(Originally published on my blog at jericsmith.com on January 2, 2004, re-printed on hearing that Steve McNair was shot to death today. What a senseless, tragic end to the life and career of one of my favorite professional athletes.)
I think I’m a reasonably typical sports fan in that my team preferences were set when I was a kid, I generally root now for the same teams I did 30 years ago, and my father’s tastes played a key role in me liking who I liked. And like. Growing up in North Carolina in the ’40s, my dad always pulled for sports teams from Washington, DC, since at the time that was the closest city with major league baseball and football teams. So I grew up as a Washington sports fan, too, both because of my father’s influence and because I spent a good chunk of my early childhood in Northern Virginia while my dad was stationed at either Quantico or Headquarters Marine Corps.
One of the first significant sporting events I can remember actively watching was the Redskins-Dolphins Superbowl that capped Miami’s perfect season. (My Dad let me stay up late to watch. He was good about that, having me come watch sporting events that, years later, I’d be glad I saw, whether I appreciated them at the time or not. So I saw Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth’s record, watched the last three Triple Crown winning Belmont races, saw the Dolphins cap their perfect season, etc.) (Although, just for the record, the Dolphins, to this day, are probably my least favorite team in the NFL, with the possible exception of the Dallas Cowboys). I pulled for the NBA Washington Wizards back when they were the Capital Bullets. I’ve been pulling for the Washington Capitals since they joined the NHL. Since Washington lost its second Senators franchise around the time that I was getting interested in sports, I instead adopted the Kansas City Royals as my favorite baseball team when we moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, when I was in sixth grade.
I still follow and pull for the Royals, the Wizards and the Caps, despite years and years of futility for all three franchises, but somewhere over the past few years, I’ve lost any visceral connection to or feelings for the Redskins. In fact, if I pay attention to them at all these days, it’s probably to subliminally root against them, since I just really dislike just about everything about the franchise these days, from the owner to the coach to their featured players. I think it all went down hill for me when Dan Snyder, Marty Shottenheimer and Jeff George (my least favorite owner, coach and player respectively) all hit the team around the same time, inflicting major bad juju and wicked karma upon them that will probably take generations to erase. Nevermind the offensiveness of their name, which gets harder and harder to swallow as years go on and other franchises recognize that tradition is no excuse for offensiveness.
So I figure it’s time for a formal declaration of renunciation: I, J. Eric Smith, do hereby declare that I am no longer a fan of the Washington Redskins, and will not hop back on their bandwagon should they become good again sometime during my lifetime (however unlikely that may be). I preserve my fond memories of Redskin Superbowls, coaches and players past, but henceforth and forevermore will treat those memories and the emotions associated with them as nostalgia, having no bearing on the current or future fortunes of the franchise. I completely divest my emotional attachment to the franchise, and will mark their progress with only the same passing interest that I apply to the fortunes of other such inconsequential teams as the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans or San Diego Chargers.
But now: who do I pull for? Who do I adopt? It’s gotta be a team from the Southeast, just to stay true to my roots. I live up north, but am never gonna get excited about the Patriots or Bills or Giants or Jets. It can’t be Atlanta, because that’s my least favorite city in the south. Miami? Puh-leeze. Jacksonville? Well . . . that’s actually the NFL city closest to my homeland in the coastal Southern tip of South Carolina, but it’s also in Florida, and Florida’s is part of the south, I guess . . . but not really, if you know what I mean. (A state with “South of the Border” in it is the South. A state with Disney World and EPCOT Center and all those other theme parks is some sort of international human nature preserve). So that rules out Tampa Bay too. I could pull for Carolina, of course, but they’re based in Charlotte, my second least favorite city in the South. So ix-nay to them.
So the answer becomes obvious, both by process of elimination and process of choosing the team that features my favorite active professional football player: Steve McNair. So henceforth and yea verily and quid pro quo and forsooth let it be known that I, J. Eric Smith, hereby adopt the Tennessee Titans as my favorite football team, and will stick with them in sickness and in health, and will not jump off their bandwagon when things go sour for them.
Unless, of course, Dan Snyder buys them. Or George Steinbrenner. Then all bets are off. But barring that, go Titans! My team!