disinterested in the victor on Super Bowl Sunday can still maintain interest. But if you do decide not to watch, Iâm sure youâll get the gist of the event when âGleeâ does a Super Bowl-themed episode. Remember to have your lighter fluid handy when they do.