Category Archives: sports culture

They Hate Me: Western NY’s Toxic Back and Forth Relationship with Basketball

Pravin commented earlier this week on my treatise on New York State sports fandom with a great question on basketball in Western New York:

And where does basketball fit into all of this? Is there a particular team that people in Western New York prefer to root for? I’d imagine that the Knicks–not even factoring in their past seven seasons of futility–represent everything that upstaters hate about downstate. There is the connection between the old Buffalo Braves and L.A. Clippers, but not even the most ardent fan of the A.B.A. would retain that kind of loyalty.

Now, I have been in quite a few relationships in my day, including some of those of the on-and-off, back and forth, toxic variety.  (Who hasn’t in their day?  The degrees of severity vary, but everyone’s had at least one.)  But none come close to the toxic back and forth relationship that professional basketball has had with my home region of Western New York.  Professional basketball took Western New York and toyed with its emotions – “You want an NBA Championship? Here you go. Oh, wait – you aren’t “big enough” to support professional sports!  Sorry, let’s move the team away.” – until a whole generation and their children decided enough was enough, and ceased following the NBA all together.

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Filed under Boston Celtics, Buffalo New York, Rochester NY, sports culture, sports history, Syracuse NY, Upstate New York, Western New York

To Buy a Jersey, To Not Buy a Jersey

Brief note before I begin – I may be the only person on WordPress not writing a blog post on Sarah Palin today.  Logging in just now, every single post on the WordPress front page was about her Saturday Night Live appearance last night.  Come on, Bloggers of the World, stop copying one another.

(And yes, I’m hoping just by slipping her name in there, I get 6-10 extra hits on my blog today.)

On to our regularly scheduled sports related blog, because while I may have been named Most Political in high school, it was because there was no “Overly Involved Wanna-Be Sportswriter” superlative, not because I actually like politics.  (American politics is faker than the WWE, as far as I’m concerned.)

Two and a half weeks ago, I found myself on NFL.com pricing a Trent Edwards jersey or t-shirt (call me cheap, but I prefer the t-shirt fake jersey because of price and because I can wear it more places.) I believed Edwards had shown enough over the previous four weeks for any serious Bills fan to consider buying his jersey.  It would be the first time since the Drew Bledsoe era that a Bills fan could consider buying a starting quarterback’s jersey.  Sure, the cheapest option would set me back at least $29.00, but one’s weekend wardrobe can’t consist of her three Gabe Kapler and one Jason Bay shirts through the entire baseball off-season.  (And that’s not a new thing for me – I wore my 49ers, Bills, Amerks, and Steve Young shirts all through high school.  That was before this whole women’s sports paraphernalia thing was accepted.  No wonder I didn’t have a date until college.) Continue reading

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Filed under Better Know a Compliance Rule, Boston University hockey, BU Terriers, Buffalo Bills, college hockey, fandom, hockey, Hockey East, NCAA Compliance, sports culture, Sports philosophy

Boston Guys, Drew Bledsoe and What Us Girls Can Learn From the Two

On my subway ride to work this morning, I was reading the Metro (a newspaper for people with the attention span of a 3 year old) and as usual, I skipped right to the sports section. I’m not that apathetic in real life, but it’s not like the Metro has any breaking news that I didn’t already read earlier that morning online. That’s the thing about sports–there are so many sportswriters out there and so many ways you can twist the facts that factual sports pieces about the same event or topic are often different enough to warrant reading more than one.

Tuesday’s sports columnist for the Metro is Bob Halloran, a sports anchor for the ABC affiliate here in Boston. I usually disagree with him for some reason for another, but today there wasn’t much to disagree with. His column was about what is every Boston guy seems to be talking about these days: the downfall of Drew Bledsoe.

For someone who plays for your not-too-serious division opponent, Bledsoe sure gets a lot of press. He also gets a lot of discussion out of every Boston bred guy I happen to talk to. I thought it was just because I’m a Bills fan, and therefore, they were just engaging me in conversation. But then I read the Globe this past week, and the Metro last week and today, and I finally figured it out: Boston guys between the ages of 20-30 are obsessed with Bledsoe because he was their hero for their formative football watching years. With Drew’s problematic tenure in Buffalo and his age beginning to catch up with him, this population is experiencing…not a loss, but just the realization that they’re growing up.

