There’s a saying among sports fans that, at our core, we root for laundry. Any player wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform on the baseball diamond, for instance, is our hero. Trade him to another team, especially a hated rival, and he’s a bum. Bring someone over from the Cardinals or the Dodgers, a player we’ve always booed at Great American Ball Park, put him in a Reds uniform, and we’ll cheer every time he steps to the plate.
It’s the red hat with the white C that links us together. Or the black and orange tiger stripes, the blue and orange crown, the black and red C with claws, the blue and white X. Any player wearing those uniforms is “our guy,” and everyone wearing different-colored laundry and trying to beat him is the enemy. Check out our guys and gals in this month’s “Sports Center” section and see if you feel the same way.
Following a particular team creates community in the same way other life choices do—from your high school or college to your neighborhood or church. All of those institutions generate loyalty and bonds among those with similar experiences, even if you have little else in common. If two people went to the same school a few decades apart, they still share a connection. It’s similar if people root for the same team—you’re brothers and sisters in arms. Think of how many strangers you hugged when the Bengals beat Kansas City to reach the Super Bowl.
You pick up that feeling when you play sports as well. The folks knocking around on the next pickleball court? They’re our kind of people. Fellow skateboarders, double-Dutch rope jumpers, kickball players, wiffleball crazies? They get us! Let’s hang out!
Quite a bit of my own laundry is tied to my love of sports, I have to admit, because wearing a team shirt or hat is a great way to feel part of something. To get to know strangers immediately. To announce, This is who I am and where I’m from. Are you with me? Sports can be magical that way.