I love sports. Hailing from the Bay Area, my rooting interests stem from my Raiders and my Warriors. I never have division rivals on my fantasy team. I root against other Western Conference powerhouses. I root against AFC West rivals. And I root for football teams according to how I think they’ll affect wild card standings.
It was simple. Until I joined the Trojan Family.
Some things have been easy: There’s extra rush whenever Swaggy P hits a shot on the Warriors, no matter how questionable his shot selection may be; I can be excited about Frostee Rucker on the Raider’s roster. Navigating conflicting rooting interests, however, has been an exercise in mental gymnastics.
Am I supposed to root for De’Anthony Melton to have an instant impact on the Rockets? At the expense of the Warriors? Am I supposed to root for Chimezie Metu to emerge as a cornerstone player for the Spurs? At the expense of the Warriors? Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart, going to the Nets and Pacers respectively, are easier to get behind. But what about JuJu Smith-Schuster? Am I supposed watch in glee as he streaks down the Raiders sideline?
The answers to the first questions should be yes, and they are. I want every Trojan athlete, and Trojan in general, to find success in their career, period. JuJu is a larger conundrum: he’s had elite production in the NFL, and he’s still raw. It surely won’t hurt him for him to have one bad game, right? Especially not if that game is on week 14 against my Raiders, right? And what does it matter if the game is slated for Sunday Night Football, and has an excised impact on JuJu’s reputation?
I don’t know.
And what if my Raiders have blitzed expectations and have the AFC West locked up at that point? Then I’m probably dreaming. But what if the Raiders are in the thick of the wild card race? Should that affect my rooting interest? But what if the Steelers are also vying for a wild card spot?
As crazy as it is to pose these questions, I think every Trojan has wondered about this basic dilemma: how do I root for USC alum who don’t play for my pro-team?
If anyone’s wondering, my answers to my questions respectively are: It will. It will. It does. Then I’ll root for JuJu. Then I’ll root for the Raiders. Yes. Then I’ll still root for the Raiders, unless they’ve either fallen out of playoff contention or have the AFC West on lock.
This JuJu-Raiders thing will be repeat itself every time a USC alum suits up for a rival team. Ultimately, I’ll take the answers to my questions and end up with a complex set of guidelines. Factors will include the anything from the standings of each team to whether the contest is broadcast nationally.
I don’t have it figured out yet, but here’s one thing I can say with complete confidence: Trojans care for Trojans. Fight on!