Schuck's Clipboard

Does name on front or back of jersey mean more to fans?

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 3, 2018 12:30 am

The quote is attributed to Herb Brooks, the legendary University of Minnesota hockey coach who guided the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team to a gold medal, but coaches universally have used some variation of it.

"The name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back," Brooks said during the U.S. team's training leading up to the Lake Placid Games.

That quote was used during a poignant scene in the movie "Miracle," and it resonated loudly with those who believe the team is more important than the individual.

After what transpired Sunday, do fans buy into that as well?

Do you root for the name on the front of the jersey or the one on the back?

LeBron James is putting that to the test. He agreed to a four-year, $158 million free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, and social media sites immediately were flooded with King James fans saying they'd now be rooting for the Lakers. There was little to no bitterness among Cleveland Cavaliers fans -- at least those Ohio transplants I know living here -- as they applauded James for finally bringing a championship to Believeland.

Their loyalty may be tested, but it won't be broken.

"When you're born and raised on Lake Erie, you stay true to Lake Erie," said Brian Armstrong, a 39-year-old construction worker who grew up in Cleveland and moved to Quincy 15 years when his wife, Maggie, was relocated for her job. "I'm diehard. I root for the Indians, the Browns and the Cavaliers. That will never change.

"I love watching LeBron play, but I will always root for Cleveland, whoever is wearing that jersey."

Not all fans are so loyal.

A vast number of basketball fans, especially in this area, aren't invested in a singular team. Sure, the Chicago Bulls are a draw, especially for those who grew up in the Air Jordan era, but they don't have the universal appeal of the Cubs or the Bears. The fact St. Louis doesn't have an NBA team creates an entire region without any homespun loyalty.

In essence, those fans are a bunch of free agents, too.

That's why you see high school and college students sporting jerseys adorned with the name and number of LeBron, Kevin Durant, Bryant Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry and others. You're bound to see more Jayson Tatum jerseys soon after his stellar rookie season and his St. Louis roots.

He is a reason so many basketball fans in this region have gravitated toward rooting for the Celtics. Michael Porter Jr., the Mizzou product, could have many cheering for the Denver Nuggets in due time, too, as long as he stays healthy and lives up to his potential.

I haven't rooted for an NBA team since the 1980s when I followed the Lakers for two reasons -- James Worthy is my all-time favorite player and my brother, Greg, is a diehard Celtics fan. And in all honestly, I don't think I have ever purposefully tuned in to a Nuggets game.

I will next season. It's entirely because of the name on the back.

Which name will you be rooting for?

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