Saturday, January 17, 2015

Moving Lions, Tigers, and Bears. Oh my.

Posted By on Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 7:48 AM

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Apparently, there are people who don’t get excited when their home-town NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL franchise take to the field, court, diamond or ice – unbelievable, right? What’s not to like about sport? How can you not get excited about tapping in to the fellowship of fans supporting your local team?

Well, America has made that quite easy, actually.

Did you know that in the past 100 years or so, looking at just the NFL, NBA, MLB, over 60 teams have relocated to other cities and, in most instances, to other states, some teams more than once? In at least one instance (Montreal Expos, please step forward) a team has jumped the border to a different country altogether.

Moves often lead to new expansion teams taking the original teams place. However, some of those expansion teams then also moved.

Whilst considering this phenomenon that occurs so frequently in North America, lets' also explore if it exists elsewhere, specifically, for the sake of convenience, where I’m originally from, England.

Nope, it doesn’t happen in England. Let me elaborate, it rarely happens in England.

Football — adorably termed "soccer" stateside — the world’s most popular sport, has been in existence for over 150 years. You can count on the fingers of one hand how many English football teams have moved from within 10 miles of their original ground in that time — and even rolling in the redheaded stepchildren of English sport, the Rugby League and Rugby Union — you’d still be left more fingers than the single digit I employ to hunt and peck my way around a keyboard. The same is true throughout Europe; team-relocation in Spain, Holland, Germany, Italy, etc. is almost unheard of.

So, whilst American pro sports teams flit from coast to coast, why have their European counterparts doggedly clung to the same post-code for the past century and a half?

Having grown up and lived the life of an English football fan, I can confidently submit to you a singular suggestion, a single word in fact: pride. A true, hard-core, woven-in-to-the-DNA type of pride.

Your team is your tribe in England, but more than that it was your father’s tribe, your grandfather’s tribe and more than likely his father’s tribe, too. Your team is of its town; it’s as a river or a mountain or any other immovable, inscrutable aspect of the local landscape. To betray that, either as an owner or as a fan — as demonstrated on a handful of rare occasions — is unforgivable.

Look at American college football, for a long time it confused me. How were colleges filling stadiums with 100,000 people? These aren’t pros, they aren’t superstars, they’re just kids! When I played soccer for my college team back in England, we were lucky if four people showed up to watch us – luckier still if you knew any of them. (They were mostly people just out walking their dogs through the park.) But now I finally understand the appeal of American college football; it’s as singular as that of professional soccer back in England and the aspects that define it can be similarly categorized under the word "pride."

I realized some time ago that trying to understand why professional sports teams in America move around so much was pointless. Maybe I don’t understand the respective sports well enough, but even if I did, I have a mentality towards what sports fandom is that would surely rebel against any proposed rationale.

I focus on where the pride is. Not "pride" represented by a t-shirt or a baseball cap or a bumper sticker, but that which resides in the hearts of the local people. I’d submit that wherever in the world sport is played, not just in America or England, that which fuels the fans’ passion more than anything else, makes the enjoyment of watching it so great, the agony of defeat so devastating and the ecstasy of victory so overwhelming, is pride. Real, communal pride that spans generations and is forever rooted in a community.

Broncos, please don’t go anywhere.

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for the past 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer, hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett.

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