Thursday, January 18, 2007

Up yours, Hickory High

Hoosiers is the quintessential sports movie and serves as a blueprint for the genre. A group of scrappy overachievers rally behind a curmudgeonly coach, overcoming incredible odds to win it all. Sports movies may add other artificial flavors and fillers into the recipe: ill-conceived love interests, ill-received Ben Stiller characters, or freakish hybrids of Adam Sandler characters that result in illness. But no matter what plot points are used to pad the second act, the climax almost always results in the undermanned and undersized squad triumphing over a team that has more talent, more size, and, in the case of Hickory High's foes, a lot more melanin. We the audience want that underdog to win every time.

Nobody ever writes a feel-good story about the other denizens of the Hoosierverse: the fans of the favorite, the people rooting for those underdogs to get squashed like grapes so that the parroting sports reporters can shove their feel-good story where miracles on ice don’t shine. As far as the audience is concerned, those assholes can fuck off and die.

Well, this weekend, I unfortunately will be one of those assholes fucking off and/or dying.

On Sunday, the Chicago Bears square off against the New Orleans Saints, also known as America’s/God’s/Vishnu’s/Branjolina’s Team. The airwaves are aflutter about how amazing it will be for the Saints—a franchise second only to the Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona/TBD Cardinals for ineptitude—to win the Super Bowl the season after Hurricane Katrina. That it would be an incredible ending for the 2006 season. That, as former Saints QB Bobby Hebert said on Mike and Mike in the Morning today, it would be the greatest ending in the history of sports. In your face, USA Hockey!!!

Now, I wish the city of New Orleans nothing but the best. My dear friends PJKM and her trusty husband/ghostwriter TMiddy went through the hell of Katrina. I want NOLA to get everything it needs to be restored to its former publicly intoxicated glory.

Against any other team, on any other day, I’d be right there rooting for the Hickory Saints. I am truly glad the Saints have had a great season. They and their fans deserve it. I lived in New Orleans in 1980 when the ‘Aints won only one game and the fans started the illustrious tradition of wearing bags over their heads to games. The 2006 season would have meant a ton to the city before Hurricane Katrina. Now, the meaning is off the charts. As Hebert asked, how can you not get swept up by this story?

Here’s how: If you’re a fan of the other side. I’ve been a Bears fan since I was wearing my Walter Payton pajamas, complete with footies. I’ve read George “Papa Bear” Halas’ autobiography twice, owned a copy of “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” played it willingly, and have waited 21 years for the opportunity to play it again without the cover of irony. If a giant comet was heading toward Earth and the only way humanity could be saved would be for the Bears to lose Sunday, I would think, “Hey, at least we’ll go out winners.”

In short, I don’t want the Saints fans getting their Muffuletta-stained hands on the Lombardi trophy. I have compassion, I have kindness, and I have charity. But this is football.

Still, I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. I thought the Philadelphia Eagles would do the dirty work for me. The Eagle nation were the perfect playoff hitmen. After all, there’s a reason they used to have a court below Philly’s Veteran’s Stadium. We’re talking about fans that cheered when Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending spinal injury at the Vet. Fans that booed Santa Claus. You don’t think they’d be at the state finals in Indianapolis, making fun of Dennis Hopper’s drinking problem while yelling, “Hickory dickory dock, Hoosiers can suck my....”

The Eagles almost pulled it off, but in the end, they couldn’t beat this team of destiny, in part because the ol’ Philly mojo apparently rubbed off on Saints fans—specifically their T-shirts:

So be it. Saints coach Sean Payton gets to play Gene Hackman, QB Drew Brees gets to play Jimmy Chitwood, and I get to play the role of Cobag Bears Fan #1. It’s not a role I’m relishing, but it’s one I was born to play. And let's face it, playing the bad guy is often more fun than playing the hero. I may even grow a bad mustache and throw on some blue and orange zubaz pants to get into character:

There is one silver lining to having an entire nation root against you: it has been a learning experience. Now I understand what it feels like to be a Yankee fan.


Hope V said...

How dare you mention the
Yankees in what was an otherwise stellar post!?! :)

I get your point (although in my city you wouldnt know that the whole world is rooting against them because there are FAR FAR too many Traitor Yankee Fans in the City That Is Supposed to Hate Them) but Booooooooo.

Anyway, I digress...Horrid Yankee Reference Aside...I agree that it would suck to be the person rooting against the Saints- I'm sure that would make you one of the devils minions as far as most people are concerned. But being that my team already lost, I really don't care one way or the other, so root on man. Root on. Just don't mention the Yankees again.

almostinfamous said...

when someone says superbowl, i think of a large serving of soup, preferably tortilla.

Churlita said...

If you need some back-up, you can hang with my daughter. She'll be at my house, screaming at the TV and thinking every call against the Bears is a bad call.

Brendan said...

Another reason to root for the Bears is that if the Saints win, you know, YOU KNOW, that W will try to claim credit for it.

Neel Mehta said...

Good post. I really never thought about the despair of the favored team's fans. I guessed I assumed they'd be witnesses to a great game.

I have no sentimental tie to the Bears, but I decided at the end of last season that they'd be the next champion.

More to the point, I have no sentimental tie to the Saints either. It's nice that local fans have a small bit of escapism, and I don't begrudge them the desire to keep it going as long as possible, but it doesn't really make a difference to the city come the second week of February.

I'm much more interested in the Colts-Patriots game, but only for reasons I explain over at Brevity.

Brando said...

It's been a little weird being on the other side. I know people hated the Super Bowl Shuffle and all that Bears hype, but I don't remember an entire nation rooting for the Pats to win Super Bowl XX, or for the LA Rams or New York Giants to beat the Bears in the playoffs. The only other team I can think of that faces that is the Yankees. And maybe the Cowboys. But I apologize for the NYY reference, Hope ;-)

aif, you're getting it confused with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl! That is actually played in a giant edible taco shell.

Chrulita, she will probably hear me, especially if the Bears lose.

Brendan, the only reason I am rooting for the Saints is so it can remind everyone how much W screwed up.

Neel, it's never a great game when your team loses. I'm sure Oklahoma fans aren't thinking, "Wow, it was so amazing we blew it against Boise St."

I hate sports.

almostinfamous said...

Neel, it's never a great game when your team loses

unless you're watching cricket. cause it's a gentleman's sport unlike your violent american ones.

Brendan said...

The reason no one argues over cricket is that no one, but no one, really understands the rules.

It's embarrassment, not politeness, that's carrying the day here.

Brando said...

Oh aif, that sportsmanship and lack of compound fractures is so quaint.

My evolution into a liberal failed to quell my desire for blood 21 Sundays a year.

almostinfamous said...

blogger ate my sarcasm tags... they were there, i swear.

and i think about 800 million indians disagree with you, brendan.

also, cricketers get plenty beat up. that's why they wear all that sstuff that makes them look like ducks.