Saturday, January 19, 2008

Aaron's iFAQ #1

"How does a guy born and raised in Southern California become a fan of Northern Californian sports teams?"

I was never aware that there were rules for sports team loyalty until about 10 years ago. Seriously.

After graduating from college and joining the work force, the average age of my day-to-day peer group went from 20-something to 40-something. Growing up in the '80s and '90s, all my friends were Chicago Bulls fans or San Francisco 49ers fans or Dallas Cowboys fans. And, not because they were born in Illinois, Half Moon Bay or Fort Worth…it was because those teams won and front-runners trump all amongst the young.

By the time I joined the Unnamed Defense Contractor, I was working with people who'd set up decades worth of roots in San Diego and often asked, "Do you still have family up in the Bay Area?"

When I'd respond that I was born in Long Beach and had never lived in or around Oakland, they were incredulous. "You should be a Dodgers fan!", "You should be a Lakers fan!"…this was always followed up by the question that opened this post.

Here's your damn answer.

My sports fanaticism wasn't handed down from my father. Pops was from a small town in Georgia and only ended up in California because of the military. He watched football and basketball, but never had any attachment to any team. But, in 1980 (yes, I'm 76-years-old) the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the early prototypes of the NFL teams that would transcend sports and become entertainment/pop culture fixtures.

Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain Defense. Mean Joe Greene and that Coke commercial. The Steelers were superstars and I vaguely remember watching moments of them laying my "hometown" Los Angeles Rams to waste in Super Bowl XIV. The Rams! Warren Beatty's Rams! The Steelers beat 'em!

Several months later, the 1980-81 NFL season began and I very clearly remember plopping down in front of the family TV (the one with the "Jaws 2" Topps stickers on the side) to watch the Steelers and Oakland Raiders play on the October 20th edition of Monday Night Football.

(I can't take credit for remembering the date. I knew it was a Monday night in 1980. This website took care of the rest.)

Anyways, I watched the whole game and the Raiders won 45-34.

I don't remember much from the ensuing two months, until I caught the Raiders in a playoff game. They won again. Then, they won the following week and the week after that – advancing to Super Bowl XV in New Orleans to meet the Philadelphia Eagles.

Whenever I watch the Raiders, they win. Easy enough for an eight-year-old to understand. I watched Oakland's annihilation of the Eagles at my grandparents' house and, from that point on, all things Oakland had my allegiance.

A few months later, I came across this goofy logo (the early '80s were a rough time for marketing departments, I assume) and discovered that Oakland had a baseball team! If only I'd realized that the Golden State Warriors played there, I'd have had a basketball team, too. To make up for this omission in loyalty, I got in on the ground floor with these guys in 1983.

Of course, things got a little screwy when the Raiders moved to Southern California. They'd win another Super Bowl in 1984 and cement themselves as the team I'd never stop loving…until the A's overtook them on my pro sports preferential pecking order. In 1995, the Raiders moved back to Oakland, which – belatedly – was one of the primary reasons that the A's are now trying to leave Oakland.

And, I still live in San Diego.

Hope this clears things up.

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