This past couple of months is one time of year when I spend a fair amount of time watching sports. Football bowl games, basketball games. Mostly fairly forgettable (other than the Boise State / Oklahoma football classic). But it's something I more or less enjoy. Other than bowl games, I rarely watch a football game unless a team I have a rooting interest in is playing. But I will watch NCAA basketball even if I don't know much about either team. Scouting for my various bets I will have with friends on the upcoming NCAA basketball tourney. The odd thing is, before I've watched for five minutes I am usually rooting for one team or the other.
On New Year's Eve I had a conversation with my friend Amy on the general subject of who to root for in a given sporting event. She has a fairly clear set of football rooting rules which I would paraphrase, perhaps inaccurately, as "always root for Iowa State and Nebraska, and always root against Colorado, Texas, Notre Dame and all Florida teams. " Our conversation got me thinking about what rules I apply to sports cheering. The anti-Florida, anti-Notre Dame rules are tempting, but I just can't make them into rules.
For me it's a mishmash of factors. If there are players on a team that I really like, I will overlook the institution. In last year's NCAA basketball tourney I really liked the way Joachim Noah played for Florida and their general style of play, enough so that I became a fan in spite of a general negativity about the institution and no fondness for the coach.
But generally coaches matter. I like Iowa football because I like the coach. I dislike Iowa basketball for the same reason. And I'm a graduate of the Iowa law school. I have always rooted against Arizona and Syracuse basketball because Lute Olson and Jim Boeheim seemed like sanctimonious whiners to me. But over time my dislike of those teams has weakened.
At some level, institutions matter too. I almost always root for Cal, because I really like Berkeley. I root for Wisconsin because I like the institution (and Madeline goes there). More in basketball because I like the coach and they have a Minnesota kid starting at guard.
I suppose conferences matter too. I tend to root for the Big Ten. Against the ACC and the SEC.
So I decided to become analytical about it, creating a support formula to enable me to make this decision in advance:
Support Rating = .4532(Player Rating) + .314 (Coach Rating) + .17 (Institution Rating) + .1234 (Conference Rating)
I apply this simple formula to each team and determine which team has the higher Support Rating. Then I call Kate, ask her which team has the best uniforms, and root for that team.