Friday, June 08, 2007


This joyous occasion gave me cause to reflect that I am a ridiculously enthusiastic sports fan. Compared to the various theological and philosophical minutiae that I usually discuss, I would take a good sporting event any day and twice on Sundays. In fact, it occurred to me that I really ought to spend more time watching sports and less time "contributing" to theological discussions, because, in all honesty, I like sports a lot more.

Anyone who thinks that the discussions on theological matters are more important than sports needs to have his head examined. More people watch sports; more people talk about sports; more people care about sports. And believe it or not, I think that is a good thing, because cheering on athletic competition is really about bringing people together in a concrete way. It ain't natural to elevate the importance of your own bloviating to the point that it should take precedence over fellowship with actual human beings, and sports fandom is about fellowship. This whole blogging/theology bit is a mental exercise that I do, because my brain is of the sort that requires mental gymnastics to stay engaged, but it's not where my heart is.

Some people might be a bit surprised at this attitude, because they don't see me talking about sports a lot. But I view rooting for sports teams a lot like participating in my parish life; it's something that I prefer to do rather than talk about. People who look down on sports are often looking down on their fellow human beings. I'd say the same thing about the liturgical whining about one's parish; the point of a parish is not to be able to separate yourself from fellowship with other human beings you consider below yourself.

So now that I have apologized for being a sports fan, I will point out that as a sports fan, this win has been exceptionally sweet for me. This is the first time I've actually had my home team win it all. Obviously, if the Aggies ever actually won a national championship in anything, that would be the biggest day ever, but they haven't managed it since I started school. I have experienced the exact opposite, i.e., that hideous burnt orange monstrosity celebrating a championship, which only makes me even more sick about that lapse. But barring a successful College World Series run, it's not happening this season. So my only hope has been professional sports.

Unfortunately, I've been something of a sports vagabond my entire life, because I've never really identified with anywhere that I lived. When I was a kid, my primary focus in life was to get the hell out of Louisiana and to somewhere new, so I wasn't going to root for the home teams (yeah, I was immature). I didn't really care for LSU much, preferring the superstar QBs like Eric Zeier and Heath Shuler to the pedestrian Tiger squads. I adopted the Minnesota Vikings as an unofficial team just to irritate Saints fans after the Vikes clobbered the Saints 44-10 in the playoffs. Houston was the closest city with multiple pro sports teams, but I never had any love for the Oilers ("Luv ya Blue!" was just sickening) or the Rockets (who ran afoul of Dad's favorite basketball team, the Boston Celtics, in the finals). I was a lukewarm baseball fan, and the Disastros could never get over the hump anyway. Mostly, I just followed my dad's lead with the teams from his childhood: Astros/Colt .45s, Colts, Celtics, and anybody playing the Cowboys or Notre Dame. Hockey was a non-factor in the South at that time. When it finally started creeping onto TV, I rooted for the Red Wings as an homage to Gordie Howe, who had played for the Houston Aeros.

In college, I had college sports to command my attention, but when I got to Austin for grad school, there was no damn way I was going to root for anybody in that city. But I had a good friend from Michigan, so we formed a little group of Red Wings fans. Evidently, it was good luck for the team, because the Wings broke a forty-plus year drought to win the Stanley Cup both seasons I was in graduate school. That was definitely a good couple of years, but I moved on to Massachusetts, where I rapidly learned to hate anything associated with Boston, including the Celtics. In fact, my revulsion for Boston was so profound that I started rooting for the Yankees with my friend Jordan simply because it was the most anti-Boston I could think to do. As with the impromptu Red Wings group, rooting for the Yankees paid off quick, as Jordan and I were soon to be in Yankee Stadium for Roger Clemens' game 4 sweep of the World Series over the Atlanta Braves. Evidently, I was extremely good luck when I jumped on someone else's bandwagon, but it wasn't ever really MY team. I moved to Dallas, and even though I didn't wish ill on the team there, I never had much love for them either (my relatives were Houston folk, and Houston and Dallas don't really get along). When my wife's Bayou Bengals won a football title to go along with their baseball titles, I was happy, but yet again, it wasn't my team.

But then I move to Orange County, and I finally had a place where I was attached. I fell in love with O.C. and immediately adopted the Angels and the no-longer-Mighty Ducks as my own. I knew I was in it for good when the Yankees came to town, and I had far more affection for the hometown red than the dark blue. I had doubts about whether it would hold up in a conflict with the Astros, but that particular conflict never came. And when I found myself as a former Celtics fan listening to Laker broadcasts and hoping the Lakers won, I knew I had been converted entirely. Now I'm taking my kids to Chavez Ravine, and they've learned to say "Let's Go Dodgers!" It's over.

I thought I was going to experience some conflict when the Ducks clashed with the Red Wings, but it was really no contest. It didn't take a minute from the puck being dropped to realize that I would have been sick if one got by Giguere. And this would have been an easy team to love even if I weren't now a Ducks homer; it's just even better now that I am. You've got J.-S. Giguere, the best goalie in the playoffs, who thought it more important to spend time with his new son Maxime, who was born with a deformed eye and who was in danger of losing his vision entirely. It wasn't until after his son was out of danger that he replaced Ilya Bryzgalov (who did yeoman's work in relief) back in the crease. You've got Teemu Selanne, whose number will definitely be in the rafters when he retires, finally winning the prize after years of trying. You've got Scott Niedermayer, the captain and Conn Smythe trophy winner, who came over to win one with his brother Rob and did just that. There are guys like Sammy Pahlsson, Brad May, and Travis Moen who just come to work. There are kids like Andy McDonald and Ryan Getzlaf. It's just a good bunch of guys with a great team spirit.

So I've finally got it: MY team finally won. And I've got to say that it is just as good as I thought it would be. You people who have never been there (particularly those of you in Phoenix) have no idea what you're missing.