I tell my students that I am a Bengals fan. I tell them that it is not easy being a Bengals fan. I tell them how I don’t watch the games because I was scarred as a young fan by watching the 49ers come from behind and beat the Bengals in the last two minutes of two Super Bowls. I tell them how some people say that you can divorce a team and become a fan of a new team. I tell them that those people are wrong. I tell them that your fandom is determined by your birth. I tell them that your family or your geography or some combination of both determines your fandom. Sure, I tell them, if you relocate to another city then you can adopt the local team but that you are first, foremost and forever a fan of your God-given team. I tell them how my son can be anyone he wants to be and love anyone he wants to love but I get to choose his sports team. I tell them how he defies me. I tell them how he is being raised in Richmond, VA so I understand his defiance. I tell them that there is a struggle in my house between the familial and the geographic determinants of his fandom. I tell them how he flirted with being a New England Patriots fan when he was young. I tell them how I told him that this is not allowed by the fandom universe. I tell them how I told him that we do not live in New England and I am not and never could or would be a fan of New England so he has no familial connection to New England. I tell them how I told him that even if it was allowed that I would never allow it to be allowed. I tell them how he also flirted with being a Baltimore Ravens fan. I tell them how some of my in-laws (who were born and raised in Virginia) tried to make him a Ravens fan and how his Aunt Claire gave him a Ravens beach towel one Christmas morning when he was five or six. I tell them how his face lit up in excitement as he unfurled it with his tiny outstretched arms. I tell them how that was the last time that he held that beach towel. I tell them how I took that beach towel and hid it in the attic and how he asked about it for years (for years) and how I lied to him and told him how he must have lost it. I tell them how my wife found that beach towel in the attic many years later, how I got a talking to and how he looked at me in disbelief. I tell them how I felt no shame. I tell them how I hid that beach towel again after the beach towel furor died down. I tell them how I tried doing the same thing with the University of Virginia scarf someone gave him. I tell them how no son of mine is going to walk around in public wearing a UVA scarf. An Ohio State Buckeyes scarf, yes. Cavaliers, no. I tell them how I would rather see my son in Michigan Blue before Cavalier Orange. I tell them how given that none of them are from Ohio that they cannot fully appreciate the gravity of what I just said. I tell them that I cannot believe what I just said. I tell them (upon further reflection) that I would rather see my son in Cavalier Orange before Michigan Blue. I tell them about this documentary I watched about the city of Cleveland (which is a city I am not supposed to care for since I was born and raised outside of Cincinnati) finally winning a major sports title and how in the final scenes of this documentary a father and son are sitting at the counter of some diner and the father is talking about his fandom and how strongly he wants his son to share his fandom and how his young son is sitting on the bar stool next to his father and tells his father that he does share his fandom and how the father starts to tear up and how I start to tear up because all I want is for my son to share my fandom too.

Now, having told you all that I tell my students, let me tell you that every once in a while, on the first exam in this class, I ask my students the following question:

Q: What is your favorite NFL team?

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Baltimore Ravens
  4. Washington Football Team

I tell them that there is only one right answer. I tell them that if they answer it correctly, then I will give them one extra credit point. I tell them that this is an easy question to answer if they attended class on the day that I told them all of the aforementioned things. I am testing for attendance. I do not tell them that I am also testing their fandom, their loyalty to their team. There are those students who just circle the Bengals. They don’t have a team or their team is not listed. Easy. They get one point. Then there are those who struggle. They circle their team, cross out their team and then circle the Bengals. They write “This isn’t fair” in the margins. They get one point. And, then there are those who circle their team multiple times with a hard-pressed-pen-to-the-paper-F-U-Humphrey-intensity. They get 2 points!

PS After the Bengals won their first playoff game in 31 years, my son is turning orange and black! Who Dey!


I’m writing a book on my pedagogy called Rewild School, blogpost-by-blogpost. This is one of those blogposts. You can learn more by visiting Rewild School.

Thanks. – shawn


Image by Prettysleepy from Pixabay