On Sunday night I watched with chagrin as my beloved New
England Patriots football team forfeited all hope of a perfect,
Cinderella season with a loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Perhaps
the pain of envisioning Eli Manning celebrating on his way to Disney World
would have been slightly less abrasive had there been a few fellow Bostonians
to commiserate. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by a room full of native New
Yorkers, Long Islanders, and New Jerseyites.
This fateful scenario got me thinking about the geography of
sports teams fan affiliations. While the love of sport may be universal, team
loyalties are decidedly regional–in most cases, that is. Of course, you have
the émigrés, those of us who have relocated, whether temporarily or
permanently, to a new region of the country but maintain our hometown spirit. For
instance, it’s no surprise that in a Washington, D.C. apartment of recent college
graduates there’d be a healthy smattering of Northeast sports fans.
Then, there are those magical teams whose appeal somehow
transcends traditional regional boundaries and manages to captivate a broader
audience. My friend from Trinidad and Tobago is a diehard supporter of the
Manchester United soccer club in England, arguably the most popular
team in the world. It’s amazing to me how strong sports loyalties are. You’ll
often hear terms like “nation” (as in “Red Sox Nation”) used to describe fans
as a very real parallel to citizens of a unified state. And just like a state,
loyalties are defined by a combination of geographic, political, and cultural
boundaries. Now that is worth
scrutinizing through a geographic lens.
Here’s a website to get you started thinking geographically
about sports: CommonCensus.org is a project to effectively conduct a census of
sports fans across the U.S. They don’t, however, endeavor to provide explanations for the patterns. That
task, I suppose, will be left up to us as geographers!
Tell Us: Where is
your hometown, and who are your favorite sports teams?
Sarah for My Wonderful World