Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Updated: September 22, 11:01 AM ET
OK to root against your team?

By Bomani Jones
Special to Page 2

Miami fans, I know what you're thinking. Don't feel bad about it. It's OK. It's sorta unnatural, but it's smart.

There's nothing wrong with rooting against your beloved Hurricanes.

Larry Coker
If you think Coker's gotta go, then it's OK to root against the 'Canes.
On his ESPN Insider blog, Bruce Feldman has mentioned that some 'Canes fans have begun rooting against their team. Those folks believe that the sooner Miami is eliminated from ACC contention, the sooner head coach Larry Coker will be fired.

Problem is, since the ACC is downright pitiful, Miami probably will be 6-2 going into a Nov. 4 tilt with Virginia Tech at the Orange Bowl. Which means that, in spite of how anemic Miami's offense has looked, the Hurricanes could still win the Coastal Division.

Which would put Miami one win away from the ACC title and an eight-figure payday.

Which would probably keep Coker and embattled athletic director Paul Dee on their jobs for another year.

Which isn't what they want in Coral Gables. More importantly, it's not what they need.

It's become cliché to say this, but Miami needs its swagger back. Never was that clearer than before the embarrassing loss to Louisville last Saturday. When the 'Canes stomped on the logo at midfield of Papa John's Stadium, they didn't look like Miami. They looked like a bunch of imposters trying to convince the opposition that they're the Miami Hurricanes, by doing what they think the Miami Hurricanes are supposed to do.

'Twas little more than whistlin' past the graveyard. Instead of looking big and bad, the 'Canes looked like they were scared of a pending beatdown.

And they should have been.

It's time for a regime change -- so, for the good of the program, it's time for 'Canes fans to throw in the towel. They shouldn't show up at the Orange Bowl wearing enemy colors, but they should listen to the evil Sebastian on their shoulders -- the one that knows losing is the only way to start winning again.

With the Hurricanes in mind, Page 2 has prepared a handy reference guide for similarly tortured fans. It'll help you differentiate when it's OK to hope your favorite team loses, and when doing so is dirty pool.

It's OK to root against your team …
1. To get a new head coach.

The short-term misery of losing a few games can improve your team's long-term health. Think of it like a flu shot.

John Bunting
Plenty of UNC fans would probably like to see Bunting go too.
To drive this home, here's an anecdote about my adopted home team, North Carolina. Going into the 2004 Homecoming game against No. 4 Miami, UNC head coach John Bunting's seat was mighty toasty. The Tar Heels were 3-4, and each loss was by at least 22 points. One of the wins was against a Division I-AA team, and another came in a game in which the Heels gave up 577 total yards to N.C. State.

But the impossible happened -- Carolina beat the 'Canes on a last-second field goal. And after a 27-24 loss to Virginia Tech, Carolina won its last two games and earned a trip to the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte.

For his troubles, Bunting won a contract extension. Never mind a series of embarrassing road losses, or the fact that Carolina has outscored just four I-A opponents in the second half since 2004, both telltale signs of bad coaching. Those wins earned Bunting a few more years on the job.

And subjected us UNC fans to a few more years of John Bunting.

What's happened since? Carolina went 5-6 last year. This season has been marked by poor tackling and poor quarterback play, more signs of bad coaching.

Here's how you know things are bad -- before last Saturday's home game against I-AA Furman, visiting fans strolled through Durham's Southpoint Mall with a confidence that would make you think Carolina was the I-AA team.

At least the Tar Heels beat Furman. By a field goal. At home.

2. For improved draft position.

Let's be real -- in pro sports, the losses don't hurt as much when the playoffs are out of the picture. True rivalries are few and far between, so fans tend to keep an eye on the forest of the season instead of tripping over every tree of a game.

After a team is eliminated from playoff contention, the only thing that matters is the draft. And is there any pride or value in getting the second pick of the draft instead of the first? Don't think so.

Think about it -- had the Texans won a couple of meaningless games, they never would have been able to draft Mario Williams.

Er …

(Sorry, but time was running out on Texans/Reggie Bush/Mario Williams jokes. Gotta get while the gettin's still good.)

3. In the name of your favorite player.

As sports fans, we love our teams, and wind up loving players because they play for our teams. Every now and then, a player comes around that's so magnetic, we care about him or her more than we care about the team.

And sometimes, our teams treat those players like s---. Just ask Marcus Allen (more on him later).

When that happens, fans get one game to take out their frustrations on their teams. For example, the five or six Eagles fans that liked Terrell Owens more than the Birds better get all their anger out when Dallas plays Philly on Oct. 8. (Owens will play in spite of his broken finger because, honestly, dropping a few passes never stopped him from playing before). After that, team loyalty once again takes priority.

4. To win a fantasy league grudge match.

Critics are quick to diss fantasy football because fans are often more attached to their fantasy teams than the ones they've rooted for since childhood.

Those critics just don't get it. There is nothing I love more than beating my friends. And there's very little I love more than beating some stranger a few states away who I've come to despise via a message board in a fantasy league (damn you, Richard Buehler of Columbia, Md.).

People, not sports, make the world go 'round. If you can't respect that, your whole perspective is wack.

It's not OK to root against your team …
1. In a rivalry game.

No matter what, this isn't cool. Doesn't matter if your head coach seems like the type that drives with his feet because his knuckles are bruised from dragging them on the pavement. Doesn't matter if there's an '84 Jordan waiting for the winner of the NBA lottery. This is absolutely forbidden. Nothing is worse than taking a year of smelly stuff from the other side. Even if my mother coached Duke basketball and Vanilla Ice was on the UNC bench, I'd hope Carolina would shut those boys out. And if you don't feel the same way about your team, I don't want to know you.

Important corollary: If this conflicts with No. 3 in the previous list -- think of Marcus Allen playing for the Chiefs -- root for your guy to make one big play and nothing more.

Andrew Walter
It'll be a long season for Raiders fans, but if they've got no shot, give 'em some love!
2. When your team has no chance in hell of winning.

So your coach sucks. Your favorite player was traded for a seventh-round pick and a bag of balls because he accidentally stepped on the owner's shoe. One more loss guarantees the privilege of drafting Adrian Peterson. All signs make you wish a wallopin' upon your favorite team.

Go with what you feel … except if the team's gonna lose anyway.

Only the most optimistic Raiders fans think the Silver and Black will win two games this year. Winning is pointless. They might as well load up on young talent, especially if Peterson's in the draft.

But rooting against them when they play the Bengals in Week 14 would just be mean. We know they're gonna get their asses handed to them. They know they're gonna get their asses handed to them. There's no need to rub it in.

3. Just because you've got money on the game.

A big win from your favorite team should be worth more than a trivial sum of money. And if you've put more than a trivial sum -- which is, more than you can afford to lose -- on a game, get some help. Stat.

4. Because your team wears hideous uniforms.

Why? Because it won't save your team from looking like fools. Cincinnati had less success in the '90s than Young MC, but the team's owners still ignored the possibility that maybe it's asking too much of a team to be mean and ferocious while dressed like Bret Michaels. Though it's perfectly decent to wish ill upon the flamboyantly badly dressed, betraying your allegiances won't make things any better.

Not that rooting ever really changes anything. Just saying.

Bomani Jones is a frequent contributor to Page 2. Tell him how you feel at readers@bomanijones.com.