I'm weird when it comes to sports.
Growing up in a town without a professional franchise (Knoxville) I didn't have a hometown loyalty. By the time I moved north to Toronto, I had no innate instinct to root for the home team. Which is not to say I hate the home team, either; I certainly cheered with the city when Joe Carter touched 'em all, but as a fan of baseball not of the Jays.
Instead, what happened is that my loyalties became tied to specific players I admired. I wasn't an A's fan, I was a Jose Canseco fan. I wasn't a Lions fan, I was a Barry Sanders fan. Pavel Bure, John Stockton, my rooting interest was in the player, not necessarily the uniform he wore.
I still felt like I was missing out on something though. When those players changed cities or left the game entirely, there was usually a gap of a year or two before I found a replacement I could hang my hat on. And there was always a bit of envy for people who had been fans of the same team since before they ever knew who or what it was they were rooting for.
Which is why, when Peyton Manning became a pro, I was able to somewhat scratch that itch. Rooting for him and the previously sad-sack Colts in part because he played his college ball in Knoxville made me feel a little like I was finally part of that club.
On the other hand, my hatreds are forever. From Ron Hextall to Eric Lindros to Chris Pronger, the Flyers have always been a team of thugs and punks. I despised Isaiah Thomas long before he was ruining franchises from the front office, because he hid behind scum like Bill Laimbeer. But of all the teams I loathe, one has always stood head and shoulders above the other: the Broncos.
The first professional sports game I have any kind of clear memories of is Super Bowl XII, when the Cowboys whupped the Broncos. I was rooting for the Cowboys because Tony Dorsett was awesome, and the Denver's uniforms were about the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. (This coming from a kid living in a sea of Volunteer orange.) Fast forward a few years, and John Elway earned my emnity by doing his primadonna thing to avoid playing for the Colts and wound up with the Broncos. At that point the hatred was cemented, once and for all. The Tim Tebow Travelling Revival Show was just gravy by that point, although I thought it was awesome that they'd be forced to stick with him because of that playoff run. Except they didn't.
And now Peyton's signed with the Orange A-holes, and broken my heart. I can't root against Peyton, not in his comeback season, but I can't root for him either, not with Elway grinning from the owner's box like a cheshire surfer dude. Not this, Peyton. Anything but this. I'd rather seem him in a Patriots uniform, frankly.
It's unfair. It's evil. It's unseemly, is what it is.
You broke my heart today, Peyton Manning. I can only hope now that you have a setback, and never play a real game in that uniform.