The Rules

Michael Jones: die-hard Oilers fan or evil sports bigamist? You decide!

  • Die-Hard Oilers Fan: is from Edmonton; owns several articles of Oilers clothing; claims to be an Oilers fan; is seen here rocking an official Edmonton Oilers replica jersey in downtown Detroit (in front of a Detroit Red Wings bar, no less) before going to Joe Louis Arena to watch the Oilers beat the Red Wings in a first-round playoff game; hates the Maple Leafs unconditionally.
  • Evil Sports Bigamist: has been known to utter the phrase, “I cheer for the Canadiens when the Oilers aren’t doing well.” Has been spotted at Scotiabank Place cheering for the Ottawa Senators, and reported being “heartbroken” when the Senators squandered five one-goal leads en route to losing 7-6 in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres.

The evidence seems to suggest that Mike is safe…but with literally millions of Oilers fans popping up all over Canada lately–geez, I wonder why?–it’s becoming increasibly important to spot the difference between the imposters and the genuine article. On that note, if you’re originally from Calgary and you root for the Calgary Flames, you cannot switch allegiances to the Oilers under any circumstances–and especially not on the grounds that you “love your housemate”. Sound like anybody you know? Me neither.

One last comment: would a Boston Red Sox fan ever root for the New York Yankees in order to “keep the World Series in the Eastern Seaboard”? Warrants mentioning.


16 thoughts on “The Rules

  1. touchΓ©.good point indeed re: bosox/yanks.what if perhaps you have previously given allegiances as one western and one eastern team, but you do come out and say you favour one over the other? I just want you to still respect me in the morning Steve-o.

  2. For arguments sake Tim, if Manchester “The Great Evil” United were playing Chelski in the European Cup Final — who would you rather win?Answers on a post card….

  3. …but, if you have allegiances to one western and one eastern team, there’s still a chance, however remote, that one day they’ll meet in a championship scenario. In that case, then what do you do? I used to think the concept of a “second-favourite team” was a valid one, but then Bill Simmons pointed me in the right direction. Not saying you’re evil if you root for two teams–just that your conception of what it means to be a fan is different, and quite possibly more socially acceptable, than mine is. πŸ˜‰

  4. Steve, if you keep talking like this, you may not have any friends left in a few weeks (or girlfriend, for that matter)I don’t “switch” my allegience. I have nothing invested in the Oilers. I just think they’re fun to watch and I wish them the best. You need to rethink your sports hitler-esque-ness, in my opinion. It’s getting scary.

  5. “geez, I wonder why?” I’ll tell you why. Because you’re in the confused intellectual minority. Most people aren’t so pigheaded that once their team is eliminated they can’t throw moral support to their next favourite team, which for most Canadians happen to be the only remaining Canadian teams. πŸ˜‰For me, the Oilers ARE my second favourite team. So if the Leafs can’t have the Cup, why would I not cheer for the Oilers? I was cheering for Calgary in ’04 too. Problem? πŸ˜‰ (like I said in my email to you, perhaps I just don’t take sports as seriously as you do?)

  6. Like I said: would a Red Sox fan cheer for the Yankees “to keep the World Series in the Eastern Seaboard”? Or, for a more relative example, would a Liverpool supporter (e.g., Tim Jebb) turn into a Manchester United supporter “to keep the Championship up North”? Of course not; it would be ridiculous for them to do so, and indeed it would be contrarian for them to do so. Yet in Canada, we have this kneejerk tendency to root for Canadian teams–even if doing so compromises our allegiance to our own team. I shudder to think what would have happened if, say, the Ottawa Senators had been one game away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Final…would the Loose Moose have been filled with insta-Senators fans? I would like to think not; I suspect, however, that that’s exactly what would have happened.What this boils down to, in my opinion (although it’s not exactly controversial), is that Canadians feel as though our national identity is under attack from the big, bad United States, and when something which we’ve identified as being intrinsically “Canadian” (e.g., hockey) is being coopted by American interests (i.e., the previous eleven Stanley Cup champions) we become defensive. I’m not blaming Canadians for doing it–I’m just saying I don’t agree with it. And if it’s because I take sports too seriously…well, so be it. I’m a passionate person; it’s how I roll. πŸ˜‰ On a final note…Bri, if you broke up with me over sports allegiances, wouldn’t that make you worse than me in a sense? πŸ˜‰ Hell, I’ve come under attack from certain readers of this blog for having a Calgary Flames flag in my bedroom; what would they say if they saw Fatter Guts?

