We all know one of these guys:
“Born and raised in Mayfair! But I’m a lifelong Cowboys fan because my dad knew Tom Landry’s uncle.”
“Love the star on the helmet! Used to watch Roger Staubach on television back in ’74.”
“Well I grew up in Idaho, but we didn’t have a team, so I picked the Cowboys.”
All valid reasons to be a Dallas fan, according to Dallas fans. None of them involve being from Texas or ever having visited. “America’s Team” welcomes all front-runners and contrarians.
This topic comes up every season. Eagles vs. Cowboys, it’s Dallas week on sports talk radio and scummy locals crawl out their holes to explain how they grew up in the Delaware Valley but support Jerry Jones, Papa John Schnatter, and whichever asshole tight end is currently roasting the Eagles’ secondary.
Philly is old-school and parochial. You grow up here, you support Philly teams. Eagles games are a family affair. You build memories through tangible experiences, like actually physically being inside of Veterans Stadium or meeting your favorite player after the game. You understand the city’s blue collar, non-cosmopolitan roots and why sport is a common thread. The third-shift factory worker who drinks at that shitty lounge on the corner of Aramingo and Norris might not have much in common with the Moorestown lawyer, but both could tell you where they were on 1/23/05.
The reasons really aren’t important. It just is how it is. You probably know someone who has vacationed in Wildwood for 35 years. They could vacation somewhere else, but they don’t. They just go to Wildwood because that’s where they’ve always gone. This intrinsically Philadelphian behavior can be both good and bad, because we’re loyal and committed while being simultaneously myopic.
But I’d honestly say it’s less about how “true” our fandom is. It’s more about how “fake” others are.
If you grew up here, you don’t have an emotional or geographical connection to the Cowboys, the Yankees, or Notre Dame. You just don’t. And don’t tell me that you supported the Irish because you’re an Irish Catholic, you supported them because they won football games and they were always on TV. Are Pennsylvania Methodists beaming with SMU pride? Didn’t think so.
Can you develop a connection to a foreign team over time? Yea, I guess. You can watch the Golden State Warriors on NBA League Pass and share video clips on Reddit and photoshop a Twitter avatar that looks something like this:
You can follow the Warriors in a way that older generations weren’t able to. But you’re not really a fan. You’re not from the Bay Area and you probably didn’t watch the Dubs when Vonteego Cummings was running the point. You jumped on board when Steph Curry showed up, like the Cowboy fan who, of course, felt drawn to the team that just so happened to win a bunch of Super Bowls.
The pretenses of your fandom are fake, and Philadelphia knows it. That’s what’s important here. It’s not your fandom itself, it’s the genesis of it.
There’s a third angle here, and it’s something that I argue about with soccer people all the time, but it also applies to the “four for four” sports. It’s the fallacy that you have to pick a team in the first place.
For example, the English Premier League. What team do I support?! There were a bunch of articles that were written back in the day to help new soccer fans decide what club to get behind. You could go with Tottenham, or Chelsea, or, God forbid, Arsenal.
But just like the Cowboy fan who has never been to Texas, how many Premier League fans have ever been to Liverpool? Not many. I like watching the foreign game as a neutral and enjoying it that way. I don’t relate to the guy who walks around Center City with a Barcelona shirt, but if he also supports the Union, then that works for me.
And if we’re on the topic of geo-shaming here, how do I explain the fandom of a guy who grew up in Glendive, Montana? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe he can pick a team. But isn’t it ironic how those types of people always end up settling on the very best? Nobody ever says, “hmm.. I think I’m gonna get behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.” Nah, they all become “lifelong” Red Sox fans at age 19.
The line of rebuttal usually goes something like this –
“Who does this guy think he is? Who the fuck is Kinkead to tell me who I can and can’t support?”
Well, I’m not really dictating here, I’m just explaining why Philadelphia looks down on “you people.”
I’ll use myself as an example.
I grew up in Gilbertsville, so I watched the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers with my family. I was a soccer fan, but we didn’t have a MLS team. I could have become a New York or D.C. United supporter, but I’m not from New York or D.C., so why would I?
Age 18, I leave for college in West Virginia. Go Mountaineers. I am a student enrolled in the university and living in Morgantown.
From there, I move to Georgia for two years, but I’m not a Falcons or UGA fan. I would like to see those teams do well because I now have friends who are supporters.
That’s about it. That’s my fandom. I don’t have a connection to the Chicago Cubs, or Duke, or Alabama football, or Fulham.
Actually, that last one is interesting. Fulham… you know, they had a bunch of Americans playing over there. That was always intriguing, and I kept an eye on Fulham, but I didn’t feel the need to become a Fulham “supporter.”
Similarly, Philadelphia loves Mike Trout but are we Angel fans? Nah. I never understood why people felt like they had to “support” a team to enjoy watching sports. Trust me, the less emotion you put into football, the easier it is to get over losing 13-9 to a Dave Wannstedt-coached team.
Here’s an exception to the rule –
I went to high school with James Develin, the Patriots’ fullback. I think he was an Eagles fan growing up, but now he actually plays in the NFL for a different team, so we’ll let Jimmy slide.
So maybe there are a couple of footnotes we can add here, but only in the most extreme of circumstances.
Philly natives supporting the Cowboys receive no mercy. Confess your sins and repent in the name of our lord and savior, Doug Pederson.