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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Rooting for the home team in Spokane is a choice

Spokane’s geographic isolation has one sometimes overlooked benefit.

If you live here, you can freely root for whatever pro sports teams you desire. You can pick and choose.

Live and die with the Minnesota Twins? Go for it.

Proud of your Chicago White Sox? Wear that black-and-white cap with a smile.

Oh, sure. There are many in Spokane who assume that those who care about sports would automatically be loyal to the Seattle teams. But that’s not always true.

A lot of us did not grow up rooting for Seattle teams. And moving to the Northwest does not instantly trump sports allegiances formed in far-away places, cultivated over generations.

Besides, Seattle is a long way from Spokane.

Sure, the cities are in the same state. But New York and Boston are closer to each other. St. Louis and Kansas City are closer to each other. To cite just a couple of examples.

OK, there’s nothing saying a sports fan in a major league city is required to root for the home team. But let’s face it. A Yankees booster in Boston runs the very real risk of being viewed as someone trying a bit too hard to be a character.

In Spokane, a fan of pro sports can be free to follow his or her bliss without fear of appearing annoyingly affected. (Well, unless you are suddenly a fervent fan of a championship team.)

Sure, the local media will fill your ears with a steady drumbeat of Seattle sports news. But we all know the internet has made every team the home team for those who care, whether we’re talking about the Calgary Flames or Atlanta Braves.

Once upon a time, those Spokane sports fans lacking self-esteem might have doubted themselves because they did not reside in a big league city. But this is 2018. Anyone wanting to overdose on Pittsburgh Pirates stats or order a complete leisure wardrobe of San Antonio Spurs apparel can easily do so.

The concept of “out of market” isn’t all that relevant in a place like Spokane, which is in the Seattle pro sports market in much the same way Lewis & Clark were going for a hike.

Of course, actually attending games can be a bit of a problem for the Spokane fan of, say, the Green Bay Packers or Toronto Maple Leafs. But being a modern sports fan is about much more than butts in the stadium seats. It’s about screen time on your electronic devices and the happy moment when you actually encounter a fellow Cincinnati Reds fan at NorthTown.

Another drawback of being a fan of a team far from Spokane is you can’t vote against misguided efforts to make that city’s taxpayers foot the bill when your team wants a new arena stuffed with luxury suites for some of the worst people in the world.

But mostly, being a Spokane fan of, say, the Milwaukee Brewers or Memphis Grizzlies, is kind of a kick. It’s like being in a special club.

It can be sort of fun to explain how you became a long-suffering Cleveland Browns rooter. Or provide the backstory for your San Francisco Giants jacket.

There are worse ways of introducing yourself than recalling sitting in your living room with your dad and watching Jim Brown or Willie Mays.

You can even explain how a junior high teacher at your new school in Michigan invited you to come aboard for Detroit’s drive to a World Series title in 1968.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with being a fan of the Seahawks or Mariners. Many local families come by it honestly. Those teams have histories, too.

But this is Spokane. It could be argued that it makes as much sense to be a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. (If that baffles you, ask someone who has been here a while.)

In any event, anyone suggesting that living in Spokane and not rooting for Northwest pro teams is inherently disloyal needs to take a moment to reflect.

Have you paid any attention to the off-the-field realities of professional sports in the past few decades? Do you imagine owners are driven by a desire to be true to the people who buy the T-shirts and foam cheeseheads?

Anyway, spring training is coming. It’s a time when all who care about baseball can dream.

In Spokane, a lot of those dreamers are Mariners fans.

A lot, but not all.

Go, Tigers.

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