  7. Paul, to answer your hypothetical question (and let us all pray that it never comes to fruition), I would support Chelsea without a doubt. Man Utd have caused me too much heartache and just everything (outside of George Best) about that club annoys me to the inner depths of my being. Whilst I hate to see Chelsea doing what they have been doing to English football, lets be honest, they haven’t hurt Liverpool yet when it matters. Liverpool wouldn’t have won the league in the last two seasons so who cares who wins it as long as it isn’t the Evil. Steve-o as to your point, I think there has to be a happy medium somewhere. I agree with you that under no circumstances should you cheer for your enemies (i.e. Senators, Yankees, etc). However, in a random game where you don’t have any strong feelings either way, why not cheer for the Canadian team? As long as you don’t claim that you have been on the bandwagon all along.

  8. wow talk about a lot of interest…yes I do agree there is a certain willingness to support Canadian teams just because they reside North of the 49th…But I have to say that I don’t feel cheering Edmonton is bad for a Habs fan because the only time I remember a memorable game between the 2 was the Old School Classic a few years back, and that was just good fun regardless. I do agree with you Steve, that were I a Leafs fan, it would be immoral to then Cheer the Sens or Habs further on in the playoffs. Likewise, were I an Edmonton fan I could feel no love for Calgary moving on, nor to a lesser extent Vancouver.However, I think I haven’t lessened myself as a fan by cheering Edmonton.On a secondary point, if we’re really getting down to splitting hairs on this issue, then cheering a team based on geographic locale is ridiculous, yes. We should in fact, if we’re afraid of the ‘big bad US’, cheer the teams who dress the most Canadian/fewest Yank players. That could really be taking it to the next level.But if we want to talk about allegiances and such, then we could say its ridiculous to cheer ‘team Canada’ as a Leafs fan because Dany Heatley and Wade Redden are on team Canada. Or we should cheer team Sweden because the Leaf Captain is a Swede.What it boils down to my good man, is that somewhere you have to make a compromise, and I think most of your readers have made one somewhere, and even you have as well. That being said…good column.

  9. Wow, a nine-comment thread…who am I to argue?Firstly, for the sake of this discussion, we should drop any and all conversation pertaining to 1, Liverpool, 2, Manchester United, or 3, English football in general. As soon as Leaf fans either a, start flinging cups full of their own feces at Senators fans, or b, go to Scotiabank Place, vandalize a few washrooms and write offensive graffiti all over the walls, then we’ll talk. (By the way, I’m not judging Liverpool supporters–United supporters have done a *lot* of stupid things, as well. But the culture of English football is such that it’s virtually pointless comparing it to North American sports.)Secondly, I think Gavin makes an important point: somewhere, compromise is necessary. For instance, if you’ve got a vested interest in a certain team–say, the Leafs–and you move to another city, is it acceptable to switch allegiances? I don’t think it is; if I ever moved to Ottawa, for instance, not only would I *not* be a Senators fan, I’d probably be more beligerent about the Leafs/Sens rivalry than I already am. But what if I moved to Miami? Then, I think it would be acceptable to at least follow the home team–as long as following them didn’t spill over into full-fledged support.On that note, while I would *never* switch to a different team on account of a significant other (or for anybody else, for that matter), it would be a different matter if a significant other began rooting for a team in a sport in which they had no previous interest. Take Bri, for instance. She hated baseball before she started dating me; tonight, she actually called me on my drive home to tell me the Jays score. So, in theory, if I started cheering for the Calgary Stampeders, that’d be acceptable. Clearly, I’ve thought about this way too much. But it ties in with another interesting subject: namely, the relationship between fan and team. Nick Hornby wrote about it far more eloquently than I ever could in Fever Pitch; that said, the chances of me not writing an equivalent book about Pearl Jam is absolutely nil. Anyway–I’m rambling. Back to Sportsnet. πŸ˜‰

