Thursday, January 5, 2012


It must be easy growing up a sports fan of the hometown teams.

When your hometown doesn't have professional sports, it gets more complicated. I had to find MLB and NFL franchises to root for in the late '60s. Like circumcision, picking a favorite team can be an important rite of passage. Unlike circumcision, it can be repeated, if necessary.

I was born and reared in Tampa, Fla., a growing city with no professional teams. We had Reds minor-league baseball and hosted their spring training, so maybe I could've gone in that direction. But pugnacious Pete Rose grated on me. That and the fact just about every one of my friends loved him and the Reds turned me off.

My dad was from Pittsburgh. The Pirates were steeped in tradition and successful. My mom was from Baltimore. The Orioles were winners, too. Who to pick? I went with the Birds because I liked their logo best. And then I watched Brooks Robinson play third base. 

For football, I could've chosen between the Colts and Steelers, but I went outside the box and chose the Los Angeles Rams because of their logo. What can I say? I was a vain grade-schooler. 

I remained loyal to the Orioles even after Tampa Bay was awarded the Rays in 1995. But when Peter Angelos fired Davey Johnson not long after the ALCS playoff loss to the Indians in '97, I was through but still cheered for Cal Ripken until his retirement.

I gave up on the Rams in the mid-'70s and got on the Steelers bandwagon where I still currently sit. I remember listening to the end of the Immaculant Reception game on the radio at a lawnmower repair shop. Dad and I started out watching that '72 Raiders-Steelers playoff game on TV but when it looked like their ass was grass, we left. Right about the time we were getting the lawnmower out of the truck we heard Franco taking the deflection off his shoe tops. Seeing how overjoyed my dad was but not having any other Steeler fan to celebrate with got me thinking. It'd be neat to have another person to cheer and commiserate with during football season, just like it was with my mom during baseball season.

Dad and I would do a whole lot of cheering -  and hugging and yelling - making the mid-to-late '70s one of the best periods of my life. I just had to overlook the Steelers' plain logo and the fact it was on only one side of their helmet. Super Bowl wins helped me manage. I always told my dad it took me becoming a fan for them to turn around their woe-begotten franchise. Well, that, Chuck Noll and a couple good drafts.

Despite Tampa getting the Buccaneers in '76, I wasn't switching horses again. I won't even mention that hideous Bucco Bruce logo.

So, to recap, in football, I used to be a Los Angeles Rams fan, but since the mid-'70s, I've supported the Steelers. In baseball, I was a Baltimore Orioles fan until '98, at which time I became a Rays fan; although, the steroid era and clueless Pud Selig have just about killed my appetite for the modern game.

Being a fan can be complicated. And it's sometimes subject to change.

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