It’s no secret who my teams are. I’m pretty much a homer when it comes to sports. If you’re wondering who my team is in any given sport, just find the team located in Northern California and you’ve got it. Oakland A’s, Golden State Warriors, Oakland Raiders, Sacramento Kings, San Francisco 49ers, and if you have to find a hockey team, the San Jose Sharks. Every once in a while, though, there’s an out of market team that captures my attention. Often times it’s because of a player I like. Other times it’s because I’m a habitual underdog supporter, and there’s actually a team out there worse than mine. Here’s who they are, how they fared, why I liked them, and who I liked on the team….
Season Outcome: 4-12, 5th in AFC Central
Who I Liked: Corey Dillon, Peter Warrick, Takeo Spikes
Why I Liked Them: This team sort of tricked me. I had flirted with Bengals fandom for a few seasons, mainly on the strength of receivers, Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott. 2000, however, was the year I finally traveled down striped road and jump on the Bengal bandwagon, if there is such a thing. The problem was, Pickens and Scott were gone, and Akili Smith had assumed full time QB duties. What was left was 1,400 rushing yards for Corey Dillon, and Peter Warrick leading the receiving core with an underwhelming 52 catches and 4 TDs. I almost bought a Peter Warrick jersey one day at the San Francisco City Center early that season. Good thing I didn’t, that’d be the second worst jersey in my closet right now.
#9 – 1994 Chicago Blackhawks
Season Outcome: 39-36-9, Lost in 1st round of playoffs
Who I Liked: Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, Steve Smith
Why I Liked Them: This affinity has nothing to do with real life. This was a strictly virtual relationship. I only liked the 1993-1994 Chicago Blackhawks for one reason: NHL 94 on Sega Genesis. For some reason, the developers of that game made the Blackhawks an amazing team. Jeremy Roenick was unstoppable, Ed Belfour was unbeatable, and the defensive duo of Chris Chelios and Steve Smith delivered some devastating hits. Chappy and I used to play together as the Blackhawks with the sole intention of racking up the highest number of checks possible. I believe our career high was somewhere in the 130s. (Footnote: Checks after the whistle were counted on the game)
Season Outcome: 43-39, Lost in 1st round of playoffs
Who I Liked: Kenny Anderson, Drazen Petrovic, Derrick Coleman
Why I Liked Them: The main reason was simply Kenny Anderson. He was my favorite player, so naturally I rooted for the Nets. It went beyond that, though, and the supporting cast won me over as well. Drazen Petrovic was emerging into a legitimate star at the SG spot, and was named to the All-NBA 3rd Team at the end of the season. Everything seemed to be clicking for the Nets, but they were ousted from the playoffs in the full 5 games by a Brad Daugherty / Mark Price led Cleveland team. That offseason, Petrovic was killed in a car crash, but the Nets were still able to improve their record the following season.
#7 – 1987 Toronto Blue Jays
Season Outcome: 96-66, 2nd in AL East
Why I Liked Them: Lloyd Moseby. If you’ve read this blog before, you may have remembered that Chappy and I were in the same kindergarten class with Moseby’s daughter. He came and spoke to our class, and at the ripe age of 4, I’m pretty sure he was the first major league baseball player I ever met in real life. That’s always gonna make an impression. Upon his visit, Moseby gave every kid in the class a velcro Blue Jays wallet. Now, I’m not one to get excited at the sight of professional athletes, but 22 years later in 2009, while working for the Sacramento River Cats, I walked by Lloyd Moseby and just about shit my pants. That’s the stuff legends are made of.
#6 – 1995 Cleveland Indians
Season Outcome: 100-44, Lost in World Series
Who I Liked: Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga
Why I Liked Them: As a former small, fast guy, I became a big fan of Kenny Lofton in the mid-90s. There was also a lot of power on this team though. Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, and Eddie Murray…. That’s almost 2,000 career HRs between those guys. Throw in Charles Nagy, who was uncanny on whatever baseball video game I was playing that year, and I rooted this team all the way to the World Series. Oh yeah, it certainly helped that my best childhood friend’s cousin, Mike Hargrove, was the Manager of the team.
Season Outcome: 8-8, 4th in AFC West
Who I Liked: Natrone Means, Anthony Miller, Ronnie Harmon
Why I Liked Them: I already was a fan of Anthony Miller, but the emergence of Natrone Means turned me into a full-time Charger fan. I even rode that wave all the way until the 1994 Super Bowl, when my 49ers had gotten so good, I was actually rooting for San Diego that year. In hindsight, I’m extremely thankful it turned out the way it did though. As much as I liked the Charger offense in 93, I might’ve liked the defense better. Up front was Leslie O’Neal and Shawn Lee. Behind them was Junior Seau and Gary Plummer. Then, in the secondary there was Stanley Richard and Darien Gordon. Gordon was much more exciting for his punt returns though. They even had a guy deep on their depth chart who would become relevant years later in Terry Crews.
#4 – 1988 Seattle Mariners
Season Outcome: 68-93, 7th in AL West
Who I Liked: Harold Reynolds, Rey Quinones, Alvin Davis
Why I Liked Them: I think Harold Reynolds may have been my first favorite player, aside from the legend Lloyd Moseby. I was also fond of his double play partner, Rey Quinones. I think they may have played a key role in my later becoming a middle infielder. (That or my weak arm) I remember going to see them play against the A’s and sitting behind the visitor dugout cheering Reynolds and co. Albeit in a green and gold A’s hat.
Season Outcome: 34-48, 6th in Central Division
Who I Liked: Vin Baker, Glenn Robinson, Todd Day
Why I Liked Them: It started with Vin Baker. Then, Milwaukee added Glenn Robinson with the #1 pick that year. My dad used to share season tickets with some coworkers and they’d have a draft each season to pick which games they wanted tickets to. My dad was nice enough to let me make the majority of the picks, and that year, I shook up the draft by taking Milwaukee over such favorites as the Bulls and Magic.
#2 – 1996 New York Jets
Season Outcome: 1-15, 5th in AFC East
Who I Liked: Adrian Murrell, Keyshawn Johnson, Jeff Graham
Why I Liked Them: This might have been the peak of my love for underdogs. The Jets were coming off a 3-13 season, but Adrian Murrell was my new favorite running back. They also drafted Keyshawn Johnson with the #1 pick in the draft. That was one year into my sister’s time at USC, so I had become a fan after that first game I saw him play at Cal, when he torched them for 200+ yards. Unfortunately, the Jets were only able to muster up one win that year. But, to this day, I still have that green #19 Keyshawn jersey to remember those times.
Season Outcome: 41-41, 5th in Central Division
Who I Liked: Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, David Wingate, Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry
Why I Liked Them: Grandmama and Zo were obviously the main reasons, but being a little guy, I obviously loved Muggsy Bogues as well. I also loved Dell Curry coming off the bench. Throw in a weird man crush on David Wingate, and the 93-94 Hornets were my favorite other team of all-time. Aside from those guys, they also had Scott Burrell, Hersey Hawkins, Eddie Johnson, and Rumeal Robinson, who came over from the Nets team that I liked the year before. The Hornets were also coming off a successful run into the second round of the playoffs the previous year.