Do we root for the players...or is our loyalty strictly to the teams?
For years, I loved Randy Moss the football player. He was traded off the Vikings...and while I still root for him, my passion doesn't rise over his exploits. My real emotion stayed with the Vikings. I root for these players...but I really only root for them because they are Vikings. I'm loyal to a franchise, a logo, a color, more than a man.
Chester Taylor meant virtually nothing to me a few weeks ago. As a football fan, I knew who he was and what he could do, but if the Ravens were on and they called a play to Taylor, I couldn't care less. And now, when he takes a handoff in 2006, my heart will be in my stomach and I'll be hollering and screaming.
As fans, most of us don't really love the player as much as the color of jersey the player wears. If the player has some great performances wearing that color jersey, he begins to mean something more to us. If he doesn't...or he leaves early to go have exploits wearing another color...we'll either feel indiffernce or animosity.
This is complicated further by the fact that the particular franchise means more to a fan than to a player on the team. As fans, we grow up in a region, follow a team for years, and hear stories about the franchise's history. Players, however, don't have that lengthy connection. They usually grow up somewhere else and end up playing for a particular franchise without any will on their part (through the draft or trade). They have a home somewhere else, and no real connection or loyalty to a particular franchise. They're not here by choice. Certainly, I would hope, every member of the Vikings wants to win a Super Bowl in 2006 more than I want the Vikings to win a Super Bowl. But how many of them actually care about winning it while playing for the Vikings? Most of them didn't grow up rooting for the Purple and probably don't care a hell of a lot about which franchise pays their bills.
I'm a rube rooting for a freakin' color, and I'll root for anybody who wears that color. I might like other players in the league, but their success means half as much to me as the Vikings do.