The rules of arbitrarily picking a team

Ben Roethlisberger - Not pretty

As much as I love my footy (AFL) and cricket, I’m probably almost more of a generic sports nut. Put a sport on TV and within 5 minutes I’ve probably decided who I want to win and why, especially team sports. And with the world series on, the NFL and NBA seasons both underway (and being shown on One HD!), UEFA Champions League being played there are ample opportunities to watch games that you have no earthly reason to get excited about, but for the fact that it’s a competition and just 10 minutes ago you decided you had someone here to cheer for.

With that in mind, I offer you the following rules. These have been tested over many meaningless contests, and while they will likely give you a less than 50% winning ratio in two-horse-races, they do guarantee a vaguely satisfied feeling when you’re recently aquired team happens to sneak the win. Except where otherwise specified, an earlier rule trumps a later rule: ie – Rule 1 is unbreakable, and overrules any later rules,

Rule 1: No “Collingwoods”

Also known as the “No Yankees”, “No Lakers”, “No Manchester Uniteds” rule. You can’t support the team with all the money and all the supporters. There’s no satisfaction in that. There’s no glory. That just makes you a sell out, supporting the team with the most money and the least heart. I broke this rule once: as an 11 year old in a foreign land and opted to support Manchester United out of a self-preservation instinct. To this day I am ashamed at my weakness of spirit. It’s not OK.

Rule 2:  A team that could hurt a “Collingwood”

I can’t emphasise enough how key it is that the “Collingwoods” of this world are brought down. So while this rule is less frequently invoked, it remains the second most important rule. In the event that the result of the game you are watching can have a negative impact on a “Collingwood” as defined in Rule 1, then you ought to barrack the the side who is able to inflict damage to that team. Naturally this only comes into play at the end of a season, or perhaps in a group phase of a cup competition: there’s no point choosing a team just because they’ll go a spot above in the middle of the season. The only other addition to this rule is that when a franchise team has an ugly duckling team in the same geographical area – thou must cheer for them. For that reason, teams such as the LA Clippers, or until recently (when a huge injection of funds rendered them to also be a “Collingwood”) Manchester City should automatically have your support – in order that the bigger brother might be shamed. This does not hold true in the event that the sister team wears purple (eg. Fremantle Dockers, Minnesota Vikings).

Rule 3: The underdog

If there is one thing that is sacred, it is the role of the horrendously unlikely underdog. The best example of this would be in FA Cup finals. Because of the nature of the FA Cup, in some rare circumstances you can have a lower division team who has managed to sneak into the biggest day on the English Football calendar. In that instance it is your duty to cheer your heart out for that team. Hasn’t worked yet. But that’s not to say that this strategy never sees any success, in 2002 the first Superbowl I’ve ever watched saw rank outsiders New England Patriots beat the  St Louis “14 point favourites” Rams, and do it in a last play of the game field goal from quite a decent way out. That allegiance for the underdog gave me the superbowl winner in another two Superbowls since then, as well as a very almost perfect season.

Rule 4:  The “Personal Connection” team

Once you still don’t have a team after adhering to Rules 1, 2 and 3,  you are left with the choice that comes down to somewhat more frivolous matters. Once stopped off in the airport of a team? It’s totally OK to choose that team over the other. Does one team have an Australian player/assistant coach/water boy? That could be your farnarkling team for life. Have a friend that goes for one team – probably best that you go for the other team, lest you be left with nobody to rib over your newly found teams superiority.

But always remember

There is one additional principle that must be held truly sacred: once you have chosen a team, that team must always be held above the team you have not chosen. The endgame is that you might eventually have a clear heirarchy of teams in your mind: for instance watching the NFL post-season I was cheering heartily for the Arizona Cardinals (had Ben Graham in their side) and the Pittsburg Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger is the least pretty boy Quarterback in history) all the way to the Superbowl, and was then forced to make a choice. Suffice to say I was lucky that my dislike for Cardinal’s quarterback Kurt Warner was enough to have me choose the Steelers, and I managed another Superbowl win. But the next time these two teams play, there is no longer a decision to be made: even if Roethlisberger was traded to Arizona for Warner, you have to stick with your decisions.

So there you have it, consider yourself ready to go out into the sporting world and find meaning in otherwise pointless contests. Or if you have any additions/suggestions for the rules, I’d be glad to hear it. Just as long as you don’t barrack for Collingwood.

7 Replies to “The rules of arbitrarily picking a team”

  1. nah – this is one of those posts that has been brewing for a while – it’s onto about its seventh or eighth addition before I finally finished it. The product of many lunch-breaks.

  2. Very good rundown of a series of supremely important life decisions.

    I started going for the Saints in 1987 because the lead singer of my favourite band of the time Weddings, Parties, Anything was a Saints fan. Obviously I didn’t do much research on that one. 23 years of pain.

    I was born just outside of Liverpool, England so started going for them as soon as I heard Liverpool and soccer associated.

    I changed my WAFL team from East Fremantle to Subiaco around 2000 because a friend started playing for them and I started going and watching them.

    I like the purple rule.

    1. The “additional principle” is the one that stung me. I became a Tigers’ supporter because my grandmother (who supported the Bulldogs) gave me a pair of Richmond socks. There’s a lifetime of pain right there.

      Wondering if I should have made the purple rule a rule all by itself.

  3. Just have to say, I’m very happy for the inclusion of the purple rule. Otherwise I might find my arbitrary choice of AFL team doesn’t comply with your arbitrary rules 😉

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