On January 2nd, 2011, I cried on the floor of my father’s Los Angeles apartment. I was twelve years old, and the Seattle Seahawks had driven the nail into the coffin that was the St. Louis Rams’ playoff hopes. At this point in my young life, the only thing I cared about was the Rams. But being a Rams fan in LA at this time was a complicated affair. A cloud of animosity had hung over the city since the team’s move to St. Louis (which happened four years before my birth). Fans felt betrayed—the first professional team to ever reside in Los Angeles up and left after 57 years.
To make matters worse, besides a couple of fruitful years, the Rams were the worst team in football. For a long time. They were an easy team to hate. And when you are a kid supporting a lousy team that no one likes, especially when that team is the only thing you talk about, you put a target on your back. But I didn’t care. They were my team. At that time I felt they were mine and mine alone.
The love affair with the midwestern traitors began at five. My older brother’s Pop Warner team was the Temple City Rams and my Mom, being supportive, went to every practice, game, and team event. Which meant I went to every practice, game, and team event. I didn’t mind because, like most younger siblings, I worshipped my older brother. I would steal his “Rams” practice shirts and shorts and wear them myself. I felt like one of the team, like a Ram. Eventually, a simple entanglement became a lifelong obsession at the end of the season when I received a trophy for “team mascot” at the team dinner. Over the course of the season, I had become the embodiment of the Temple City Rams franchise and didn’t realize it.
From then on everything was Rams. Every gift I got, everything I watched, every sentence out of my mouth revolved around St. Louis Rams football. I was them and I felt they were me. As I got older, it became clear that my love of the Rams was not shared and the ties became stronger. It made me feel unique. There was this thing that I felt so passionately about that no one else shared. None of my friends, my family, the players themselves didn’t seem interested in being Rams. It was purely mine. As an adult, that sentiment persists. I still reside in Los Angeles, and even though they have come home to me, this feeling of ownership still lives.
Like myself, we are all in a relationship with our teams. These are institutions in which we, as fans, place a lot of emotional value. We invest ourselves in these organizations, brandishing their logos with pride because they mean something to us. They represent a culture that we belong to. Someone’s favorite franchise is the entryway into a person’s life. Why we pick our teams is often rooted in who we are -- best exemplified when the team exists in a land far, far away. It is the active choice of sticking with a team. Whether the relationship began with distance, or if the distance came later, the loyalty we show to our respective franchises represents an aspect of who we were. If that part of ourselves is tied to relationships with family, a hometown, or a player, it keeps us rooted in a sense of self. A self that unabashedly loves something that has, in reality, next to nothing to do with us.
No matter the sport, our favorite franchises tether us to a time when a game could bring us to tears. Sometimes they still do. I did not watch the Rams lose in the Super Bowl with a stiff upper lip. I love my team, whether they are in St. Louis or LA. As I grow older, life becomes more complex and the list of responsibilities grows longer, but I continue to love my team. Because no matter how complicated things may get, there will always be a comfort in belonging to something greater than myself that is also solely my own.