A good friend, Laura McDaniel, edits the university magazine at North Dakota State, which last fall won its fifth straight NCAA football national championship. She requested an essay from me about allegiance to sports teams, and I was happy to oblige. If you don't follow NCAA Football Championship Subdivision games, or NDSU football, the end might be a bit cryptic, but it refers to the annual national championship game held in Frisco, Texas. How the piece opens:
Allegiance is a curious thing. For most of my adult life I have preferred to avoid joining whomever would have me as a member. As a kid, I lasted about 18 months as a Boy Scout — didn’t much like the other Scouts, liked the grownup leaders less. As for the usual sorts of personal identification with God, country, heritage, social class, race, birthplace, community … eh. If I identify with anything, have faith in anything, it’s as a writer, but if you think that qualifies as being part of a club or community or movement, you’ve never really known a writer.
But an imagined archaeology of my closet would reveal layers of sports loyalties: DC United soccer, Johns Hopkins University lacrosse, Baltimore Ravens football, Ohio University football, Cincinnati Stingers hockey, Cincinnati Bengals football, Cincinnati Reds baseball. I have driven 400 miles to cheer for a team in a national championship game, and 400 miles back glum over a loss, and once attended six events for six different Johns Hopkins sports in a seven-day span; one of those involved a 320-mile round trip to catch three glimpses of some cross country runners. Didn’t seem odd at the time.
Read it all here.