Friday, August 31, 2012

Geography and Flirting with Sports Bigamy

I've made it no secret that I'm an unapologetic Indy-homer. I can't claim the insane provincial madness found in Boston or the SEC, but I enjoy hate-watching as much as the next girl. I giggled when Tom Brady got the safety in the Superbowl. Oh yes, I did, and I'd do it again. One of the best moments of 2012 was watching Duke lose to Lehigh (few things make me happier than watching Duke lose). And since I moved to Chicago, hate-watching Jay Cutler has become one of my favorite pastimes.

Perhaps this would be a good time to define the term 'hate-watch' - it sounds a lot worse than it is.

I don't wish injury or other bodily harm upon dear Jay - in fact, when he gets hurt, it ruins all the fun. I don't even necessarily enjoy watching him lose. To me, watching football is kind of like reading a comic book - it's just more entertaining when certain things happen to certain characters. When Eli Manning does ridiculous things to slay giants (lower case 'g'), it's hilarious. When Tim Tebow wins in the 4th quarter under insane circumstances, it's hilarious. When Jay Cutler's cranky face tells his coach to eff-off, that's hilarious, too.

This isn't necessarily how the term is used universally - but that's what 'hate-watch' means to me. I find Jay most entertaining when things are going a little sideways. It's nothing personal - I mean, he's from Indiana, how bad could he be? But as someone who is forced to watch the Bears every single week, I want to get as much enjoyment out of my experience as possible.

I've lived in Chicagoland since 2006 (ironically, the same season the Bears and Colts met in the Super Bowl). I've seen a LOT of Bears games. I've even met a few of the Bears players, which is very cool... except for the fact that it kind of shatters my comic book perception. They become real people instead of cartoons. It's really, really hard to hate-watch real people.

I go to a church in Chicagoland. Some of the Bears (including Coach Lovie) go to this same church. One of the players recently joined our church mid-week Bible study. As the official football fan of the group, I volunteered to host a preseason football party in which our group could get together and cheer on our new friend.

That's right. I hosted a preseason party for Bears fans. Furthermore, I watched ALL FOUR preseason Bears games. Four (4). I hate preseason. I typically weave around preseason like Frogger trying to cross the multi-lane highway. But not this year. The party was even fun. The Bears fans left my house CLEANER than it was before they came, and they even all brought food and refused to take it home with them (consequently, I'll not be buying tortilla chips until 2014).

And you know what else?

The Bears looked so good in the preseason that I drafted both Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall for my fantasy football team. And then promptly realized they wound be playing the Indy Colts THE VERY FIRST WEEK.

So now, friends, I find myself toeing a very sensitive line.

On the one hand is the team I grew up with, the team I've loved through thick and thin since the late 1980s. The team with the BRAND NEW SHINY QUARTERBACK ANDREW LUCK (who I've been keeping in bubble wrap in my local safe-deposit box, just to be safe).

On the other hand, I have the local team - with people I actually KNOW in real life, whose success could help me avenge my football honor (still bitter about losing my fantasy league by THREE POINTS to my husband last season; worst Christmas ever). Plus, when the Bears are winning, the locals are HAPPY. When the locals are happy, life just runs more smoothly, you know?

And then, if I had a third hand, there would be the Broncos. Peyton. Wonderful, beloved Peyton. I am not capable of rooting against Peyton and hopefully never will be. I went out of my way to draft the Bronco's kicker for my fantasy team, just to give myself another excuse to keep an eye on them (and because the thin mile-high air gives him a distance advantage).

I've always loved Drew Brees. Jim Harbaugh, my first childhood sports hero, is amazing with the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers isn't going to get LESS adorkable...

And suddenly I'm rooting for half the league and the season hasn't even started yet.

When your team is losing and you live far enough away that they're never on TV anymore and you don't even know half the names on the roster, it's easy to let the eye stray to seemingly more attractive pastures. The truth is, I like several players. But I only have one team.

The Colts are young, they're likeable, half of them are Stanford educated. One of them goes by the initials "TY" even though his real name is Eugene. They're worth going to a 3rd party establishment with satellite package to see. I know the Colts are still my team because when I snatched Andrew Luck as my fantasy backup, I did a shameless happy dance. I don't care if he wins. He's mine. And if my attachment to Jay Cutler starts growing too strong, I'll bench him out of principle. The guilt of bigamy isn't worth it.