Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nature or Nurture?

As sports enthusiasts we become obsessed with our teams. It’s consuming, it’s unhealthy, and we love every minute of it. And every birth of a child inspires the “race to recruit”. Hell, I’ve been talking about the Yankees to my nephew since the day he was born. He’s two years old now and can’t say my name right, but he can say “Yankees” clear as day. And that’s perfectly ok with me.

But I often wonder (fear?) that all of that work will have the opposite effect. Will he eventually become a Red Sox fan, forcing me to denounce our DNA connection? When I do have children of my own, will they all turn out to be Eagles fans?

Take my dad for instance. He’s an old school Dodgers fan from back in their Brooklyn days. This, of course, makes him a natural Yankee hater. I live and die by my Yanks. How did that happen? And where did my parents go wrong with my brother, who is a Mets fan? Did they not love him enough as a child?

So is it nature or nurture that makes us choose our allegiance? Can we really influence the decision at an innocent age, or is it all a crap shoot?

If I could figure this out and sell the formula, I think I’d be very rich.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...
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SportsGirl365 said...

Classy. In the words of the great (?) Bill Simmons..."Yup. These are my readers."

Joel Furfari said...

It's all nurture. The really interesting dilemna isn't Yankees vs. Red Sox, but Yankees vs. Mets... or White Sox vs. Cubs, etc.

Or look at London: where something like 10 professional soccer clubs compete for allegiance. In a lot of parts of the world, what team you support tells a lot about a person: what relgion, class, neighborhood, political party, ethnicity they come from. In America, we're pretty much free to pick and choose our teams because there's really not THAT much difference between fan bases, even among the big rivalries. A Yankee fan's identity wouldn't be deadly even in Boston, but a Celtic (of Glasgow) supporter in a protestant area of Northern Ireland could be killed.

Too much tribalism can lead to all kinds of violence problems, but the opposite side is a corporatized sports world where the teams are all equal and no one really cares that much... which pretty much describes sports in america today.

Bish said...

Tough call. I think a lot of it depends on the degree of lyalty the parent has to the team. I went my own way in baseball (Mets - family was die hard Giant fans, so it's kinda logical) and football (I'm a die hard Chiefs fan, family was all Giant fans).

I'm totally forcing my preferences on my kids, though! They WILL root for the Mets, Chiefs, Rangers and Suns, at least while I still have any kind of influence on 'em.

Anonymous said...

i say nurture. i was born and raised in the heart of Phillies/Eagles/Flyers country (Southern New Jersey) and my dad preached Mets/Giants to me everyday (i picked up the Rangers on my own). i took a lot of ribbing from the kids in school but i am still a die hard fan of the NY teams. i avoided many temptations to jump ship.

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on what, exactly, you mean by "nature" and ""nurture."

My impression is that nurture trumps all in the sense that most team allegiances are inherited. but geography is usually paramount in the determining the allegiances of those forebears who are doing the passing down.

Geography suggests "nature," that your fandom is dependent solely on where you grew up (discounting collegiate afiliation, of course). But mushc of that has to do with the community of fans in a certain location and nothing inherent to the location itself. So in that sense, "nurture" applies as well.

It's an interesting question.

R.J. said...

I liken a rooting interest to a religion. For example, I am a White Sox fan because my father is a White Sox fan. I grew up a White Sox fan.

I was also raised Jewish. I do not believe in any religion now, but I still identify as Jewish. I certainly have never found a compelling reason to not consider myself Jewish.

To be honest, I'd like to not be a Sox fan, but I am. And I always will be.

David Plotz, on Slate.com, has a nice bit in his "Blogging the Bible" series about how one chooses a religion and I think it works just as well for sports:

"Sometimes the theologians forget that religion is not a calculation: Almost always we come to God or Allah or the Buddha not because we have carefully analyzed the relevant laws, texts, and miracles but because someone we love and admire leads us to them."

Anonymous said...

Simmons is gay

Poster Nutbag said...

you should be so lucky to have your child grow up and eagles fan.

and if you are cute, i will gladly play dyanformer to your mare.

Eric said...

And here I was hoping for some clarification...

It's all experience. Case in point: my father really got into the Red Sox in 1967. Before that time he had half-heartedly support the Sox, because of his family connection, but the 1967 team was the first team in his lifetime that was really interesting to watch. His younger brother, who came of age in the 1970s, is a Yankees fan, for the same reason.

Mr. Smooth said...

New blog and you already have "THOSE readers"! Awesome! :) Good luck with the writing.

Fat Ted said...

A family with a Dodgers fan, Mets fan, and Yankees fan. Something is wrong with your family, explain yourself.

Anonymous said...

this a good question that any reasonable sport
fan should ask him/her self. i lived in Rockford IL
for a while, and it was close enough to the WI/IL border that there were an almost equal number of bear and packer fans. kids usually rebeled against their parents by switching sides when they got to be teenagers. i thought it was random that they did that.

good blog by the way. the guys from deadspin.com linked to you, just in case you were wondering how i came around.

Netsy said...

Wait... How did you become a Yankee fan, being the child of a Dodgerite? This blog entry feels rather incomplete without that bit of self-examination.

I know that my own Yankee fandom arose partially because of my father's brief minor-league pitching contract with the team and partially because of the success of the flashy late '70s Yankees. (I know, I know, but you can't really accuse a four-year-old of bandwagoning, can you?)

My three siblings went with the Red Sox, White Sox, and Blue Jays as their respective teams, for reasons still unknown to me. I'm not even sure if there was solid reasoning involved. Maybe my sister just thought Carl Yastrzemski was cute, who knows?

We grew up in the Washington, DC area, though, so we didn't have a local baseball team to unify us in fandom.

bamagirlinVA said...

i argue for nurture. my daddy raised me a true-blue yankees fan, and we're not even from the north. dad grew up in south georgia, and while i was born in new jersey, i lived most of my life in gulf-coast alabama. daddy picked the yankees because of mickey mantle, and i kept the faith because of him. if it had been nature, daddy would've been a cardinals fan (the braves weren't in georgia when he was a kid), and i would've been a (shudder) braves fan. ick. thank god for nurture!

SportsGirl365 said...

fat ted (can I call you fat, or is that too informal?)...Phillies fan? My condolences.

Netsy, I'm not really sure how I became a Yankees fan. I've been a fan for as long, if not longer than I can remember.