Monday, February 04, 2008

It's Gonna Be Live, Hey! Connecticut Pride

I feel like I'm on some kind of national crusade to make people realize not everyone likes all the sports teams of one particular town.

And if you grew up right in or near a city with major league sports teams, you're probably thinking, "what is this guy's deal, that IS the way it is."

But I'm from a crazy land called Connecticut. (The second C is silent.) We even have different cities and towns within the state! It's not just one big town. But people don't know much about the place, it seems.

I remember joining America Online back in, like, 1996. And this has always stuck with me: they asked you to choose the area where you were from, for your profile or whatever, from a list. I was from a small town next to a slightly bigger town, with no major city within 50 miles. Needless to say, this "area" was not on their list. There "Hartford," and there was "New York City."

I was an hour from Hartford. Not including trips to see my grandparents, who lived there, you could count the total trips I've taken there on two hands. Maybe one. I was not a Hartford(-er?). I was an hour from New York. It wasn't even in my state. People who live there would be quite offended if I, from my dead end in street in suburbia, considered myself one of them. I was not a New Yorker.

I was from the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) (that was the "official" order). But I was also from New England (CT, RI, MA, VT, NH, ME). And I had about as much in common with people from Maine as I did with people from Jersey, and vice versa. But I was grouped in with one or the other, depending on whether I was tuned in to a New York TV station or a Connecticut one.

When I went to college in Nebraska, I'd say "I'm from Connecticut," but that kind of turned into "I'm from New York." It was the closest city they knew to Connecticut, and saying "I'm from Hartford" wouldn't have helped them--and didn't sound nearly as cool.

But think of that--me, a kid from a dead end street in the woods, less than a mile from a farm with cows, and a good twenty minutes from the nearest store, thought of as a "New Yorker," some kind of city boy, compared to kids from Omaha, who'd be thought of as farm-boys, yet they actually grew up IN a city. My fellow Ridgefielders would ask me about Nebraska: "Do you go to school on a farm?" No. We all grew up on a farm, practically. I go to a school in a city.

So that's why I've go this thing about sports teams. To me, there aren't "New York fans" and "Boston fans." There are fans of specific teams and that's that. There are rivalries between certain teams, but not between towns.

Yes, there are some die-hard Vinnies who make fun of Boston who have never even been there, and some die-hard Sullies who mock New York who would probably love it if they ever gave it a chance. But I see those as the older folks, the same one who are wary of these "coloreds" walking around. I mean, why would you hate an entire city? What's cool about living in your one space and never venturing out of it? Sure, I've got a laundry list of things I never liked about Boston, but there's that same list for New York, and other places. But I try not to focus on that. I focus on the awesomeness in each city. I had great times in Seattle, Chicago, New Haven...even Madison, Wisconsin.

My friend who lives in Philly sent me a clipping from their paper. In 100 point typeface was the word "HATE," and they proceeded to talk about the stuff they hate in New York and Boston. City of Brotherly Love, my ass! If you want to hate sports teams, fine, great, totally cool. But what does that have to do with towns and the people who live there, many of whom hate the same team you do? I mean, I hate the Yankees more than anything else in the world, but I don't say, "Oh you Yankee fans with your New Yorkiness and New Yorkitude." Because New York is fucking awesome! Again, like the bumper sticker always said, "I Love New York, It's the Yankees I Hate."

I think as more people venture out of their little spaces, things will change. I see it already--so many people in NYC have Boston connections, and all the college kids in Boston came from the New York area.

So I'll close with a list I've been making in my head--the teams in each sport all my friends in middle/high school liked. Your list might look like: Person: Sox, Pats, Bruins, Celtics, over and over again. But in the in-between land of Connecticut, it looks more like this:

Person Baseball Football Basketball Hockey College Team

Me: Boston Red Sox, New York Jets, New Jersey Nets, none, Nebraska
Mike: New York Yankees, New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, Boston College/Notre Dame/Michigan
Jim: New York Yankees, Chicago Bears, Boston Celtics, New York Rangers, Ohio State
Pat (circa '89): Boston Red Sox, New York Jets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Devils, Syracuse
Casey: New York Mets/Cleveland Indians/Texas Rangers, Green Bay Packers, don't remember, don't remember, UConn
Deane: New York Mets, New York Giants, none, New York Rangers, UConn
Chan: New York Yankees, New York Giants, Chicago Bulls, none, Florida
Gust: Minnesota Twins, Washington Redskins, Minnesota T-wolves, none, Villanova
Arcuri: New York Yankees, New York Jets/Chicago Bears, don't remember, etc, etc
Trevor: Atlanta Braves/Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns, don't remember, etc, etc
Matt Suff: I'm scrapping the order here--Buffalo Bills/San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bisons....

