A Fan Loyalty’s Statute of Limitations

Sports_Fans_by_psbox362There will be no conversation in my house tonight. There will be no conviviality. There will be only conflict…and deathly stares, possibly combined with smug looks of superiority. The husband and wife will set in separate chairs, watching the same hockey game, but seeing it quite differently. The husband calls it “the Rangers game.” The wife calls it “the Red Wings game.” The husband, I, am from New York. The New York Rangers of the 1960s and 70s spent the season in furnished apartments in the sprawling apartment complex in Queens where I lived. It exists today. It’s called Glen Oaks Village. The Rangers were part of my childhood. Boom Boom Geoffrion lived next door to my aunt and uncle and slammed the walls, screaming bad words in French when he returned to the apartment after a loss. Andy Bathgate swung his kids on the swings in the playground of our grade school, P.S. 186. We ran into the Rangers in the Silver Moon diner, and if we paid a buck, we could watch them practice at Skateland, a mile away. Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle and Reggie Fleming and Vic Hatfield waited for us afterwards and signed autographs. Ed Giacomin would put a cigar in the mouth hole of his goalie mask and dare his teammates to shoot it out. For $1.50 and our high school ID card we could get tickets to see the Rangers in the old Madison Square Garden. We lived for Marv Alpert to yell “Shot! Score!” The Rangers were life.

But life took me away from the Rangers when my wife and I moved across the country to Tucson, Arizona in 1978. The Coyotes were years from howling in Phoenix or Glendale, or wherever they are now. The only hockey was a pathetic minor league team called the Tucson Rustlers. We lost track of the NHL.

When I was hired by CNN in late 1981 I was excited to move to Atlanta, only to find out the Flames flamed out and moved to Calgary.

In 1989 I was transferred to Detroit to take over the bureau and we were reunited with the NHL.  I could lustily root for the Rangers again when they invaded Joe Louis Arena. But over the past 26 years I’ve also become a loyal Red Wings fan and even attended a Red Wings fantasy camp playing alongside Chris Osgood and Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay.

How can you root for both the Red Wings and the Rangers? When does the team loyalty statute of limitations run out. How long do you have to be away from your hometown before you can’t root for your hometown team anymore?

I contend you never have to stop. Yes, I’m also a Yankees fan, but when the Tigers faced the Yanks in the playoffs a couple of years ago, I decided it was the Tigers turn to win my loyalty in hopes our town would see its first World Series victory since 1984. Another Yankee fan called me a traitor and said I could never go back. But it got me thinking about letting go. I’ve now lived in Detroit longer than I’ve lived anywhere. Must I give up my childhood loyalties in favor of teams representing the town where I’ve spent the most time? I don’t think so. I have specific reasons for rooting for my teams. I wish Detroit’s teams the best of luck. The teams that represent my adopted city. But I remain loyal to the teams that represent the first time I attended Yankee Stadium with my dad and brother, saw Roger Maris hit two of his 61 homers in ’61, attended my first NFL game with my brother and saw Joe Namath as the last man between the opponent and end zone take him down, even on gimpy knees. I remain loyal to the team that exposed me to Walt Frazier and Willis Reed even though they are, today, a pathetic shadow of past glory.

It’s OK. We will be sportsman and sports lady like watching the hockey game tonight. I will cheer if the Rangers score…but quietly smile when the Red Wings do too. My wife won’t say a word…unless of course, the Rangers get smoked. Then we’ll have a problem.

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