  10. One last comment. Tim, I know you hate Man United…but when you write that Chelsea “haven’t hurt Liverpool yet when it matters,” I feel as though I need to give you a good, hard shake. Firstly, Chelsea *did* beat Liverpool in the 2005 Carling Cup Final; I guess conceding that that mattered would be impossible (i.e., United won it this year, so claiming it matters would force you to rethink that picture of Gary Neville you sent me ;)), and I’ll admit that Liverpool have, mercifully, beaten Chelsea twice when it mattered more (last year’s CL semi-final, this year’s F.A. Cup semi-final). But that’s not the point: the point is that what Chelsea are doing, and will continue to do as long as Roman Abramovich is around, is hurting *all* English football clubs–Liverpool included. Chelsea has essentially destroyed English football. The Premiership is a farce; seriously, what’s the point in even playing the 2006/07 season when Chelsea can field, week-in, week-out, a veritable Football Manager line-up? Look at this:CechFerreira – Terry – Carvalho – Carlos?MakeleleBallack – LampardKalou – Shevchenko? – RobbenHonestly, how many games will that team lose? One? Two? They certainly won’t lose enough to restore competitive parity to the Premiership; if one of those players goes down, they’ll simply be replaced by someone who’d walk into the starting XI of any other Premiership side. I realize United aren’t exactly broke–well, they are, but that’s another story–but we’re dealing with degrees here. United spent upwards of thirty million pounds of Wayne Rooney; Chelsea could spend thirty million pounds on a fringe player (which they very nearly did on Shawn-Wright Phillips…) and not even blink. As long as that sort of financial clout is available, English football is doomed.But with Chelsea, it goes beyond mere money: they’ve brought a real cynicism to the English game, which manifests itself in blatant gamesmanship (see: Drogba, Didier, and Robben, Arjen), Jose Mourinho’s sneering, condescending arrogance and the smug smile on Roman Abramovich’s face whenever one of his mercenaries pops one in. What astounds me is that the British sports media haven’t been more critical about it. What astounds me even more is the revelation that John Obi Mikel could actually be headed for Chelsea. If you’re reading this and going, “John Obi Wan?” just Google his name; basically, he’s a player who agreed terms with Manchester United–then mysteriously disappeared, only to resurface two days later claiming he’d signed the contract under duress, that he had no intention of joining Manchester United and that it was his childhood dream to play at Stamford Bridge. In due time, we’ll know the true story of what went on; in the meantime, it stuns me that no one is crying bloody murder about the incident. So not only do Chelsea play in a different financial universe, they’ve basically been allowed to ride roughshot over the competation without anyone batting an eye. They’re like the George W. Bush of English football.But to get back to the original point: Chelsea *have* hurt Liverpool, and in a way they’ve hurt them more than they possibly ever could on the football pitch. I dislike Liverpool, moreso because you and Paul support them…but in the event of a Liverpool/Chelsea match, I have absolutely no doubt where my allegiances lie. On a related note, how could I produce a rant like this after 11pm having just played ultimate firsbee in 40 degree heat? Anyway, I await your response.

  11. what if you don’t like any particular hockey team and want to drink your face off? then is it okay to cheer for the oilers?

  12. I wished I lived in Edmonton and could join in the jock playground which is Whyte Ave these days after an oilers playoff game.

  13. A slightly different spin…Typically in a case like this the easy solution for me is to ask the Sens fan who thinks I should cheer for the Canadian team how rooting for a team led by Daniel Alfredsson and Dominik Hasek is showing national pride (sub in Leafs/Sundin, Habs/Koivu & Kovalev, or Canucks/Naslund as you like). Sadly, with guys like Smyth and Pronger at the helm of the Oilers that won’t fly – nor will any argument of the politics of the salary cap, as most fairweather fans tend not to even know who the third line centre is, let alone be able to comment on the economic innerworkings of the league.Perhaps the bigger issue here is why do we all watch sports to begin with? Sure, it’s entertaining, and sure, the athleticism is impressive, but let’s be honest…deep down most of us watch sports so that we can rub it in everybody else’s face when our teams win. That’s what I get out of it, and I think any honest sports fan will admit that the same is at worst partially true for them too. This presents three problems with the whole bandwagon jumping issue.First, anybody you can run smack on if your team wins will know your true allegiance. If I were to go running around talking up the Buffalo Sabres or Carolina Hurricanes should they win the Cup nobody would hear it because my friends all know I’m really only about the Flyers. A Leafs fan getting all worked up about the Oilers, to me, rings equally hollow. How do you legitimately gloat when a team you don’t really cheer for wins it all? You just look stupid.Second, if everyone is on the same bandwagon, where is the fun in cheering anyway? By now everyone sitting around the TV at any given sports bar in this country is all cheering the same way. At least real sheep can be shorn for profit – what good are you in that crowd, I ask? None. It’s much more fun to be that one in the crowd cheering for the Sabres over the Sens, or the Ducks over the Oilers.Finally, where does the sense of satisfaction come from in seeing your team win? Presumably it’s a vicarious feeling that you are the best, the closest you will get to winning a Stanley Cup yourself. If you are willing to cheer for any Canadian team, though, how do you derive that same sentiment by hitching your horse to the latest Canadian bandwagon? You’ve just increased your chances of success six-fold by hedging your bets under a weak veil of nationalism. Take a 30 team NHL, and subtract the Pens, Islanders, Thrashers, Panthers, Caps, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, and Coyotes, who are perpetually irrelevant, and if you’re willing to cheer for any Canadian team you’ve got a 6/22 or 27.2% chance of backing for a champion come June. If you get satisfaction from that, more power to you I guess. But it’s not for me.Remember two years ago when you thought Jarome Iginla was the greatest player since Gretzky? Or when you lived and died with every save ‘Kipper’ made? You’ll be feeling the same way about Shawn Horcoff and Dwayne Roloson before long – the over/under is three weeks in my opinion. Changing allegiances so quickly and so easily is just shameful (unless you’re Italian, in which case it can’t really be helped).Lastly, since this is Steve’s page it’s really only fair to acknowledge what he said about following the local team being OK as long as it didn’t turn into full-fledged support. I’m sure most loyal Minnesota Twins fans who never ditched their team for the Toronto Blue Jays would agree. Well said, Steve-o.Go Eastern Conference!

