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Sports Authority

Mazurek: Fans tend to support teams, not players

| Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cue the Star Wars scroll.

The year is 2019, and the NBA wields unprecedented power over the sport of basketball.

Due to a loophole in the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the league now has the power to alter the roster of any team for no reason at all.

After their miraculous comeback in the 2016 NBA finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won three championships in a row, and league commissioner Adam Silver is getting tired of seeing LeBron James and company win. It’s bad for business. Who wants to watch the NBA when everyone knows the Cavs are going to win?

So with his new sweeping powers, Silver decrees that Cleveland must switch its entire roster with the Orlando Magic (because God knows the Magic need it). Now, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love wear blue and black instead of wine and gold.

This is all, of course, a fictional scenario — although I wouldn’t be shocked if Cleveland achieves a three-peat — and the reason I introduce it is to pose a question.

If you are a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, who do you root for? All the players you watched win a championship — or the three in my scenario — are gone. All of them. They’re playing under the name of the Orlando Magic, but they’re playing exactly the same way and doing the same things as they did in Cleveland.

Or do you cheer for the Cavaliers, who now consist of Orlando’s former players? Your best player is now Serge Ibaka, and that’s unfortunate if you like winning.

It’s an interesting question. I actually asked a couple real-life Cavaliers fans what they thought, and they all said they would still root for the team in Cleveland, even though it would be an entirely new roster.

It would seem that the tradition of the team itself wins out. Players, and even logos or venues change, but the team itself doesn’t. And this line of thinking isn’t hard to understand.

Most sports fans are indoctrinated from birth by their parents as to which teams to root for, which teams to hate. None of the Cavaliers fans I talked to were alive when Michael Jordan hit his famous shot over Craig Ehlo in the first round of the 1989 playoffs. Nor were they alive for “The Drive,” “The Fumble” or most of the plethora of Cleveland sports mishaps, but they feel like they’re a part of that culture.

But would you still root for the Cavaliers if they didn’t have a lengthy history? What if the Cavaliers did not exist as a team until 2015? The only Cavaliers roster you ever knew was the one with Lebron, Irving and Love? And they all just left for Orlando.

I guess the reason I’m posing all these super fun hypotheticals is because I’m currently working through this process. My favorite team since I started watching League of Legends is Cloud9. However, the Cloud9 roster I first grew to love disbanded for the most part. Two years ago, four of the five starting members took a step down to the “B” series to open up spots for the organization’s up-and-coming stars. Now, only one original member of the Cloud9 team I first grew attached to is still on the team.

The catch is that three of the old Cloud9 roster decided they wanted another shot at the big league and left the organization to form their own team, now called FlyQuest. One thing that differentiates e-sports from traditional sports is history. Cloud9 as an organization only existed for a few years before I became a fan. It had no other roster than the one I knew, and I have no prior attachment to any of the other current players on the team.

Yet the pull of the organization is strong, and I find myself rooting for Cloud9 over FlyQuest even though the players on FlyQuest are the ones that made me love e-sports. And I try to cheer for them both, but is a sports fan’s heart big enough for two teams?

I guess that’s a question for another column.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

Contact Marek