Stay with me no matter how weird this sounds. Think about it: Bledsoe is 32. I’m 22. He was drafted in 1993, when I was 11. The guys I talk to about football are all in their early to mid 20s, meaning they were all pre-teens or just thirteen when Bledsoe became a Patriot. Formative football fandom years right there. What happens in football between the ages of 10-13 totally form the rest of your football watching life. Me and Steve Young–all when I was 10ish-11ish. Buffalo’s 0-4 Super Bowl run? From the ages of 8-12.

All of the men in Boston are obsessed with following the end of Bledsoe’s career, even though it’s with the Bills, because it’s the end of one of the first thing they concretely experienced as sports fans. You may have been 5 in 1987, but how much did you realize that the Red Sox blew the World Series? You may have been alive when Larry Bird was lighting up the Garden, but you were a little concerned with trying to ride a tricycle to realize what was really going on. Bledsoe is someone they watched get drafted, go through the requisite rookie blues, learn to find his way under Parcells, and take the Patriots to their first Super Bowl. And while my Boston guys currently believe in the holy trinity of Belichick, Brady and Vinatieri, they can’t ever look up to Brady, because he’s one of them. He’s their age. If this was high school, Brady would be that kid one grade up who is friends with your friend’s stairstep older brother. He’s be the guy you’d be competing with for a spot on the football team. He’d be the guy the cheerleaders would get to cheer for…

Not that wanna-be cheerleader me has a problem with that.

Nope, I’d cheer for Tom Brady any day.

But that’s besides the point.

The end of Bledsoe’s career is the end of an era for my favorite Boston guys. The Patriots may be winning Super Bowls now, but these guys don’t have that investment in Brady that they did in Bledsoe. Their investment is at a loss, and they just can’t recoup the profits. They’re going to have to admit that they had their run, but the market is now at a loss, and they’re going to have to get rid of it. Does that make sense? Who they banked on for so many years, who they looked up to, who they spent every fall Sunday watching during the majority of their adolescence is not only playing for a division rival, but about to be replaced with either Mr. Useless Quarterback, Shane Matthews, or a rookie who has yet to completely recover from a broken leg.

However, us girls would expect these mourning-for-Drew guys to be moping quietly, thumbing through their Bledsoe rookie cards ant those old school shadow numbered Pats jerseys and original sharktooth hats…but no. Guys don’t work that way. Guys don’t mope. Guys obsess and analyze. They don’t ask why not, but the whole gamut of journalistic questions. If a girl is depressed, they tear up and ask, “Why doesn’t he like me? Why won’t it work out? Why does he like her and not me? Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!” Guys, they just ask, “When exactly did Drew lose his mobility? What coaching system? Was Wysche able to help him at all this season? How good was Drew’s arm back in 1996? If he had had the mobility in the pocket, how good could he have been? Was he really the one orchestrating his own departure to Buffalo back in 2002?”

Because part of this letting go of Bledsoe involves their self-observation that they are getting older, Boston guys will obviously start to put up some sort of bitter defense mechanism, which in this case takes the form of making great fun out of the first Bills fan they come across, aka me. I lost a bet to my boss over the game, and now have to put my hair up in a straight out of the 80s ponytail and wear it all day this upcoming Friday. The guy I dated over the summer e-mailed me and mentioned how much the Bills were going to be decimated, and then e-mailed again Monday morning to let me know that while he had been nervous going in, the Pats beat the Bills with a ragtag group of cornerbacks and how much Bledsoe just “sucked.” Sure, it’s all in good fun, but I swear there’s a little bit of a defense mechanism in there. Bitterness=denial that their childhood is over.

Ladies, we can take a lot from observing Boston guys mourn their favorite QBs descent into mediocrity (well, unfortunately, it might be beyond even that at this point). We may finally be able to understand the thought processes of men. They deal with depression by analyzing, they hate the idea of getting old, and they keep ugly mid-1990s NFL sharktooth hats under their bed. Or just consider this: Men and women are both nostalgia based creatures, but women miss what they can’t have, and men miss what they once had and the amount of time that has passed since they had it.

Hmm…men are quite easy to figure out when you get down to it.

Okay, maybe they aren’t.

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Filed under Boston MA, New England Patriots, NFL, sports culture, Sports philosophy, Uncategorized