The Super Bowl will soon be over and with it the beginning of far more productive weekends for me. Admittedly, I spend more time watching football than I should. I consider myself a college football fan and fantasy football has given me reason to pay at least some attention to the games played on Sundays, so a portion of my weekends in the fall and winter are spent on the couch. Because I am a fan of the game, I have no desire to declare myself a fan of a specific team. I respect the fact that many of my friends blindly follow a single team year in and year out, but I will never understand it. I especially don't understand those who use the pronoun "We" when speaking of the team they support. And I have already shared my opinion on the practice of wearing another man's jersey!
As a fan of the game, I pay sole attention to the product on the field without regard to the city or institution it claims to represent (i.e. a college football team rarely reflects the student body of said university and the nomads who play professionally ensure team rosters look different each year). I am more prone to watch a game that includes a quality product than one that represents a specific city or university. And by quality I mean style, skill level and the perceived character of the individual players/coaches who comprise the team. Though I am a graduate of the Naval Academy, I don't particularly enjoy watching the product they put on the field (few things are as boring as an option offense). I support the team because I respect what the institution stands for, the perceived character of the young men who wear the Blue and Gold (though that has been called into question of late), and the demands of the student-athletes taking the field (service academies are arguably the last bastion of true college athletics at the Division I level...graduation rate and personal conduct as metrics). Last year, I particularly enjoyed watching Boise State, Oregon and Stanford on Saturdays for the very reasons outlined above. On Sundays, there are few things as impressive as watching the Patriots (a true team approach), Colts (Peyton Manning prepares for Sundays the same way a Doctor prepares for surgery, a soldier gets ready for battle or an architect draws up blueprints), and the Packers (beautifully orchestrated offense). Next year, I will likely migrate toward completely different products.
I guess I lack product loyalty, but I believe loyalty is something that is continually earned and should never be assumed. If the quality of service or food at my favorite restaurant declines, I will stop going; When my PCs continued to increase my frustration level, I migrated to a Mac; And when a football team is either not fun to watch, apathetic towards competing or includes individuals of questionable character, I'll throw my support elsewhere. I am interested in today's Super Bowl because organizations who truly care about their products (to include image and branding) will be on the field. It's no surprise these two teams have such large and loyal fan bases and though I don't consider myself a fan of either, I respect the phenomenon that is "The Cheesehead" and "The Terrible Towel." As a fan of the game, I congratulate both the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers for repeatedly demonstrating how the game should be played both on and off the field (with the exception of #7 of the Steelers, which is the primary reason I will wear Green and Gold today). Though I will watch with interest (not a given on each Super Bowl Sunday), I wonder about those Packer/Steeler fans who will have their mood significantly altered (positively or otherwise) because of the outcome for which they had no affect. And I feel sorry for anyone who will utter the words "We did it!" if they are not directly affiliated with the winning team's football operations. We are no more a part of our favorite team than we are of a company that manufactures other products we consume in our daily life.
As the 2011 season nears, I'll look forward to supporting whomever fields a team filled with quality people (character) and adopts an exciting style of play. I am not loyal to organizations, I am loyal to values and to those who are committed to personal and professional excellence. Come to think of it, that's the very reason I remain loyal to my friends, family, the Navy and my valued Shipmates...quality people, who play with passion, care about the value we deliver and are committed to realizing our potential (personally and professionally).