This came to me the other day. To set the seen I was trying to explain to my Mum why I wanted Richmond to beat Collingwood (the AFL game I was watching at the time, if your bothered Collingwood absolutely battered Richmond) and her not really understanding because I have only followed it for a short time. This got me on to thinking the inner workings of a fans mind, especially one like me who finds either fun or neccessary to want one team or another to win
So you get the idea, I will run through the epic calculations in my head when see a fixture I am about to watch.
Stage 1: Is a team I support playing? Yes, support them - No continue to Stage 2 - Yes a nice simple one to start with. Is my team in whatever sport it is playing? If they are, it is the easiest decision.
Stage 2: Is a team I hate playing? Yes, cheer on other team - No continue to Stage 3 - As you follow a sport over time, you pick up a collection of teams that you hate, for many reasons. Local rivalry, amount of success, the way they play, an incident in the past like your team being deducted 3 points for not being able to field a team, while another team fields 2 illegal players for 6 months and get a mere fine (West Ham). I have a fair few. Newcastle, Manchester United, West Ham, New England Patriots, New York Yankees, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Eagles, Collingwood, Fremantle and Whitley Bay Warriors.
Stage 3: Is there a team from somewhere I have visited?: Yes, if I enjoyed it cheer on them if I didn't cheer on the other team - No continue to Stage 4 - This applys mostly to the American or Australian sports I follow, I tend to have a fondness for teams from places I have visited and enjoyed, examples include Sydney, Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and a couple of others. There are a minor few where I tend to not like there teams (Los Angeles or New York) due to the fact that I didn't like it that much when I went there.
Stage 4: Is there a history or an emotional story that makes me want a team to win?: Yes cheer on them - No go to Stage 5 - This is where it gets a bit complex, there will be a reason that I will have read or watched that makes me want one team to win, for example I watched Stoke v Bolton in the FA cup semi-final, I wanted Stoke to win because they had never been to a final before. Little emotional stories like that is what being a sports fan is all about I think, and its great when it is your team, but also nice to show empathy for fellow teams with similar pasts.
Stage 5: The way they play, do you like it?: Yes stay - No move to Stage 6 - There are a few teams that I enjoy the way they play the game, or that they have interesting tactics. I enjoy watching Barcelona for the way they play the beautiful game, but I also like Aston Villa. There is no rhyme or reason to this its how I am feeling on the day really. It sometimes takes the opening minutes of a game to determine this.
Stage 6: Who is the underdog?: Yes follow them - No turn it off and go n do something else - The ultimate fail safe, who is the underdog? Everyone enjoys an underdog victory. Which is why it is last because although you want them to win it is ultimately a thankless task because they are the underdog for a reason.
So thats how I do it. I make up all of this in my head and plump for whichever team fits the bill. Neutrality goes out the window when it comes to enjoying sport its all about the emotional rollercoaster. Lets face it if you can't ride your own, you may as well ride someone else's.