My name is Mike Aires, and I am fairly addicted to sports. It’s been a lifelong passion of mine since I was old enough to vaguely understand what was happening on the television or in person. My first foray into sports was little league baseball when I was barely old enough to tie my shoes (no…that doesn’t mean last year). After that, it was a whirlwind of trying out (and usually failing) at just about every sport imaginable minus football because I was extremely tiny and probably would have been killed. Basketball, Golf, racing, track, the aforementioned baseball…you name it, I tried to play it. Each time I realized I sucked at one of these, I would move on to the next. Rinse and repeat.
However each time I would play a sport, I would fall in love with it. That love would become a bit obsessive when I would find out I was terrible at it. At that moment, I would retire from that sport to watch the true players on TV and in person in the big leagues. Growing up, my heroes were in sports uniforms partly because they could do something that I could not. This was when my addiction really took off, but it did not take long for me to be at a crossroads, and be in a difficult predicament.
You see, I live in a non-Oklahoma City part of Oklahoma. A redneck state which, up until a few short years ago, was devoid of any and all professional sports teams. Yes, this is a tiny state in the grand scheme of things, but most sports have a pretty furious following. But when you don’t have local sports teams, everyone around here attaches to bandwagons. The problem with that are the teams closest or the teams that win the most are absolutely terrible. This was a lesson I had to learn very quickly.
See, in Oklahoma, there is a very distinctive difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. The haves are respected, well-off people who make up their minds about a team to follow based on certain offenses that are run, a well balanced attack, interesting defenses, or even just because they love the city the team is from. The “have-nots” on the other hand, just watch whatever is on TV and decide that’s the team they like. If that team isn’t good, then they pretend to not care about that sport…only to become superfans when that team wins. Cases in point…see exhibits one and two: University of Oklahoma football and the Dallas Cowboys. These two teams take up 80% of all coverage in the media. They are the ones that have their games on the main stations every week no matter what better matchup is on. And most everyone around here eats it up because those teams usually win.
The problem is, most of these so-called “fans” do not know anything about OU football prior to them winning the national title in 2001, and they do not know anything about the Dallas Cowboys before Troy Aikman was getting concussed on every play from scrimmage.
There for a few years, I was one of these sheep. I followed teams like OU, Dallas, the Yankees, and other mindless, horrible teams because it’s who everyone wanted to talk about, and the teams that were always on the tele. But then something changed. Something went off in my head like a small explosion.
I realized they all sucked.
In the mid to late 90s, I really started to want more from my sports. I wanted to like the players on my team, and not be TOLD by friends, relatives, or the media who I was supposed to like. So I started my own soul searching for the teams to take me to the future. They have the dignity, the class, and the pedigree that can suit someone of my stature. Who are they? Glad you asked.
My baseball love was started in the mid to late 90s. I started watching baseball more in the mid 90s, but it was the Home Run chase between the new beloved Cardinal, Mark McGwire, and the former Tulsa Driller and Texas Ranger, Slamin’ Sammy Sosa. Watching those two guys throughout the summer of 1998 did a ton for the interest of baseball after the strike. It also ignited my interest in the glitz and glamour of the baseball life. Sosa and the Cubs were in the middle of the pennant race, have a rich legacy and a historic ballpark. Big Mac and the Cardinals were just trying to stay close to a .500 record so the entire team revolved around his massive arms swatting balls over the fence. But in this rivalry, you have to choose only one. The Cubs for me started to seem like the underdog team that had extremely loyal fans that stuck with the team for 100 years of no championships. That tells me their fans are idiots. So I became a fan of the Cardinals. I also started taking a real liking to how Tony La Russa played ball. The use of excellent defensive players, like the now Cardinal manager, Mike Matheny, to Fernando Vina, Placido Polanco, Jim Edmonds, to Scott Rolen and El Hombre himself, Albert Pujols. The team has been run smart since their lull in the 90s, with a couple of championships, but they play the game how I want it to be played, and have loyal and extremely smart fans. That’s my kind of team.
The next sport is NFL. Everyone here loves the Dallas Cowboys, with a few pockets of Rams fans. I bounced around both of those teams. I enjoyed watching the Cowboys win with Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin, Neon Deion, and the crew, and then enjoyed watching Marshall Faulk, and the Greatest Show on Turf. But, you can officially call me a bandwagoner. In 1997, a team caught my eye, and it has not stopped since. With the local channels here only showing Cowboys or Chiefs games, but my family being Cowboys fans, I started to root for the NFC teams more so. Probably because I enjoyed 4-3 defenses more (still do). The team that I started keeping my eye on, granted ended up being the NFC Champions, but had players that I just enjoyed watching. Chris Chandler was a gun slinger. Jamal Anderson was a very powerful and elusive running back, and the young linebacker Keith Brooking was tenacious. If it was destiny for them to be the NFC Champions, then it was my destiny to become a huge Atlanta Falcons fan. Ever since then, it’s been an amazing roller coaster ride that I have not wanted to get off. From the terrible season after the Super Bowl run, to the Vick years, to the broken leg Vick year, to the Vick is in Prison and This Team is Screwed years, to today…it’s never been an easy journey. But I love it.
With my hatred for everything OU, it shouldn’t take very long to narrow down my choice for college sports. That can be further whittled down by the fact that my email, social network names, degrees, favorite color, and the slab of tattoo meat on my body all say one thing: O-S-U.
Unlike the sports mentioned above, OSU has been in my blood since I was young. The only thing that changed as I grew up was my distaste for OU and their trashy fans. I had family go to OSU, and grew up loving the color orange. I went to college there, and attribute most of where I currently am on that university. No funny, weird story here. I’ve just always loved Oklahoma State University, to the distain of all the trashy Sooner fans around me.
The last major sport would be NBA. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this would go, but I still started against the norm. Like every little boy everywhere, I grew up as a Michael Jordan fan. I liked watching the Bulls with MJ. Besides Phil Jackson and Pippen, the team would rotate but those would stay the same. But my fandom was never huge. I’d check stats and watch highlights but it was nothing special. It was not until I was at Oklahoma State, and Katrina had hit that my NBA fandom in general started to build. At that time, the New Orleans Hornets moved to OKC for two years while their city rebuilt. For those two years, I grew to love that team and became a fan. I’d watch the games when I could, and keep up with the news. The population of Oklahoma was slow to rally behind the die-hards, but it was fun. Once they left, I tried to follow them, but it was not the same. Yet here we are now, with a new OKC team that the entire state calls its own, and that I absolutely love. With an assist to the Hornets, the Thunder made me a huge NBA fan.
Team wise, that’s where I stand. I do enjoy watching players on different teams and different sports, but that’s just another notch in my ridiculous fandom.
So the final question is this: What is my favorite team out of those listed? The answer? Sports. Just like those who have kids, you don’t honestly have a favorite one (unless you legit have really crappy kids except one). I just love sports in general. But you all should definitely expect me to play some slight favoritism to those teams listed above. We can’t all be perfect. Some of us just have to be rebels.