Is It Ever OK to Change Sports Allegiances To A Rival? A Ridiculous Debate

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A couple of years ago, in an undisclosed location, the REO staff had a meeting. Present were Phill, Ben, Mike, Dave, Nathan, Mark and me. We ordered pizza and as the doorbell rang signifying its arrival, Phill rolled a die to see who would have to get it, counting off each of us seated at a round table as a number. I informed Phill that by casting the die he was then creating a world with six alternate timelines. One where each of us has to get the pizza when the die lands and seals our numerical fate.

In one of the timelines––let’s call it The Darkest Timeline––things go berserk thanks to some terrible luck, a Norwegian troll doll and an Indiana Jones diorama. People get hurt. Things catch on fire. Apocalyptic chaos ensues.

Thankfully we don’t live in that timeline unless you get on Twitter where apparently everybody is in a perpetual state of cataclysm. But due to a Dreamatorium created and shared by Mike and me, Darkest Timeline Gowdy has a chance on occasion to interact with our timeline. Today, I, Regular Gowdy (RG) invite Darkest Timeline Gowdy (DTG) to my house to have a debate over whether there is ever a justifiable reason for a sports fan to change their allegiance from one team to their rival.


RG: Welcome back.

DTG: Thanks for having me. How about Brady adding another Super Bowl since our last debate?

RG: We need not talk about that.

DTG: Yeah, your anti-Brady articles haven’t aged well.

RG: Disagree, but moving on…you may have heard I am moving.

DTG: I guess that means I’m moving too?

RG: I’m not sure how that works.

[Both sit in awkward confused silence for a few seconds.]

RG: Anyway, as a Chicago Cub fan for my entire post-college life, I am now going to reside in St. Louis Cardinal country. I have zero intention of switching allegiances but it has caused me to wonder if that kind of thing should ever be allowed. I have to say, my gut says a hearty NO on this one. No one should ever change sports allegiances from one team to their rival, especially as an adult.

DTG: First, I just want to point out that I doubt the Cardinals and their fans would want you. Remember your Pujols Facebook comments in 2011?

RG: Vaguely…

DTG: How he went 0-8 the first two games of the World Series and you were blathering on Facebook about how poorly he hit in the clutch and then in Game Three he hit like a dozen home runs?

RG: Clearer…

DTG: Yeah, you really know how to use social media to make athletes you hate win championships.

RG: He stopped hitting after that and I had a great Facebook post about Alberta Mendoza-line ready when they were down two runs on their last strike—twice!

DTG: But they still won. 

RG: Yes, they did. Regardless, he moved on and so did St. Louis. What I want to know is why you think I should be willing to change allegiances when these two teams are fierce rivals.

DTG: I want to be clear that I do not think you should, but that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t either.

RG: Why is that? Because I vehemently disagree.

DTG: First, because it’s sports and we take them way too seriously anyway. Second, you weren’t a Cub fan before you moved to Chicago, right?

RG: I wasn’t, but I see where you are going and it’s not the same.

DTG: You gonna tell me you didn’t root for the Braves until you moved to Chicago, at which point you switched to the Cubs?

RG: That is different for several reasons. Two gigantic ones. First, the Braves and Cubs aren’t chief rivals.

DTG: You just said rivals. Every team in the National League is basically a rival to each other.

RG: OK, but even if they are rivals, I didn’t pull for the Braves like I have for the Cubs. The Braves were a convenience pick due to geography…

DTG (under his breath): And I bet you were a charter member in 1991…

RG: I pulled for the Braves in the 80s!

DTG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dale Murphy! And who else played for them?

RG: Jeff Treadway?

DTG: [Quickly searching on his cell phone.] Barely. Baseballreference.com says he joined them in 1989.

RG: Still counts!

DTG: Just get back to your point.

RG: The Braves were a convenience pick. The Cubs were my city. They filled my heart with emotions that only the University of South Carolina had given me.

DTG: So you think you have to root for the Cubs the rest of your life?

RG: I am not saying I have to as if it were some act of volition. I’m saying I have to because my heart won’t let me do otherwise. I tried to switch to the White Sox in 2015 after I lost a bet and my heart wouldn’t let me do it.

DTG: Let’s say you could, though. Don’t you think it could be a good thing to do to join your new home and root for their team?

RG: Well, Southern Illinois has some Cubs fans…

DTG: Let’s say you moved into St. Louis then…

RG: Still would be perverse to switch.

