What strange act causes us to choose a team for the rest of our lives? Is it a family thing, was it because they won the first game you saw live, did you live in a one team town, was it peer group pressure or did the team choose you?
During my most impressionable years I leant heavily toward the game invented by Victorians and only recently enjoyed in other states! Every Sat’d Arv, I would venture to Princess Park, with my war paint on, to stand behind the goals and raw with the many other young Hawk fans in the now very un-cool, Cheer Squad.
It was at this time I also joined the senior ranks at my football club and rather than playing on Sunday’s our games moved to the Saturday. What was I to do, chase my dreams as a battling Wingman or share the Premiership aspirations of Tuck, Knights, Matthews et al. The choice was simple, so I bought another Membership and cleared my throat for another season.
But soon I was feeling the need to chase the pig-skin in anger, so I started researching my local sporting organisations only to stumble across football played only on Sunday’s - American Football.
Fearing my svelte size would be an issue I made my first tentative steps. I called, attended a couple of training sessions and before I knew it I was spending big bucks to buy all the gear.
My first major introduction into the group was at a club function attended by all males, apart from one female who appeared to have been invited for her special form of entertainment. At some stage during this evening of high culture I was challenged by a large group of my peers to pledge allegiance to one NFL team. As I sensed this was almost part of the initiation I agreed.
I enquired as to their choices, and they seemed to have been reading off the same page. Dallas Cowboys, San Fran 49ers, LA Raiders seemed to be the popular choices. It was at this point that I knew my credibility was on the line. Perhaps they were looking for me to conform and select conservatively. This unfortunately was not in my nature, after all I was the only one at the club that happily admitted to being an active member of a ‘Cheer Squad’.
I posed the question, ‘who is the worst team with the worst colours?’ As soon as I said it I felt empowered, I had stepped out of the crowd, I was clearing a path for others to follow, I was a leader amongst men! - they all just laughed and said - "Tampa Bay Buccaneers". So it came to pass, I was the one and only supporter of The Bucs, a team that had never even got close to a Super Bowl let alone won one.
Since that fateful night I have faced the jeers of my colleagues, the taunts of my family and the embarrassment of the many failed ‘first round draft picks’. But things finally appear to be changing, the once awful Bucs are looking to create history.
On Monday morning our time they face off against the Philidelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game, with the winner heading to San Diego for the Super Bowl. Finally I can feel a little credibility, finally a chance to have my moment in the sun.
One thing is for certain however, whether we choose our team, our sport or it is chosen for us, we are guaranteed to feel the ups and downs, we happily wear the war paint one week and hide the scarf the next. I will be wearing my colours on Monday, even if we lose, and not because its in any contract for me to do so.
As supporters we can’t be sold off or retired, our contracts are not contained on paper nor signed in ink, we didn’t get drafted - somehow a choice was made.
I know for a fact that I didn’t choose Tampa Bay that night, a voice of many were moved to do so, perhaps Roy and HG are right, there is a Football God, and she obviously appreciates the game being played on Sunday’s.
THIS ARTICLE WAS A BLAST FROM OUR PAST. POSTED ON JANUARY 19, 2003 by Rich. A previous THEFOOTY.com contributor