First off, thanks for all of the birthday wishes yesterday. I did survive my birthday weekend (barely) and have 364 days to recover before the next one.
On to business, "Dave Schultz" wrote a pretty thought-provoking fanpost in response to a post on Puck Daddy's site. While it's pretty sad to read the comments devolve into sexist idiocy so quickly (still not as quickly as AOL commenters can go racist) the post does bring up some good questions:
- Are there rules for following a sport?
- Can you like rival teams?
- Does primarily following a lower league affect how you approach the NHL?
- Can you just like certain players/teams without having to have a be-all and end-all choice?
In general I would suggest that there are guidelines for following a sport. In the comments here Chemmy notes that he cannot talk hockey or baseball with anyone that professes to like both the Leafs and the senators or the Yankees and the Red Sox. While you do not necessarily have to have one team to enjoy a sport (because that generally decreases your enjoyment of it in my experience...damn Leafs) I think that you do need to have a hierarchy in the league. You can like a number of teams but when they play each other you have to pick a side or the terrorists have already won.
But what about the effect of following a lower league on your fandom? "Dave Schultz" mentions that she follows the WHL closely and Kat mentioned that she is a big NCAA fan. If you devote most of your energy to a certain group of players why stop supporting them once they've advanced to a higher league? The closest parallel I can draw personally is to international football. Since Canada and Colombia don't do very well (damn Uruguayans) my rooting interests are pretty malleable. There are obviously villainous teams (Italy and Portugal) that are easy to dismiss but then it comes down to supporting players from my club team (Liverpool) or adopting teams that play attractive soccer (Germany and Russia) or loving the underdog (South Korea) or drawing on long-past history (Spain). Aside from wanting Italy and Portugal to suffer the most painful losses possible I just want to see good soccer. However, when those teams meet the battle lines are drawn - Spain had to beat Germany in Euro 2008 or I would have been crushed. As for neutral games, I find that you tend to figure out who you are supporting once the first goal is scored.
As for supporting certain players or teams for their style of play there are definitely fans that approach the NHL in that way. My friends and I will watch the Capitals play just to see Ovechkin because he is both awesome and completely in love with the game. When they play the Leafs I want the Buds to win but I would be ok with Ovechkin scoring a couple of highlight reel goals in a losing cause.
How you follow a league certainly boils down to how attached you are to it. If it is not the primary league that you follow for a particular sport then the way that you approach the games will vary. The one caveat is of course that in any particular game you have to have a team that you want to win more than the other because that's the essence of sport: going head-to-head with your fellow fan to show your chosen laundry's superiority. Oh, and no cheering for the senators. Thoughts?