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January 13, 2017

When Your Loved One Roots For the Other Team

by guest contributor Jason Gordon

Many of us can probably relate to this: You meet a great person and start dating. You have a lot in common, including your love of sports. But then it happens. You find out that this great person has a flaw. Not only do they root for a different team than you do, they actually root for your team's biggest rival. While it may seem like a small thing to deal with, especially if the person crosses off many big items on your relationship "must have" list, it actually can, and often does, cause an issue in the relationship.

Here is a classic example. One person roots for teams from the Washington, D.C. area, while the other cheers on Boston area teams. On the surface, other than hearing how great the Patriots are and how terrible the Redskins are, this isn't a huge issue because there don't appear to be any direct rivalries between the two cities. It's honestly hard for the Redskins fan to say anything that can get under the skin of the Patriots fan. The Redskins always seem to have disappointing seasons, there is a storm of controversy with their team name, and they missed out on the playoffs this season. While the Patriots have MVP candidate Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and are a Super Bowl favorite year in and year out.

Then, however, the NHL playoffs start and the Capitals are playing the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins in the first round and now it's tense. The Boston fan reminds you of Capitals playoff collapses from years past, while their team hoisted the Cup a year ago. The series goes to seven tight games, and all the while the Bruins fan is reminding you that the epic collapse is coming. But then a funny thing happens. The Capitals win the series and all the pent up frustration and "I told you so" comes out in one moment, and you suddenly realize that cheering for different teams is something you need to address.

To understand how and why you get to this point, it is important to look deeper into the psychology of being a sports fan to get a clearer picture of why the outcome of the game becomes so important in your life. You'll find that it isn't just about rooting for a team; a true fan actually begins to identify with the team, often referring to wins and losses as "we" won or "we" lost. There are also hormones released when your team wins or loses that impact the way you feel and act as a result.

The short of it is that being a sports fan is serious business and it does become a part of who you are and how you identify yourself. That being the case, if you are in a relationship with someone who roots for a rival team, there are many things you can do to ease the tension and actually make it a fun experience. One couple, who happen to be on opposite sides of the oldest rivalry in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears, has found ways to make it fun by finding cute ways to bring their young children into the mix. They also understand that you can trash talk during the game, but show respect after, and, finally, you don't talk about it once the game is done.

Another couple, one a Browns fan (yikes) and the other a Ravens supporter, has established ground rules for themselves that can clearly work well for most couples in a similar situation. In the end, there are two things to remember. One, just as these couples did, remember that it is just a game and find ways to have fun with it. Life goes on, win or lose. Two, no matter what, life always trumps sports and even rivals can come together for a good cause.
Jason hails from New York City where he is a marketing associate by day and blogger by night. He is a sports and pop culture fanatic and often tries to marry the two in his writing.

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