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.
Never have I been a true fan of professional basketball. Yeah, as a tweenager, there was some excitement in Rochester when the Toronto Raptors came into existence- but they quickly flew away, once we realized how horrendous they really were. (Although that never stopped the proliferation of purple Vince Carter jerseys around the city.) But otherwise, the NBA did not register on my radar – I’m really short, I grew up in Hockey Land USA (Detroit can be Hockey Town, but Western New York is Hockey Land), and out of all the professional sports out there, my father thought basketball was the most corrupt. (Ever the conspiracy theorist, my father believed that all sports were corrupt – but he watched most of them anyway, because they were fun.) This all added up to my never exhausting my Sports Girl energy on following the Boston Celtics when I moved up here four years ago.
Last night, however, I became the most despised of all sports fans – the bandwagon jumper – and went to a local bar to watch Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Since I moved here, I’ve spent every potential championship game for a Boston sports team working an event on campus designed to keep the students from rioting. For the first time, a Boston team could win a championship and there were only a handful of students around, and thus no need to throw an arena-sized viewing party. Continue reading