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Don't Call it a Bandwagon: Diary of a Transplanted Sports Fan

Why is it that people think and refer to you as a "bandwagon fan" if you support a team from an area other than where you were born or currently live? Becoming a fan can happen in so many ways, including family ties, maybe someplace where you once lived, etc.; now, of course, jumping on a successful team's "bandwagon" could definitely be one reason, but how about we don't assume that's why someone follows a certain team. How about we just...ask people how they became a fan of their teams instead? Well, even though no one asked me, I think I'll just tell you why anyway. But first, I need to list out all the teams that I root for:

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that, even though they aren't listed, when it comes to Soccer, my favorite team to watch is the U.S. Women's National Team (Our 4-time World Cup Champions). But anyway, the sports listed above are the ones I watch regularly; Basketball really isn't one of them, so I don't have an NBA team. I grew up in a family that loves sports and so from a very young age, I was always watching them. Here's a little bit of background information about myself before I explain why I've chosen to support each of the above listed teams over the years. I was born in New Jersey in October 1991 and grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but I currently live in the great state of Texas, just north of Austin.

So, let's start with my favorite sport, FOOTBALL (NFL)! I bet you're all very curious as to how I became a New England Patriots fan, especially because I've never even been up to that area. Well, as I said, I was born in 1991 and as I grew, so did my love for Football. My Mom's family is full of huge Philadelphia Eagles fans and she herself is an avid New York Giants fan. In fact, I was dressed in a Giants onesie after I was born. Because of this, I'm sure you can Imagine my Mom's disappointment when I wound up becoming a Patriots fan. Of course, she got sweet her revenge when the Giants beat the Patriots in TWO different Super Bowls. Excuse me while I go cry about the pain of those games yet again!

In the early stages of my love affair with Football, I'd usually root against whatever team my Brother was pulling for because, I mean...what else are siblings for?! In fact. I remember betting him $0.10 that the Denver Broncos would beat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII (January 1998) just because he was rooting for the Packers. I was in elementary school at the time, so don't laugh at the $0.10 bet, that's a lot of money to a 6 year old! Of course, I won that bet, as the Broncos beat the Packers 31-24. My Brother actually grew up to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so our sibling rivalry lives on. I didn't understand much about Football at the time other than the fact that I enjoyed watching it and so did my family. As I grew to understand the sport more, one team began to grab my attention: the Patriots, of course!

In September 2001, I remember watching Drew Bledsoe getting hurt in a game against the New York Jets and seeing Tom Brady enter in his place, but at that time I was just watching the Pats and not necessarily cheering for them. Still, as the team began to string together some wins, they got my attention. For some reason, I seemed to be sick on Super Bowl Sunday EVERY single year as a kid. So, while I was sick in bed watching alone, I saw Tom Brady and the Patriots dominate Super Bowls throughout the early 2000's; as a result, my love for them blossomed. I had started to understand Football more by this point and decided to become a dedicated Pats fan. Fun fact: I was sick for almost every Patriots Super Bowl win (as mentioned before) but wasn't sick the years they lost. Coincidentally enough, the Super Bowl that I recall being the most sick for was Super Bowl LI, when Tom Brady and the Patriots completed one of the greatest comebacks of all-time against Atlanta. Unfortunately, I was so sick that I missed a lot of that game and had to resort to watching highlights (sigh).

My Mom, although a Giants fan, bought me my first Tom Brady jersey when I was 12 years old and I was ecstatic! My husband bought me my current jersey, which was sorely needed due to my first one starting to look a bit ragged, at the age of 24 (12 years later). Tom Brady, of course, wears the number 12 -- hey, I'm seeing a trend here! Unfortunately, Brady left the Patriots this past March to play for Tampa Bay and I'm still bitter (but also wish him well). However, even though I've been a fan of the Patriots for 20 years now, people still question the legitimacy of my fandom or simply call me a "bandwagon fan." They seem surprised that I know who the team's Quarterback was before Brady. *Eyes rolling* They also seem surprised that I know anything about Football because of my gender. *More eye rolling*

I love my Patriots onesie!

There's not so elaborate of a story regarding why I cheer for UT, though. I actually don't watch a lot of College Football, but I root for the University of Texas (in Austin) Longhorns because my husband does. I went to a Division III college, Texas Lutheran University, so their sports aren't televised (Go Bulldogs!) Coincidentally enough, it was during my undergrad college years that my love for D.C. United sprouted. I've loved Soccer since I started playing in 2006 (Thank you Kristian for forcing me to join the team), but never really selected a team to support. I enjoyed watching the National teams play more at that time; I guess that's still true, because I'd choose to watch the USWNT over any other Soccer team, men's or women's.

But anyway, I spent a semester of college in D.C. (kind of like a study abroad, except I didn't get to leave the country). I fell in love with the area immediately and of course had to find a few live sporting events to watch while I was there. When my sister in-law was in D.C. for work, I flew out there to visit her and got us front row tickets to a D.C. United match. At this time, I was definitely a fan, but I didn't watch them religiously like I did the Patriots. The game was so exciting and a ton of fun -- we even got to see a penalty kick! Now, I've adopted D.C. United as my MLS Men's team and will watch them play on a regular basis.

The reasons why I root for the Houston Dash in Women’s Soccer are very similar to why I root for D.C. -- now, I haven't yet been to a game to see them in person, but I did start watching them regularly on TV (for a long time their games weren't televised, which was very irritating). I chose to support this team because I currently live in Texas and it will be easier to eventually see them play in person than if I had chosen the Chicago Red Stars or the Orlando Pride, for example. I mean, I've been a fan of the Patriots for 20 years and have still only seen them play once in person. That one occasion was last season in Houston, not Foxborough and, to make things worse, the Patriots lost! It's definitely on my bucket list to see a Patriots home game at Gillette Stadium, because that atmosphere is like nothing else. But hey, at least I got to see Brady play with the Patriots at least once, even if they lost.

The last two sports that I'll talk about, Hockey and Baseball, have very similar stories. I'm a fan of both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia Phillies because of my Grandpa. I have so many great memories of watching these teams play with him; he taught my brother and I everything there was to know about each sport, too. When I go and visit my Grandparents, I make sure to watch sports with him because not only does it bring back all those great memories, but it also creates new ones. I've only seen the Phillies play live once and I've never had the chance to attend a Flyers game, but I watch them all on TV! Since Hockey is back and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are now underway, GO FLYERS! Beat the Habs!

I'm blessed to work for such a great city in general, but sometimes they sweeten the deal by providing us with free tickets to Minor League games for both Hockey and Baseball. So, because of that, I cheer for the Texas Stars (Hockey) and the Round Rock Express (Baseball). Both teams are very close to where I live; growing up, though, I was a die hard Harrisburg Senators fan. I even received my first baseball at a Senators game -- although it was from the visiting team who'd won the game, I didn't care because they signed the ball for me! Sports have truly given me so many amazing memories and have made such a positive impact on my life. So, as you can see, I'm a fan of several different teams for just as many different reasons, but they're all very special to me. I am definitely not a "bandwagoner."

This pandemic took sports away from us for a while and that was a very dark few months for sure. Finally, though, we have Hockey, Basketball and Baseball back! It's great to see some of our teams in action again at a time when we could all really use them. And, since Football starts in one month, all I have to say is LFG PATRIOTS!! (we still get to use that phase, Tom)

- Haley


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