Over the weekend, I met up with a couple of friends at a bar for the Boston Red Sox game against the Kansas City Royals. One of the guys I was with made a mention that he was rooting for the Royals last year when they played San Francisco in the World Series, and, although he wasn't a hat-wearing, ticket-buying fan of the team, he hopes "to see someone different winning."
As guys often do, that led to a discussion on if you're allowed to root for a random team if your team is either not a factor or knocked out of a championship run. When we started talking about college sports, we started a talk about some of the schools, other than our own, we'd like to see win it all.
College sports are funny like that. With over 120 FBS-level schools, it's entirely possible to root for other schools in addition to your own. With basketball, the possibilities are nearly endless with 351 schools sponsoring the sport. It remains entirely conceivable to root for a team, then, that has no relation whatsoever with Boston College while never having to actually root against the Eagles.
Having worked across multiple schools in multiple divisions in multiple sports, I understand how different factors can influence opinions based on personal relationships. My best friend, for example, is a graduate of Fairfield, a Division I basketball school. His sister graduated recently from Maryland, and having gone to a number of Terp home games, he developed an attachment to the school. It didn't take away from his rooting for Fairfield. If anything, it would've been going 7-24 with only two out-of-conference wins.
For me, there's an attachment to Army. Working in a college hockey conference alongside the Black Knights, I got to know several people who worked for the school, and I have a deep respect and admiration for the team's head coach, Brian Riley. That spilled over to football, where I began rooting for them in the annual Army-Navy Game. Having met several people who went to West Point, I grew an attachment to that school. If they were to succeed, it would make me happy and I would find myself rooting for them. That their graduates go onto bigger and better things in defense of the nation humbles me, and even though I hope to defeat them on game day, it's always in the spirit of true competition and respect.
Attachments to other school often develop more organically than that, however. It can come from picking a team in March Madness or watching a team on television. In the 1970s, limited college football options on television meant every week was spent watching Southern Cal, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Notre Dame. My dad, although not a fervent supporter, will admit readily to supporting USC because they were pretty much the only team on TV in those days. After all, there was something mystical and mythical about the west coast when you were a kid in the 1960s and 1970s growing up in Boston without a dream of ever going to Los Angeles.
They can come from, as I mentioned above, seeing "someone different." Prior to this most recent run, Oregon wasn't exactly a world-class football power. After finishing the 1957 season ranked 17th in the coaches' poll, they weren't ranked again for nearly 40 seasons. Before 2000, they were essentially a middling college football team. But an association with and influx of Nike-branded cash turned them into a national sensation. Their modern feel, typified most frequently by the weird and eccentric uniforms, always has them as something of an outsider, and fans, especially younger ones, turn away from tradition and flock towards something unique. Their recent explosion onto the national scene precipitated an expansion at Autzen Stadium, increasing capacity from just under 42,000 to 54,000.
That last piece is where the argument stemmed from. None of my friends (or myself for that matter) remember when the Royals in 1985, so seeing them in the World Series gave someone the hope that someone "different" would win. There was something supremely likeable about that team to one person, and whether or not you agree with the opinion is entirely up to you. What makes a team "likeable" is entirely subjective. It's like saying, "Hey I like this team because..." and following it up with something that is probably as simple as "I love the city of Chicago, so therefore I like Northwestern."
So I'm interested to hear other takes. Sports are often times about heroes and villains. Are there ever times when you simply just find yourself rooting for a particular team, especially in college? Do you ever find yourself attached to a team because of that, even subconsciously, simply for no apparent good reason? Feel free to weigh in with any team you've found yourself rooting for, any team you do occasionally root for, and any reasons why!