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Root for the Home Team

March 5, 2012

There is nothing quite like singing “Root, root, root for the RED SOX” during the seventh inning stretch at Fenway Park.  I wonder about the visiting fans, not of the team we’re playing but those fans who are there just to experience Fenway, perhaps for the first time, I wonder if they join in.  I’d like to think that they do, because, why not, it’s fun rooting for the home team.

Before the NFC Championship game, I had an interesting chat on this subject with my cousin, Kate, who lives in San Francisco.  Kate is a Patriots fan, but her husband, Peter, has taken to rooting for the 49ers and did so against the Giants that Sunday—sorry Peter.  I told Kate that while they probably shouldn’t tell the Uncles that Peter has become a Niners fan, in reality it’s fine because you should always root for the home team when you can.  Kate liked how I qualified that statement, “when you can”, and she offered this example: if she and Peter were to move to Brooklyn, it would not be acceptable for them to root for the Yankees.  Exactly, I replied, because as Red Sox fans that would be prohibited.

However, take Joe and me.  We live in Los Angeles, so as Red Sox fans we’re not going to root for the Angels, but we see no problem with rooting for the Dodgers.  It would be totally fine if we, hypothetically, went to see a game at Dodgers Stadium and bought a Manny Ramirez shirt and cried a little when he stepped up to the plate.  That’s all perfectly fine.  Unless of course, the Dodgers are playing the Red Sox.  In those rare occasions, we’re not going to feel any remorse when the Sox pummel them or when Bard strikes Manny out to end the game—that was so great, wasn’t it!

But back to football and the Giants.

The year I lived in New York was great—during football season.  I can still remember the feeling I had.  The first game of the season.  It was a beautiful fall day, a type of fall day that can only happen in New York City; I was wearing my favorite Giants t-shirt and I finally felt like I was home.   That feeling was short lived.  A month or so later, when Aaron Boone crushed my and every other Red Sox fan’s dreams with one swing of the bat, New York felt a little less like home.

When the ball hit the ground in the end zone and the ref signaled incomplete, a few Sundays ago, it was a strangely similar feeling to me standing on the streets of New York that October night trying to hail a cab.  That night everyone around me was joyous and I just wanted to go home, get into my lofted bed, cover my head with a blanket and imagine a world where Grady took Pedro out.  A few weeks ago, we were the joyous ones, but we were distinctly aware that right across the street our neighbors were the ones wishing they were in bed dreaming of a world were Wes Welker caught the ball.

A brief aside.  I feel bad writing that about Wes Welker, because I strongly believe that if you blame Wes Welker after everything he has done for the Patriots then you’re crazy.  Okay, aside over.

We knew our cheers wouldn’t drown out all the groans.  Even though we were at home, rooting for our team—that had just won the Super Bowl—we paused for a moment to acknowledge that almost everyone else we knew was miserable.  Then, of course, we went right back to celebrating; but still it was hard to shake the feeling that we were out of place, like when I was standing out on 22nd trying to get a cab before those New Yorkers realized who and what I was.  As New Englanders who are Giants fans, we know, no matter how much we wish things were different, that we are guests in another team’s territory.

Though that wasn’t always the case.  Before 1960, the Giants were the closest thing to a home team that someone living in Providence, Rhode Island, had.  When the Patriots came along many people became fans and that’s fine.  They chose to root for the home team and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But we couldn’t do it.   Too much blood, sweat and tears had been shed for the Giants and there was no turning back.  As my father once wrote, “We were Giants fans then and Giants fans we’ve remained.”

We never blamed anyone for becoming a Patriots fan, but, for whatever reason, Giants fans were blamed for not becoming Patriots fans.  Fairness aside, this is the reason why, prior to 2007, most people didn’t understand why we couldn’t root for the Patriots.  They weren’t archrivals.  They didn’t play in the same conference.  So the aforementioned examples would seem to suggest that one could be a Giants fan and still be able to occasionally root for the Patriots.

I would love to find out if, prior to ’07, any Patriots fans felt about the Giants the way I feel about the Dodgers or Peter feels about the 49ers—a harmless team that you don’t mind rooting for if you happen to find yourself in their home, because, why not—it is, after all, fun rooting for the home team.

If any such Patriots fan existed, I think it’s pretty safe to say they don’t any longer.  The Giants-Patriots rivalry has always existed for me, but now it’s not just in my head, it’s real.  Perhaps now people will get it—Patriots fans will get it—finally my existence will be justified.  Yeah, I’m not holding my breath.

Plus, things happen the way they are supposed to happen.  If Grady Little had taken Pedro Martinez out and the Red Sox went to the World Series, maybe even won the World Series, then we would have never had the joy of watching the greatest comeback of all time.

For Giants fans who didn’t grow up in New England or who don’t live there now, 42 and 46 are simply great Super Bowl wins, but for me and my family there is an added layer of accomplishment, of redemption, that wouldn’t exist without all the pain and suffering.

Every time the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, it becomes easier for me to root for the Patriots.  Well, I don’t know if I would go that far; it becomes easier for me not to cringe every time they win.  You certainly won’t find me innocently humming along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” while in Gillette Stadium, not that they would be playing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at Gillette or during a football game, but you get what I mean.  I’m all for rooting for the home team.  When you can.  To the Giants fans living in New England and to the Patriots fans living in New York: we’re off the hook.  Plus, at the end of the day, we will always have the Red Sox.


If you would like to read more about the plight of the “divided fan,” check out Jim Donaldson’s article, “Once in a blue moon, a Giant divide for fans,” from the Providence Journal, on our new Press page.

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