I can’t stand fickle sports fans. Ironically, I frequently have one in DJ. He doesn’t mean to be one, he just doesn’t know any better. He feels emotionally drawn to many geographies so I was super proud of his response when, on the way to the Sacramento Mountain Lions v. Virginia Destroyers game yesterday, I asked him who he’d root for. “Virginia,” he said. “Why, because daddy played with their quarterback and was coached by their coaches when he was in college?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “because that’s where I’m from.”
This conversation about which ‘hood he claims goes back a few weeks when he inquisitively asked which rappers were from Virginia as he failed to connect with 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” the way his parents do. He moved from the Commonwealth to California when he was just three and, while he’s as much of a Cali boy and the next kid in my mind, he feels drawn to the place he was born.
It’s a feeling I understand well as I moved away from the state of my birth as a toddler and then, again, moved in the middle of elementary school to California. In the years since I’ve tried to figure out what I consider to be my “hometown.” (Imagine the angst when Facebook asked me to make such a public declaration.)
For me, my “hometown” claim as a sports fan was complicated by the fact that, just two months after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, the SF Giants met the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. I was raised on Cardinals baseball (and football, by the way…why they’re in Phoenix and the L.A. Rams are in my town still baffles me). My earliest baseball memory was being allowed, at a month shy of four years old, to stay up to watch the Cardinals win the 1982 World Series at our townhouse in the St. Louis suburbs. (It’s also the first time I remember my mom being mad at my dad. Heh.)
In the years between then and our move west, my dad took me to Busch Stadium to see the likes of Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee while teaching me how to score a baseball game and heckle an opponent. My pet mouse was named Whitey Herzog.
When the Cards played the Giants, I wasn’t sure just who to root for as the new kid trying to fit in with a school full of Giants fans. Luckily I had little to do with the fate of either team. Yet somehow, I gave myself the leeway to root for the triumphant Cards as they faced the Twins in that World Series, the Oakland A’s as they faced the Dodgers the following year, and then the Giants as they met the A’s in ’89 in the Bay Bridge Series (a series memorable not only for baseball but the earthquake that literally rocked the local fans to our core).
And so, as it has been since, I rooted for the Giants as they made their way to the World Series last year. Now that they’ve imploded, however, I will admit that I “liked” the breaking news from CNN on my FB News Feed that the Cards, my first baseball love, had made it to the World Series (a “like” I gave despite not being able to name a single player from their team.) How’s that for fickle?
But it’s hard out there for a kid…a kid who, for a third of a century, has felt disconnected from all geographic ties of her own. And it is with that experience that I try to cut my own child, a kid who likes the SF 49ers and the Miami Heat, the Sacramento Kings and the Stanford Cardinal, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers and…the Virginia Destroyers, a bit of a break as he tries to figure out his own definition of “hometown” and which hometown team belongs to him.