I recently set forth an ambitious reviewing project in which I write actual reviews of every team in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. I would include MLS since they now have firm footing on the cusp of being a major league now, but I don't know quite as much about soccer as I should know to be able to do that.
Anyway, those who have been following this project so far also know my NFL loyalty is in something of a state of flux. I've begun the process of detaching myself from my longtime home team, the Buffalo Bills. Mismanagement has ruined the team, but that's so far beyond the point right now that it's barely worth mentioning. More offensive is the Toronto series, in which the Bills were told to play a regular season home game every year in front of a hostile Canadian audience in Toronto which doesn't want them.
More to the point, Bills owner Ralph Wilson is 93 or 94 years old right now. He's the only owner the team has ever had, and he's lived up to his promise to keep the Bills in Buffalo as long as he's been alive. Sadly, though, his clock will probably be expiring soon, and the team is going to be sold, probably to a buyer who will move them. Buffalo is a poor small market, so the team certainly won't be staying. To stay will cost a shitload of death taxes and at least $100 million in tax renovations for the team's field, Ralph Wilson Stadium.
I have the Chicago Bears to fall back on because I spent years living in Chicago, but this is about finding a new team to adopt and present as a representation of who I am, not merely the places I've been. I'm not looking for the chic team. I'm looking for a team that I can relate to the most, and really get the sense that people will understand why I cheer for them. The team that I think really represents my overall character. The team people will learn that I cheer for and unquestionably find synonymous with Nicholas Croston. It's an arduous task, but I did manage to narrow my list down to these choices, of 30 selections (Bills and Bears are excluded. The Bills are who I'm leaving, the Bears are already also mine.)
Pros: The Giants are one the NFL's crown jewels and one of its greatest, most storied teams. They have a long, storied history which goes back to the 1930's and includes seven titles, three of which are Super Bowls. They have the advantage of sharing the same colors as the Bills - red, white, and blue - and playing for New York, so my explanation of loyalty to them would be immediately understood and kept to a minimum. They have won through just about every possible method - overwhelming offense, suffocating defense, at different times, and for a cosmopolitan glamor team, they have a gritty character. They have down years, but have such an incredible story that no one makes fun of them - that's big with me.
Cons: Really now, how well do they represent New York? They play in New Jersey! There is also my longstanding resentment of growing up in upstate New York, which means I sound like a broken record when I'm traveling and have to explain "the state, not the city!"
See the full review, "What Giants They Are".
Pros: Probably the team with the most unique, creative, and artistic culture surrounding it, the Saints returned from the dead and rose to the top of the NFL as a sign of everything right about the league. They are a symbol of resurrection and hope, distinction, and uniqueness. Their own city, like mine, has fallen on hard times, and the fleur-de-lis that adorns their helmets is one of my favorite symbols. Most importantly, they are one of the league's misfit islands, a place of castoffs who were believed to be finished or not good enough.
Cons: Their fanbase's devotion seems to be the most recent. Although New Orleans rallied around them when they became the city's most visible sign of strength, there were rumblings of a move. I hesitate to call that bandwagoning, but it's a close cousin. As to their castoff image... That's well-earned, because for most of their history, the Saints ACTUALLY COULDN'T PLAY! They took 20 years to have their first winning season, and are the franchise which began the now-common tradition of fans putting bags on their heads.
See the full review, "Geaux Saints".
Pros: If you've read my review, you already know what's so appealing about the Pack. They're the peoples' team, America's real team. They are a small town of underdogs which rose up and socked the glamor city bullies in the mouth time after time. They are a model franchise; throughout their long history, they've gotten pretty much everything right, and I respect and admire everything about them.
Cons: I'm attached to their archrivals. That makes the bandwagon stigma which goes with selecting the Packers nowadays more severe for me, because taking the Packers when you already have the Chicago Bears in your pantheon says you really just want the current winner.
See the full review, "America's REAL Team".
Pros: Pittsburgh is an old-time steel city, much like Buffalo. The place has a hard, roughneck character, and the people of Pittsburgh don't take any shit from glamor city denizens who look down their noses at their hometown. This tough character is reflected in the Steelers, who play a smash mouth style of football based primarily in a strong defense. They are a storied team. Although their winning reputation was defined only 40 years ago after the Steelers had been there for almost 40 before as doormats, no one makes fun of the Steelers. They are the winningest team of the Super Bowl era, having won six.
Cons: They're another bandwagon team. People are also aware of the fact that Terry Bradshaw led them to four Super Bowl titles before becoming a loudmouth commentator.
See the full review, "Black, Gold, and the Good Kind of Terrible".
