The Straight-Ahead Guide To Becoming A Sports Fan

Pick your team, learn your team, love your team.

Right now, you’re just one of the Anonymous Crowd. But you want to change that. You want to be Part Of Something.

Jason Lee / Reuters

You want a sports team to cheer for. I understand: having a sports team that you support is like being part of a large, similarly dressed family that feels the exact same way all the time, but only about one thing. It’s like being part of a cult, except socially acceptable. It’s like being one with the God-mind in heaven, except sometimes it sucks.

Not having a sports team to support is an easy ailment to cure. It may seem intimidating and arbitrary to pick, but that’s why I’m here: I’m here to help. I’m like Dr. Phil. There are five steps to Choosing A Favorite Team, and I’ll walk you through them one by one.

1. Decide If You Want To Be Regional

Michael Dwyer, File / AP

The easiest traditional way to determine your favorite sports team is to decide on a regional basis. If you’re from the Boston area, like Olympic champion Aly Raisman, you cheer for the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics, the New England Patriots, and the Boston Red Sox. This can apply to basically any part of your life, so use it as a sliding scale: if you were born in New York, grew up in St. Louis, went to college in Miami, and settled in San Francisco, you have a wide array of options to choose from. (No, there is no correct team to pull for in that case. Cheer for whoever you damn well please.) Regional can also apply to your parents: if your dad or mom is from Dallas, and they grew up and remain rabid Cowboys fans, and yet you live in New Jersey and everyone you know pulls for the Giants, you can totally still pull for the Cowboys. Family trumps all bonds.

Side note: you should keep in mind with all of these that there is a relationship between how many teams you cheer for and how serious of a fan you are. The more teams you cheer for, the harder it is to be a serious fan, because you have more teams to follow, requiring more time and energy and love on your part. We all only have so much love to give.

2. Think About Whether There Are Any Players You Like

Adam Hunger / Reuters

James Harden is the coolest. He’s got a great beard, and he plays basketball like it’s a magic trick, and he’s funny. Jeremy Lin is also the coolest. He plays basketball like a bull charging into a brick wall, and he’s always happy, and he’s Jeremy Lin. James Harden and Jeremy Lin are a great reason to cheer for the Houston Rockets, and they’re the perfect example of how you can gravitate to a team because of its personnel. Because otherwise, who the hell would cheer for the Houston Rockets? Sports teams are not static objects: they are constructions of people, and the people matter.

3. Let Random Things Catch Your Attention

Ted S. Warren / AP

This is key. Allow details to catch your eye. Colors, themes in the media, reputations. Like powerful, historic teams? Maybe you should support the Packers. Prefer underdog upstarts? The Oklahoma City Thunder are a perfect choice. Teams and their fans share a certain amount of identity-transference: the fans can create part of the team’s aura, but the team also bequeaths a certain emotional significance on to its supporters. If you’re a Yankees fan, prepare for people to pin you down as loud and cocksure.

4. Once You Pick A Team, Study Up

The Hutchinson News, Aaron Marineau / AP

Being a fan is pointless if you don’t at least know the players you’re cheering for. That’s the joy of sports: watching your guys or girls win, and being happy because they’re yours. (Yes, it is this weirdly possessive.) A good way to get educated on a team is to start checking out the scores from the previous night’s games every morning: eventually, you’ll start to get a sense of who’s scoring and who’s rebounding, who’s passing and who’s blocking. (In this case, we’re obviously talking about basketball.) If you check every box score, you’ll see the same names regularly, and you’ll at least start building a feel for the names and people that populate the league. And for your team in particular, go a bit deeper: find dedicated blogs and beat writers for the local newspapers and follow them on Twitter. When you see articles on national sites, read them. Twitter is a huge boon for the average sports fan: you can follow five individuals who are devoted to covering your team and you’ll immediately feel like you’re completely in the loop.

5. Don’t Forget To Watch The Games

Carlos Jasso / Reuters

You can only get so much out of identifying with a team if you don’t watch the games, and you can only learn so much about the team if you don’t watch the games. If you don’t feel like you enjoy sports, the only way to actually get to a point where you do is to develop an understanding and intuition for what’s going on, and that takes an investment of time and enthusiasm. Plus, you’ll begin to pick up a sense of what each player is like — you’ll feel like you know them, and that will make you happy, because when you know them, you love them, and when you love them and they win, it makes you happy. (When you love them and they LOSE, it does not make you happy. But every rose has its thorn.)

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