Who is that? And why do cities have such strong connections to professional athletes who have no real connection to the city?

February 8th, 2010

In the wake of last night’s Super Bowl victory, the City of New Orleans is apoplectic. With a Super Bowl Parade sometime this week, and Mardi Gras next Tuesday, the city may begin the longest sustained period of joyous bedlam in some time.

But, I ponder, why do cities have such close connections to professional sports teams? I understand that over the last several years, the Saints have been a strong rallying point for a city that has gone through some horrific tragedies. But, professional athletes really have no connection to the team. The only player on the field last night who is really a product of New Orleans was Peyton Manning. Any member of the New Orleans Saints would not hesitate to accept a better contract elsewhere. Undoubtedly, many players who performed well this season, and in the playoffs, will be offered a generous sum to play elsewhere. And there is nothing wrong with this. This is capitalism at its finest. But while the fans have hardcore allegiances to the team, the players have no such allegiance. The door doesn’t swing both ways.

When I was young, I used to be a huge New York Knicks fan, and followed very closely Patrick Ewing. At the time, my Dad told me that I just rooted for a logo and a uniform, but I was idealistic. During the 1990’s, I was certain the Knicks would never trade away the face of the franchise, and Ewing was a Knick for life. Lo and behold, at the end of Ewing’s illustrious career, the Knicks traded him away. I realized, my dad was right. Sports fans just root for a uniform and logo. And those change too (think throwback uniforms).

Look at all the players who have played for both the Red Sox and the Yankees, the most seething rivalry in sports. Though, if I ever see Jeter suit up at Fenway, I would be very disappointed.

One of the reasons I primarily follow college football now is the allegiance swings both ways. I love Penn State football, because I went there, and will always be a Lion. And the Penn State players also studied at Penn state, and will always be lions.

Mini Rant. I don’t get the entire “Who Dat.” Thing. Why would a fan base pride itself on a poor command of the English language? Rant over.