  14. Three comments:1. This will be comment #16 of this particular entry; clearly, we’re onto something here. πŸ˜‰2. Neil Scilley reads this blog??! Suddenly, I have a duty to be even more outspoken than I usually am. πŸ˜‰3. Re. the Minnesota Twins: I should explain this. I’ve actually been a Blue Jays fan my entire life. But the strike practically killed my interest in baseball, and when Blue Jay management seemed eager to kill the franchise in the late 90s, I basically stopped watching baseball altogether. Then, in 2002, when Minnesota started getting good, I started watching again–and, yes, jumped wholeheartedly on the Twins bandwagon (if that’s the word for it). This lasted two full seasons…but honestly, the entire time I felt dirty. I knew I wasn’t a “real” Twins fan; plus, in the absence of Extra Innings I never watched them anyway, which eroded one of the fundamental requirements of genuine fandom. When I moved to Toronto, it took me about a week to become a full-fledged Jays fan again.Despicable? Yes. But was it necessary in order for me to restore my own interest in baseball? Without question. It was like I’d been in this incredible, fulfilling relationship–then run away at the first signs of trouble, gone and sowed my wild oats, realized I’d made a mistake and come crawling back…and happily, since the Blue Jays aren’t in any real position to turn away fans, I was welcomed back.In that sense, I had a sports affair. I wouldn’t condone it in future–but, like I said, at the time it was necsesary. In the name of being a completist, I’ll explain how I came to root for all my favourite teams:— BLUE JAYS: see above— LEAFS: contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t start out as a Minnesota Twins fan: I started out as an Edmonton Oilers fan (Gretzky, etc). When Gretzky was traded, I tried becoming a Kings fan; then, in 1991, I mysteriously started cheering for Calgary…which coincided with the North Stars’ improvable run to the 1991 Stanley Cup. In a sense, I became a Stars fan by default; I began following the team, but I didn’t have a strong sense of attachment to them. Then, in 1993, the Stars moved to Dallas, the Leafs went to the conference finals, I got caught up in the excitmenet of it all and, yadda yadda yadda, here we are. (Signs of bandwagons are alllll around, by the way; on the other hand, I was like eleven.)— VIKINGS: if you’re from Thunder Bay and you follow the NFL, 50/50 chance you’re a Vikings fan.— MAN UNITED: my dad grew up on the Stretford End during the 1960s, and I grew up hearing stories of the team’s glory years. When I started watching soccer, United were dreadful; like, my earlier memory associated with Man United is hearing Graeme Leggat say, “Relegation worries are over for Old Trafford.” Ten years later, they were Champions of Europe. I should mention I follow Southampton at least semi-closely, largely because I sometimes feel self-conscious telling people I’m a United supporter. (One day, someone is going to call me on this, and I’m going to embarass them; for the time being, I’m assuming most people who know football/soccer assume I think David Beckham still plays for the club.) But I’ve learned to get over that–and, again, here we are.Wow, another late-night rant…how serious can I be about these LSATs, anyway? πŸ˜‰ TBC.

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