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Volume 3, Number 12
December, 1998

Fun & Games
Survival in an Unfair Football World

By Dean Shutt

Merry Christmas one and all and welcome to Fun & Games for December. In the spirit of the season I want to give some of you a very special gift. I say some of you because not all of you are going to have any use for his particular item. For instance, if you are a fan of the Denver Broncos my gift will not help you. If however, you are a fan of the 49ers then this gift will help you immeasurably in the years to come. What is this gift I am offering, you ask? Simply put, I am going to reveal to you the secret of obtaining some small joy from the NFL season while loving a team that sucks.

As those of you that check out this space regularly are aware, I am a fan of the Indianapolis Colts. As everyone with a pulse knows, the Colts are not a member of the NFL's elite. In fact, the Colts blow on a consistent basis. For the past twenty years, aside from a few glorious exceptions, my favorite team has been out of the playoff hunt by October. In some of the those years they were out of it by September. So how have I retained my sanity these past two decades? How is it that I can still get it cranked up for yet another doomed campaign year after year? The answer to those questions is my gift to you this holiday season.

There are several key elements that you have tot master if you are going to follow a team that loses consistently. They are in no particular order:
  • Bandwagon Teams
  • Secondary Favorites
  • Envious Hatred of Other Teams

I will address these issues point by point.

First we have the all important bandwagon teams. You get to pick two bandwagon teams per year, one for each conference. You can choose from any division save for the one your favorite team resides in, for instance I cannot have a bandwagon team from the AFC East. The key for a successful bandwagon jump is timing, you have to have your bandwagon teams lined up by the end of September, otherwise you cheapen the accomplishment. If you wait until the start of the playoffs you are simply pathetic. No, you have to pick early. A few years ago I made the Packers my bandwagon team before the season and they won the SuperBowl, that was the most successful jump I have ever made. It can also backfire on you, this year I made the Seahawks my AFC bandwagon team in week 3. We all know what has happened to them. The other key when choosing a bandwagon team is that you have to own at least one piece of paraphernalia to make it official. Otherwise it is too easy to renege on your bandwagon pick. So for this season my bandwagon teams would be:

AFC - Seattle Seahawks
NFC - Green Bay Packers

Next we have the secondary favorites category. This one can be tricky. I personally use the geographic home team format to pick my secondary favorites. If you are unfortunate enough to be a fan of your local team and they suck, you will have to go with a more esoteric selection. Perhaps your favorite player was traded there, or maybe they have really good looking cheerleaders. It really doesn't matter how you choose them, so long as you can rationalize it to yourself.

Since I have really have two homes, the Bay Area and the state of Pennsylvania, I have a slew of teams to choose from. Unfortunately for me, many of those teams are eliminated for one reason or another. Your secondary favorites differ from bandwagon teams in that you can't change them every season. Once you choose your secondary favorites you are pretty much stuck with them, unless they do something exceptionally stupid which will allow you to quit them in disgust, like move to a different city or cut a beloved player or change their uniforms. I had the chance to quit one of my secondary favorites a few seasons ago when Eagles changed their uni's. I passed that chance up, much to my chagrin, and now I am left with the following secondary favorites:

AFC - Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC - Philadelphia Eagles

This brings us to our final strategy, envious hatred of other teams. This is the trickiest of them all and I don't suggest you try it at first. The problem with hatred is that while it can give you great joy (see the Niners loss to the Falcons earlier this year) it can also give you great pain (see the Colts getting jobbed by the officials in San Francisco earlier this season). That is why if you are going to hate a team please be careful. For instance, do not (as my friend does) attempt to hate the Broncos, it will only bring you pain in the end. On the other hand, if you want to hate the Niners or the Cowboys you can bet that the playoffs are going to bring you great joy this year and in the foreseeable future. The other nice thing about hating teams is that there is no limit to how many teams you can despise. For example, here are the teams that I hate:

AFC - Oakland, New England, Buffalo, New York Jets
NFC - Dallas, San Francisco

I hope that these tips will help you enjoy your NFL experience just a little bit more. I realize that any Niners' fans reading this are wondering how it could possibly apply to them. After all, they have one the league's all time great dynasties and are 10 - 3 and heading for the playoffs again this year. Well let's just say that you ought to put this away in a safe place. Because in about two years, you are going to need it.

Merry Christmas

Dean's House of Pain

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