DTG: What if you moved into St. Louis to plant a church?

RG: That makes it harder but I would have to hope that the people would understand my predicament.

DTG: I think part of your problem is that you think people’s sports rooting interests should be simple since yours are with Gamecocks for all college teams and Chicago for all pro.

RG: I do like simple sports rooting interests. You can’t tell me you like it when someone roots for the Warriors in the NBA and Duke in college basketball and Alabama in college football.

DTG: I don’t like it but I’m not the sports fan police and sometimes you have to accept that there will be people like that and it’s not worth complaining. I’m not talking about that anyway. I’m speaking to how you are about to experience something that others have experienced multiple times: moving. It makes it hard to have simple rooting interests when you’ve moved seven times in your life.

RG: I don’t deny that…

DTG: And then there are people who live in cities, like Nashville, that only have a couple of pro teams. What are they supposed to do for the NBA and MLB? And what about people who live in the middle of nowhere who love pro sports?

RG: You are getting away from the original point, though. Even if I’ve moved seven times I can’t root for Florida the first move and then the Vols the second move and then Georgia the next. It’s ludicrous to even imagine that.

DTG: What if you lived in Boston eight years and then New York for 30? You’re telling me that you would stick with the Red Sox because they came first? Chronology doesn’t mean preeminence.

RG: You’re making this too nuanced. How would I know how long I’m going to live in each place?

DTG: People know that all the time!

RG: I think integrity demands you find a team as a teen, or as a young adult at the latest, and stick with them.

DTG: Like you did with the Braves…

RG: OK. Post College at the latest. There can be exceptions but they need to be extreme.

DTG: I’ve given extreme exceptions and you just shoot them down. Why can’t you just admit you think everyone should do what you do? Like you are some great North Star.

RG: I don’t think that. My thesis is simple: Don’t—as an adult—change sports allegiances to a rival, especially a chief rival.

DTG: I still think you should root for the Cardinals once you move. They have knowledgable fans, a storied history, and no stupid song or flag they parade after they win.

RG: I’m going to miss singing “Go Cubs Go” with 38,000 other people. And that flag is awesome!

DTG: Chicago is always trying so hard, coming in third in big cities in the US. Which reminds me, do you know what would make a great Christmas movie? A New York cop in a Los Angeles hotel…

RG: GET OUT.

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of the bilingual ministry of Northwest Community Church in Chicago. Our church is intentional in trying to bring English and Spanish speakers together in worship and community. As of July 1st of this year I will be the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married almost four years and just welcomed our first child into the world, Liam Erasmus. I have taught ESL (English as a Second Language) classes for 12 years, first to adult immigrants in my community and now to Chinese children. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

7 thoughts on “Is It Ever OK to Change Sports Allegiances To A Rival? A Ridiculous Debate

  • April 24, 2019 at 11:19 am
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    Come on over, Gowdy. The water is fine in Cardinal nation.

    Reply
    • April 25, 2019 at 2:59 pm
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      Due mainly to going to Bible College, I think I know more Card fans than Cubs fans. Though that is in part to Chicago being divided (not evenly) between Cubs and White Sox. Either way, the legion of St. Louis fans everywhere I’ve been is impressive

      Reply
  • April 24, 2019 at 12:23 pm
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    Very nice. I think I would have to go with “you shouldn’t change on a whim, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t ever change.”

    That said, it’s up to you. I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading about the follow-up to whatever decision you make (or an ongoing struggle to just make the decision; either way, it’ll be interesting).

    Reply
    • April 25, 2019 at 3:02 pm
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      I have always found the “rules” people come up with for sports fandom very interesting, even if some people are prudes about it. I am serious above that I’ll never get the “pull for winners in every sport” game, but apart from that, there isn’t much I don’t think is fair game. Especially, as mentioned above, people who have had to move a lot or don’t live in a place like Chicago. I detoured from the main discussion on purpose to make that point, precisely because I have so many friends who qualify for that. And I actually have essentially zero friends at htis point in my life who pull for all winners. That was something a few teenagers I knew in high school did. And I wasn’t even that close to them.

      Reply
  • April 25, 2019 at 2:00 pm
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    This is fantastic!

    Reply
    • April 25, 2019 at 3:03 pm
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      Thanks! As long as people like it, I think I’ll try to find a new debate every 8-9 months I can have with myself. I’ve done one literature and two sports. I think I’ll try theology next.

      Reply

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