Okay, it got a little hazy toward the end. But you get the picture. The worst part about all this? I seem to be the only one affected by the whole "liking teams from 'rival' cities" thing. Everybody else just kind of runs with it. Like, my friend Jim: Die-hard Yankee fan, raised in The Bronx. I know he's psyched about the Pats losing last night and he's proud to admit that (he's a Bears fan). But if he were at a Celtics game tomorrow, well, he's still a die-hard Celtics fan, but I don't see him getting all worried about what other Celtics fans would think of his anti-Pats stance, the way I worry about you Pats/Sox fans wanting to stone me. You'd think I would've picked up some pointers in how to deal with all this, growing up in in-between land.

Either way, the Red Sox still won the ALCS in 2004, we're the World Champs right now, and every Yankee fan, whether they admit it or not, knows this. Bring on baseball.

Oh, and any of your threats in comments are not gonna make me feel like less of a Red Sox fan for (god forbid!) not having ever liked the Patriots! You wanna make fun of other Sox fans, there are plenty of the kind who say shit in the stands like "Jeter woulda had it," or "you HAVE to respect the Yankees and the classy Joe Torre" or "love or hate him, George Steinbrenner does what it takes."

(title of post from an old commercial from some team called the Connecticut Pride. Don't even remember the sport....)

right there with you, man. Sox fan/Giants fan. been a good couple of months for this Jersey kid.
It's about time! Finally someone sees what I'm talkin' about. Thanks. Multiple-city fans unite! Come on, I know there are more of you out there!
Connecticut Pride were the CBA team in Hartford before Isiah killed the league.

I'm from Newington (outside of Hartford) originally and mine looks like this.

Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Whalers, UConn
Ah, yes, the CBA..... thanks.

Nice call on the Whalers, our state's only major league pro sports team, since moved on. (Though it really looked like the Pats were moving to Hartford at one point--how come nobody ever talks about that?) Have you noticed there's always one Whalers jersey at every game at Fenway?
"But I'm from a crazy land called Connecticut. (The first C is silent.)"

I think you mean the SECOND C is silent...or have I been mispronouncing the name of your home state all these years?
Haha, good catch. No, it's not "Onnecticut." It's that pesky THIRD C that threw me off. Will fix. Thanks.
So based on the time period in which you were in middle and high school, all your list proves to me is that you were friends with a buncha front runners...Bulls, Celtics, Bears? In Connecticut? Really? And not a Whalers fan in the whole bunch? Weird...
Here was my crew:

Pat: Red Sox, Pats, Celtics, Bruins, Boston College

Patrick: Red Sox, Pats, Celtics, Bruins, Boston College

Tommy: Red Sox, Pats, Celtics, Bruins, Notre Dame (he got beat up a lot for that)

Tony: Red Sox, Pats, Celtics, Bruins, Boston College

John: Red Sox, Pats, Celtics, Bruins, Boston University (his parents went there)

Ricky: Red Sox, Pats, Celtics, Bruins, Boston College

So I guess I don't really get the whole pick your own plan thing...
Right, because there are no teams in CT. That's the point. Did you read the post at all, man? The example of your friends is exactly what I said in the post about people from in or near an area with a major league sports team. (And the Whalers didn't have many fans period.)

The only front-running came from Chan, who entered the country as a freshman in high school. The rest have stories: Gust had Minnesota connections, Jim's Bears and Celts thing came from when he was a little kid, Matt had Buffalo connections. Trevor knew nothing about baseball when I met him in 1990, except that his teams were the Braves and Indians. And all of a sudden, they both got good. Also, I should say the years of middle/high school for me: '86-'93.

I'll never forget Deane saying in high school, "Well everybody picked up their team from a time when they won at some point." And I said, "I've never seen any of my teams win!" And he said, "Well you are usually the exception to the rule."

Anyway, it's not like I just happened to like the front-runners (although look at all the crappy teams on the list)--we were the only kids who liked specific teams in the whole grade. It's not like 90% of the school was Whalers fans and fans of no other team, to stay true to "Connecticut." We were the sports kids. The more popular kids (like the football players) knew nothing about NFL football. We, the stat geeks, were the ones who followed pro sports. And the less popular than us kids didn't know anything about sports.

Any "rooting" outside our crew was people jumping on the Mets in '86 or the Yanks in '96 and beyond, as well as jumping on any popular winning teams at the time like the Bulls or whatever.

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