Note: I wrote this column last year and decided to tweak it, update it, and publish a new version for 2018.
We all know one of these guys:
“Born and raised in Marlton! But I’m a lifelong Cowboys fan because my dad knew Nate Newton’s cousin.”
“Love the star on the helmet! I used to watch Roger Staubach on television back in 1974.”
“Well I grew up in Iowa, but we didn’t have a team, so I picked the Cowboys.”
These are 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 fakes.
This topic comes up every season. Eagles vs. Cowboys. It’s Dallas week on sports talk radio and disgusting locals crawl out their garbage pits to explain how they grew up in Northeast Philadelphia but support a 3-5 football team that hasn’t won diddly poo since the 1990s and is now being run into the ground by an owner who clings to the past and holds nobody accountable. The Cowboys “ain’t been nothing” for years, as Stephen A Smith recently said, yet you still have all of these bandwagon jabronies clinging to Dallas as if Troy Aikman is still out there slinging the ball around.
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 I saw puking outside of Les and Doreen’s in Fishtown last week might not have much in common with Rand Spear, the accident lawyer, but both were probably standing somewhere on Broad Street nine months ago, watching the Birds’ celebrate their first Super Bowl win.
The reasons really aren’t important. It just is how it is. You probably know someone who has vacationed in Sea Isle City for 35 years. It’s not necessarily that they dislike Stone Harbor, they just go to Sea Isle because that’s where they’ve always gone. They’re comfortable and familiar with it, and they don’t see a need to change anything. This intrinsically Philadelphian behavior can be both good and bad, because we’re loyal and committed while not exactly diving head-first into new experiences or getting out to see the rest of the world.
I’d honestly say it’s less about how “legitimate” our fandom is. It’s more about how fraudulent others are.
If you grew up here, you don’t have an emotional or geographical link 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 national television. Are Pennsylvania Methodists beaming with SMU pride? Didn’t think so.
Can you develop a connection to a foreign team over time? I don’t know. I guess. If your favorite college player of all time is drafted by the Raiders, maybe you add Oakland as a second team. I went to high school with Jimmy Develin, who won a couple of Super Bowls with the Patriots, so I was at least pulling for him to be successful even if I didn’t want the hoodie to lay his grimy hands on another Lombardi Trophy.
Likewise, you can watch the Los Angeles Lakers on NBA League Pass and share video clips on Reddit and photoshop a Twitter avatar that looks something like this:
“I’m a lifelong fan of all four teams! I’m not a front-runner! I swear!”
You can follow the Lakers in a way that older generations weren’t able to. But you’re not really a fan. You’re not from Southern California and you probably didn’t tune in when the ’04-’05 squad was ripping off 34 wins with Brian Grant and Chucky Atkins. You got back on board when Pau Gasol 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.
One of the things that’s even more telling is that Texas natives come across as solid sports fans. I was down in Austin last week for the UT/West Virginia game, and Longhorn fans had to be some of the nicest people I’ve ever been around.
Walking in and out of the stadium, it was a lot of, “hope y’all enjoy the game.” No hostility, no bullshit, nothing. Most of the UT folks we talked to also doubled as Cowboy fans, a good chunk from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and they were really knowledgeable about their pro team. A lot of them expressed disappointment with the way Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett are driving their squad into irrelevance after winning that batch of championships back in the day.
If anything, the Texas trip I guess confirmed what I already knew – that the problem with the Dallas fan base isn’t people from Dallas, it’s the morons from New York, Philadelphia, Des Moines, and everywhere else. It’s the people who don’t have any connection to Dallas who are in denial about the status of “their team.” It’s not the Texas people, because they were polite and friendly and knew their football.
There’s a third angle here, and it’s something that I argue 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 10 years ago to help new fans decide what club to get behind. You could go with Tottenham, or Chelsea, or even Arsenal if you hated yourself.
But just like the Cowboy fan who has never been to Texas, how many Premier League fans have ever been to Manchester? 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 Manchester City shirt, unless dude is actually from England and watched that club when they were utter shite, long before Sheikh Mansour showed up and started throwing millions of dollars at the best players in the world.
And if we’re on the topic of geo-shaming here, how do I explain the fandom of a guy who grew up in Chadron, Nebraska? 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 Carolina Hurricanes.” Nah, they all become “lifelong” Yankee 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. You can support whomever you want to support, but the vast majority of Philadelphians and gonna roll their eyes and brand you as a fraud, because the pretenses of your fandom are flimsy.
Here’s a typical example of how things work in this area:
Say you grew up in… I dunno, Secane Pennsylvania, near that pizza place. You probably watched the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers with your family. At age 18, maybe you leave for college down in Richmond, so now you support Spider football and basketball.
That’s pretty much what you are. That’s your fandom. You’re a Philly-area native with no connection to the Chicago Cubs, Duke, 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 Shady McCoy and Dave fucking Wannstedt.
So let’s be real; if you’re a Cowboys fan who grew up in Philadelphia, you’re a poseur. You aren’t from Texas. You probably have never been to Texas. You didn’t pay any dues or stick with your team while they were dog shit, you just hopped on the bandwagon because they won three Super Bowls more than 20 years ago.
The ultimate irony is that it’s now becoming harder and harder to call these people “front-runners,” since Dallas has been utterly mediocre for the better part of two whole decades. But even if younger folks might not be jumping on the Cowboy bandwagon, I still have utter contempt for all of you cockroaches that slithered your way into that “fan base” back in the day.