Sports: These days, I root for people more than I do for teams

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As the NFL season winds down another year in which the Cleveland Browns won’t win the Super Bowl, I wonder where Baker Mayfield will play next year. When he was drafted by the Browns No. 1 on April 26, 2018, I remember thinking, “Welp, the Browns are now my team.”

I’m a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, technically. My wife is a San Francisco 49ers fan, and these two fandoms mesh about as well as Jets and Sharks.

So, the Browns really became our team.

I’m a Texas Rangers fan, a Dallas Stars fan, an Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks fan, historically. All of this can fluctuate in terms of my interest. It was tough for me to maintain interest in the Rangers by June of last year. And it’s been rough for the Thunder, as a fan, until this year when we’re seeing glimmers of hope.

The older I’ve gotten, the less I root for teams and the more I just root for people.

There’s one exception: the Oklahoma Sooners.

Mostly. With the Sooners there are some individuals I like more than others: Blake Bell, Hollis Price, Mark Andrews, Caleb Kelly, Tre Brown, Roy Williams, Buddy Hield, Trae Young, Lauren Chamberlain, Sydney Romero, Shay Knighten, and I could go on. Strangely enough, I’ve grown to like Jalen Hurts a ton more as an Eagles QB. He’s done a tremendous job and is a strong but quiet leader. Kyler is phenomenal, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Arizona Cardinals from back in the Kurt Warner-Larry Fitzgerald days.

But Baker is the greatest Sooner of them all, and I say this as somebody who watched Oklahoma in the 70s, 80s and beyond. Dude walked on at OU. He chose us. And he was a great player who led with straight fire.

I say all that just a couple days after Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams entered the transfer portal. No, I’m not going to say what you think a 50-plus old-timer would say. He’s a smart fellow, and I wouldn’t begrudge anybody getting theirs just as I don’t begrudge players opting out of bowl games. You saw what happened to Matt Corral, and I remember two decades ago what happened to Kenyon Martin. That’s not to say the entire NCAA system is broken. In an NIL world, I suspect player contracts will become a thing. I suspect bowl games will give way to playoffs.

Williams’ possible departure doesn’t mean I couldn’t be excited when UCF QB Dillon Gabriel decided to commit to the Sooners. I should note in full transparency that I hated how he did UCLA, especially since I also root for the Bruins by proxy of marriage. I was looking forward to how Gabriel would do in a Chip Kelly offense in Pasadena. Thought it was the perfect place for him, and to be honest, I still do.

But I think he’ll also thrive under Jeff Lebby at Oklahoma.

This isn’t the point.

Like Baker Mayfield did nearly a decade ago, Gabriel chose us. Like Russell Westbrook chose us several years back. Like Blake Griffin did when he could have gone anywhere.

I’m already a Dillon Gabriel guy, and he hasn’t played a down.

Jerry Seinfeld has a bit where he says we only root for uniforms. I believe this is true. If my nephew signed to play QB at Texas, I would be the first to buy Longhorns gear.

Sorry. To me, that’s a no-brainer.

When Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to an NBA championship in 2019 after my wife and I took our honeymoon to Canada, we both became big Kawhi fans. When the Clippers came to Oklahoma City last month, Kristi got us tickets behind the Clippers bench.

We rooted for the Thunder, but we love Kawhi.

There are lots of people I root for in sports, entertainment, politics, journalism, you name it. The team they play for, if you will, doesn’t come into play. And it won’t with Baker Mayfield either.

I’d love for him to get that fifth year in Cleveland with a healthy shoulder, see what the team could do. I like the Browns; that won’t change. But if they ship him off to another team, welp, I guess I’ve got a new team, too.

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