EDITOR’S NOTE: Can you root for a non-Chicago team and call yourself a “true Chicagoan?” We asked two ChicagoSiders to go head to head. Evan F. Moore begins, and Jim Coffman responds.
Last year, I was driving down Western Avenue when a CTA bus driver spotted my Hines Ward Pittsburgh Steelers jersey.
“Hey!” the driver shouted. “You’re supposed to be a Bears fan.”
I am. But I also happen to like the way Hines Ward played the game. He was tough, fearless, and got under the skin of his opponents.
But the bus driver’s reaction got me thinking. Who says Chicagoans can’t root for teams outside Chicago? Is there a law? Are there fines? Can those traffic cameras send you a ticket by mail for wearing the wrong colors? I’d never thought about what it would be like to be a Chicagoan with traitorous alliances. So I asked around.
“I am a Chicago die-hard, but when it comes to football I wear the blue,” said freelance photographer Abel Arciniega, a Chicago native and an Indianapolis Colts fan. “My fascination with the Colts began when the super running back Eric Dickerson joined them in the 80s. I was a big fan of the goggles he would wear. I used to pick the Colts in Tecmo Bowl just because of that.”
Arciniega often reminds his friends of the outcome of Super Bowl XLI. “It was a sweet night for me as I won a ton of cash from my buddies who are all Bears fans,” said Arciniega.
Chicago medical assistant Lawrence McAfee became a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of two players on the team. “I guess my love for different teams started with my love for specific players,” McAfee said. “If I liked a certain player on a team, then I rooted for that team to win. For example, I have always been a Tampa Bay fan even before they were good because I was an Erick Rhett fan and a hardcore Hardy Nickerson fan. I even purchased one of those creamsicle jerseys…don’t laugh.”
During the bitter Chicago Bulls-Detroit Pistons rivalry, Isiah Thomas drew the ire of the die-hard basketball fans in Chicago. But not all of them.
Fariduddin Muhammad grew up on Chicago’s South Side as a Detroit Pistons fan. “I can vividly remember my father’s close friend from Detroit coming to visit with his family one weekend when I was 7 years old,” Muhammad said. “His son was slightly older than me and also into the martial arts. I can recall his son asking every day to go outside to play ball. He asked me, who was my favorite team—and obviously my answer was a proud: “The Chicago Bulls! I’m from The Chi. Who else would I support?’”
But that would soon change.
“I was silent and just listened to him passionately talk about the Pistons and their fearless leader (Isiah Thomas), and how the Bulls had no heart. This conversation took place in 1987. I listened and I must admit I was curious to see where all his passion and enthusiasm derived from.”
Muhammad was also moved by the story of Isiah Thomas’ West Side Chicago upbringing. “I was impressed by the passion [Thomas] showed when talking about his mother,” Muhammad recalled. “A mother that picked up a shotgun to fight off gang members that were attempting to recruit her son. I was impressed by his contemplation to leave Indiana University for the NBA, and his promise he made to his mother to get his college degree.”
Now, Muhammad sees no problem with being a Pistons fan as well as a proud Chicagoan. “I am from Chicago and The Chi made me a loyal dude…it just so happens I remain loyal to the Pistons.”
Is there anything wrong with rooting for a team outside Chicago. No. In fact, to do so takes courage. We should keep open minds when we meet people wearing the wrong jerseys. Buccaneers fans are people, too.