Thursday, December 22, 2011
PTU Old Man Rant: Why Doesn't This Generation of Kids Root for the Home Team?
Allow me to be old and crotchety for a second here (or older and crotchetyer than usual). If you have any younger cousins or siblings or if you just hang creepily around high schools in your van, you've no doubt noticed that there is an epidemic of misplaced sports allegiances among the youth of America. And I don't mean just frontrunners like we grew up with, the Bulls or 49ers fans who just got their Starter jacket or Jordans because they were the best team at the moment. That's been going on forever. I'm talking kids closely following the Chargers and Nuggets who've never left Brooklyn. Ask any 15 year old what teams they root for and you're likely to hear something like: Patriots, Thunder and Padres. What happened to civic pride anyway?
There's a couple reasons behind this phenomenon. One is the rise of fantasy sports and the focus on individual stars over the team. Even if you don't have a fantasy team you can't really avoid the emphasis that's placed on individual stats partly because of it. ESPN has shows and tickers dedicated to fantasy. The NBA was the first league to really emphasize the individual as star with Jordan, Magic and Bird and the other leagues soon followed suit. It's easy to start liking the Vikings simply because Adrian Peterson is a beast, hometown rivalries be damned. I have a nephew who lives in New Jersey and likes the Nuggets just because they had Carmelo Anthony and continues to root for them still even though Melo plays for a team much closer to home. It seems dumb to me, but it's fairly common place these days.
Individual players aren't the only reason that the kids root for whoever they feel like of course. Another huge factor is the options. Just like Chris Rock once said "A man is only as faithful as his options", a sports fan is only as faithful to his city as his choices as well (or so it seems). Even when a young Bagels was growing up in the 80s and 90s, we didn't have too many teams to choose from. You had one or two games a week on nationally in each sport and then you had your local teams on every night. Almost by default, most people become fans of their city's teams. [As Hater J points out, this is also why there are so many damn Steelers and Cowboys fans around. They were on all the friggin' time back in the day. Also, those people are idiots]. Now, it's different. With League Pass, NFL Ticket, Direct TV, a network for each major sport, twitter, live streaming games online and a million other types of media, you can follow an entire season of any team you damn well choose. Combine that with the fact that most kids don't get their sports info from their local paper or newscast like previous generations, but from a nationally distributed form of media like ESPN and there's no reason for a kid from New York to even keep up with what's happening with the Jets and Giants. Just 10 years ago, it was hard to be a Chargers fan if you lived on the East coast, but today you can rock your Philip Rivers jersey on your couch every week with pride, even if you will no doubt look like a jerkoff.
What it comes down to, really, is the world is getting smaller every day. People are connected (at least technologically if not physically and emotionally) more than ever. I wrote recently about how someone like ASAP Rocky seems like a fraud to me since he's imitating a style of a region that he's never even been to never mind grown up in, but the genesis of a Harlem rapper who sounds like Lil Flip is basically the same as a kid from the Bronx who roots for the Ravens. There's no city to be proud of when we all live in one big region. And now I'm going to get back in my rocking chair and watch the Knicks on MSG while I listen to old Biggie records. You damn kids.