by Keith Aksel
Do you watch sports as an excuse to socialize with other people? Or do you treat socializing with other people as an excuse to watch sports? These kinds of questions can tell you a lot about the type of fan you are. The former type of fan can comfortably be called a “casual fan,” while the latter would be of the more “serious” persuasion.
But even among those in the “serious” category, it’s clear that fans take in the sports they watch differently. Serious fans carry with them a variety of what I call “intake perspectives” that dictate how they interpret sports contests. In other words, individual fans watch sports in ways that emphasize certain dynamics over others on a consistent basis. Depending on one’s intake perspective, fans may ignore some facets of a contest while fixating on others, all based on how a fan “reads” the events on the field. I have come up with an unscientific set of criteria (after all we’re historians at the Tattered Pennant, not scientists) that might help you determine what type of serious fan you are. There are three main categories of fan intake perspectives that I think sum up most of the serious fans out there. Which one are you?
by Alex Langer
The mythology of the Super Bowl era and the American Football League-National Football League merger goes a little something like this: The NFL was the older, more successful league that lost a small number of stars to the AFL in the 1960s. When the two leagues decided to play a championship game, the NFL juggernaut Green Bay Packers, led by Vince Lombardi, won the first two against overmatched AFL opponents. In Super Bowl III, the underdog New York Jets went against Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. Famously, “Broadway” Joe Namath guaranteed a victory over the Colts, and his Jets delivered. After that, proving that the AFL could play with the NFL, the two leagues merged, and the rest is history. What that history leaves out is the victor of Super Bowl IV, the Kansas City Chiefs.
by Chris Foss
On November 9, former NBA power forward Greg Ballard passed away too young—age 61—from prostate cancer. During the mid-1970s, Ballard anchored the frontline of the Oregon Ducks, and remains the team’s career rebounding leader. As Oregon’s “Kamikaze Kids” emerged into the national spotlight by repeatedly defeating UCLA at the top of their game and advancing deep into the National Invitational Tournament in 1977 (back when that still meant something), NBA scouts took notice. Ballard was drafted fourth that summer by the Washington Bullets, and ended up playing an integral role as a rookie on perhaps the NBA’s most forgotten championship team.
As sports fans, we have a tendency to remember primarily runs of dominance that extend across multiple years. We remember the Yankees of the 1990s and their four World Series titles, the San Francisco 49ers and their four Super Bowls in the 1980s, or the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball teams of the 1960s and 1970s. Without question, those teams earned their reputations of greatness, and will live on in the minds of even casual fans without personal ties to those teams.
In and among such dominant championship runs sit lesser-known title teams, typically remembered only by historians and the team’s fans. These teams often produced their program’s or franchise’s historical high-water marks of success. But, because those championships were won by teams in smaller markets and in isolated moments, general fans tend to forget that they climbed the mountain at all.
Beginning today, we will profile a few of these overlooked champions, and argue for their significance (or lack thereof) in their respective sports. What’s important is to remember that the sports landscape is made up just as much by the overlooked champs as the memorable champs. For every Cowboys team of the 1990s, there’s two or three 1969 Kansas City Chiefs. All those champions mattered at some level, but it is up to us to think about how they mattered, and to what extent.
by Alex Langer
It might be crazy to think about, given that we’re in the heart of the NFL season, in the middle of the World Series, and just getting back into the NBA season, but NCAA Basketball is almost back. Next week, most basketball programs will play exhibition games as final tune-ups for the non-conference season. On Friday, November 11, the season will tip off with a frenzy of all-day televised basketball featuring the No. 3 Villanova Wildcats, the defending NCAA champions, along with No. 1-ranked Duke University and most of the top-ranked teams. Most of the national attention has been on Duke and No. 2-ranked Kansas, schools that pulled in the top-ranked recruiting class and the top-rated player, respectively (small forward Josh Jackson). Future NBA stars such as Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum stand ready to wow fans of college basketball all winter.
In this preview, I am not going to make any predictions about records and champions. While college basketball is far less unpredictable than the “March Madness" moniker would suggest, it still has one of the more unpredictable playoffs in the U.S. With many new players at new schools in new environments, brought on by the roster turnover made possible by early entry into the NBA Draft, any predictions I make would either be destined for second-guessing, or rooted in blatant partisanship (Arizona Wildcats Final Four, baby!). Instead, I will take a look at two teams, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Villanova Wildcats, to explore the two very different ways college basketball teams build their rosters.