Pros: Like the Saints, the Raiders are another castoff outfit whose colors combine black with a metallic color. The attitude of the Raiders throughout their history has been to make their own rules and eschew unwritten tradition and NFL normality. Unlike the Saints, they knew how to win almost from the beginning. They've played in five Super Bowls, winning three.
Cons: Before he died, Raiders owner Al Davis seemed to turn from shrewd, savvy businessman into insane control freak. Furthermore - and again, unlike their fellow misfits, the Saints - the Raiders have become a popular gang symbol. The team isn't doing much to discourage this association. They earned their past dominance partly by being pissants and punks who bully and take every cheap shot they can get.
See the full review, "Commitment to Excellence and Humiliation".
Pros: I was a huge Dolphins fan as a teenager, so there's already that attachment. I was a Dan Marino fan, mostly, and the marine animal the team is named after is one of my favorite animals. The Dolphins are one of the greatest teams to be formed in the AFL. They are one of only two teams to have ever appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls, winning two and completing the only perfect season of the Super Bowl era in 1972.
Cons: The current incarnation of the Dolphins looks like it is actually trying to implode. They are riding one of those awful mismanagement carousels which is currently affecting the Bills.
See the full review, "Faster than Lightning, No One You See is Smarter...".
Pros: Another team rich in history, the Redskins are also rich in offense, which is the most exciting form of football to me. I'm fond of their color combination, one of only a few in the NFL I would actually look good wearing.
Cons: Ugh. You know what the Redskins are also rich in? Racism. Sure the first black quarterback to ever win the Super Bowl was a Redskin, but really, you should never, ever use insults as names. And Redskins would be, in today's parlance, akin to calling a team the Faggots. They are the only team in NFL history to require federal intervention for their integration, which took some 17 years. And today, owner Daniel Snyder is trying to build his team in the Jerry Jones/Hank Steinbrenner style, by spending away. But Jones and Steinbrenner are at least doing it right.
See the full review, "Hail to the Redskins? I'd Prefer Not".
Pros: The Niners were the team of the 80's, a raging offensive dynamo with the greatest quarterback of all time running the show. The way Joe Montana was on the gridiron, cool as ice and dependable in the worst of situations, is the way I am striving to be myself. And taking a look at my short list of future plans, the Niners may also be geographically convenient, located in a culture center which is also the country's capital of alternative spirituality and individual freedom, two things I'm a firm believer in.
Cons: The Niners may be a bit TOO glamorous. The city is famously white collar and, while I believe I can reach a white collar life myself, I still feel like I would be betraying my blue collar roots cheering for San Francisco.
See the full review, "San Francisco's Football Treat".
Pros: First of all, no one will ever accuse me of hopping on a bandwagon. I could claim one of the greatest players of all time - Barry Sanders - as one of mine. And Detroit is symbolic of the entire Rust Belt, which is where I grew up. It's a place I understand, and they have an attitude I understand, and I can relate to and get behind the passion that dying metropolis has for its football team. It's many of the same things that appeal to me about Pittsburgh.
Cons: The Lions are like the Bills in that people can make fun of them. And they can do it with even more impunity. The Bills lost four straight Super Bowls, but not many teams have even been to four Super Bowls, and in losing them the Bills at least set an untouchable record in consecutive visits. The Lions do have more titles than the Bills - four as opposed to two - but those, like the Bills, would be meaningless amidst the losing.
See the full review, "Lions Without Pride".
Pros: Storied? Try the first NFL team ever! The Cardinals are indeed the oldest NFL team, and they were first formed in my adopted hometown of Chicago as the Racine Street Cardinals. Chicago is still the team's longest-tenured home. Plus they carry the name and image of one of my favorite birds. They carry the burden of being one of the NFL's true underdogs, so there won't be any bandwagon accusations.
Cons: They're virtually invisible. Even the Lions can be seen nationally in the Thanksgiving Day game! The Cardinals go virtually unnoticed, so much so that before their first invitation to the Super Bowl in 2008, the spotlight shined on them because of Pat Tillman, a defensive back who sacrificed millions of contract dollars to join the Marines and was killed in Afghanistan. They're so forgotten, they're one of only two NFL teams that had three hometowns. Technically, it's four: Chicago, then St. Louis (where they weren't even the most popular team called the St. Louis Cardinals), before heading to Phoenix and then their current home in Tempe. In an effort to get more people to pay attention to them, the Cardinals recently rolled out an all-black alternate uniform, which is one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. And for a team that's been around for so long, the Cardinals don't have a whole lot to show for it: Before their NFC title in 2008, their previous title was won while the team was still in Chicago. They're so forgotten that, even though I like them, I forgot to put them on this list when I originally posted it yesterday, putting in its place a scoffing joke entry about the Philadelphia Eagles, in which I admitted that I put them in to round out this list and wasn't actually considering them.
See the full review, "Meet the Buzzsaw".