Nate Grubb is a freshman telecommunications major and writes for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Growing up in Evansville, Indiana, I had a litany of college and professional sports teams to choose to root for that were close to me. If I wanted to root for a local college team, I could’ve chosen schools like Division I Evansville and Division II Southern Indiana. I could’ve rooted for schools in my state like Indiana, Indiana State, Ball State, Purdue, Notre Dame, IUPUI or IU Fort Wayne. Since I lived so close to Kentucky, I could’ve conceivably rooted for the University of Kentucky, Louisville, Murray State or Western Kentucky. But I don’t root for any of those teams.
When I started watching basketball, I could’ve rooted for the Indiana Pacers. Maybe, if you wanted to stretch the “hometown radius," I could’ve rooted for the Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls or Detroit Pistons. But I don’t root for any of those teams.
When I started watching football, I could’ve rooted for the Indianapolis Colts. I could’ve rooted for the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions or Tennessee Titans. But I don’t root for any of these teams.
Recently, I’ve started getting more interested in baseball. I could’ve supported the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Guardians or Detroit Tigers. But I don’t root for any of these teams.
My college team of choice is 429 miles away from Evansville in East Lansing, Michigan. My basketball team is 386 miles away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My football team is 1,629 miles away in Glendale, Arizona. My baseball team is 2,248 miles away in Seattle, Washington. For years my choice of sports teams has been the subject of constant ridicule.
Yet, I’ve stayed loyal to these teams. Every year for the past 13 years, I’ve supported the Michigan State Spartans in college athletics and the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. For the past 10 years, I’ve been an avid supporter of the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA and when I started paying attention to baseball two years ago, my loyalty began with the Seattle Mariners.
Of all the teams I could have chosen, why these teams from so far away?
On February 1, 2009, Super Bowl XLIII took place in Tampa, Florida. The AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers faced the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals. While the rest of my family and friends cheered on as Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes and James Harrison led Pittsburgh to its sixth Lombardi Trophy, I sat in sorrow, watching as Larry Fitzgerald’s herculean effort fall just short. In my six-year-old mind, I liked the Cardinals because they had the really good wide receiver with long hair and a funny last name. 13 years later, even while Fitzgerald has retired and Arizona has gone through overhauls, I’ve stayed loyal and committed to the Cardinals.
Two months and five days later, on April 6, 2009, the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game was played in Detroit. The University of North Carolina took on Michigan State University and it was an utter blowout in favor of the Tar Heels. But while the confetti fell on the Ford Field floor and I saw Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbourgh and Wayne Ellington celebrating, my mind stuck with the players I had been watching the entire tournament. Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas was the player who inspired me to pursue basketball. I tried to model my game from Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green. And, even while I attend Ball State, I’ll still turn on a Spartans football or basketball game 13 years later.
At the conclusion of the 2012-13 NBA Season, the Milwaukee Bucks finished with a record of 38-44, good enough for the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. With that seed, the Bucks would face the reigning champion Miami Heat. Milwuakee would promptly get swept in four games, but, seeing the fight and resilience that Milwaukee put up against the combined powers of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made me fall in love with them. For nearly 10 years since, I’ve gone through the highs and lows with the Bucks leading up into their championship run in the 2021 season.
My reasoning for liking the Seattle Mariners is a little weird. Around two years ago, I started paying attention to baseball. At the same time, the YouTube channel Secret Base had uploaded a six-part documentary on the history of the Mariners. Seeing the pain and turmoil that the team and the city had gone through made me sympathize and fall in love with them.
I don’t think that your location should dictate the team you root for. Just because you were born in, let’s say, Georgia, doesn’t mean you should be forced to root for the Braves, Hawks and Falcons. I think if you develop an emotional connection with a team and decide to stay loyal to that team, then it should be fine to root for them.
Don’t let anyone chastise you for your team selection. Support an East Coast team even if you live on the West Coast. Cheer on the Raptors or Canadiens or Oilers if you live in Florida. Develop a connection with that team and stick with them. Even if the team goes through turmoil, bad seasons or a player you love gets traded, if you have that connection, you should be respected for loving that team.