Monday, July 9, 2012

The Rooting Effect: A Sports Memoir

Do you know what the Rooting Effect (or Reflex) is? If you’re a parent, a person that works in any human development field or just paid attention during your educational experiences, you should. If you don’t know and you’re part of the first two groups I sincerely judge you and please picture me waving my index finger at you with disappointment and disgust. Actually, please stop reading this blog post immediately as you should be quite ashamed of yourself. If you are in the latter group? You’re cool … because school can be a bore. Well, except when pertaining to the movies Back to School, Summer School, and Old School.

OK, I think we’ve lost the others … let’s continue. The Rooting Effect is actually a reflex that can be seen in newborn babies. When touched on the cheek they will automatically turn their face toward the finger and make sucking (or rooting) motions. Essentially, it’s a basic instinct that assists to ensure successful breastfeeding. So what does this have to do with sports? I’ll get to that in a bit.

Countless people have come up to me and asked, “Hey Doc! Am I allowed to root for this team?” I always respond, “Why that’s an incredibly foolish question and of course you can root for that team, HOWEVER …” Now it’s the “however” that really alters things. We are ALL allowed to root for any team, but our rooting comes with different levels of credibility (As you continue reading please be mindful that I am only tackling – get it? “tackling” - collegiate sports. At this time you’re allowed 100% credibility in rooting for any professional and non-NCAA sport or the Olympics. This has been allowed for millenniums and I do not have the ability nor the power to change those guidelines. Why? Well that’s a totally different blog post.)

Credibility you say Doc? Yes, credibility I say. If you’ve attended a sporting event or simply watched a game at the bar you’ve certainly seen t-shirts and excited patrons, heard impassioned cheering and oodles of booing (or boodles). Have you ever wondered if these people are allowed to do this? Well of course they are. As I said earlier this is only about credibility AND you should pay attention better. We are typically molded to root for particular teams through socialization. This stems from our primary or extended family and our peers. You’ll see it everywhere from the baby that’s spitting up on a Texas Tech bib to that tween rocking a San Diego State hoodie with a heap of angst. Just like the infant that roots for survival, children root as well … maybe not for survival but household affection sounds pretty good. And since a newborn’s rooting is essentially sucking, a child’s rooting, of course, just plain sucks. But it’s a natural behavior and one that is and should be accepted. You wouldn’t expect a child in their sensorimotor phase to be able to pick a team (If you don’t know this term and are a parent or in any human development field it’s now your turn to please stop reading). Infants eventually grow out of the rooting effect and this behavior becomes extinct – and this is a great metaphor for life. Rooting should only occur as long as it is needed for "survival.” My point is this - You have until the age of 18 to breastfeed on any college team you choose. After that, you must autonomously create your own plight towards rooting credibility. 

Some may wonder what gives me the right to lay down these rules. Well, I have a Ph.D. in Counseling, so I’m automatically and overwhelmingly awesome in the areas of logic and emotion. So trust me when I say, “I got this and what I’m about to tell you is gospel.” Rooting for college sports may have 100% creditability in your world, but let’s be honest, that’s not the reality of how rooting is truly accepted. I now bequeath to you: THE GOSPEL of ROOTING.

Rooting counts 100%!
• There are three definitive rules for this category. Either
(1) you attended the main campus of that school for a minimum of one academic year including one summer session,
(2) you are under the age of 18, or
(3) you currently work for said school’s main campus (in any capacity) for a minimum of 5 years.
• For example: I attended the main campuses and graduated from both the University of Florida and the University of Arkansas therefore I can root for them with100% credibility. While growing up in Connecticut, I rooted for UCONN. This rooting had 100% credibility, until I was 18. I did not attend this school and I moved away, so when I yell “Go Huskies!” (and I love yelling that) my rooting credibility is reduced to 25%.

Rooting counts 75%!
• Your child attended the main campus of a school for a minimum of one academic year including one summer session.
• You currently work for said school’s main campus (in any capacity) for more than 3 years and less than 5 years.
• For example: My mother and father who did not attend the University of Florida or the University of Arkansas can root for them with 75% credibility.

Rooting counts 50%!
• You are in any form of domestic partnership with someone that holds 100% credibility.
• You are in a relationship for over 8 months and are not officially living together with someone that holds 100% credibility.
• You are in a relationship (with someone that holds 100% credibility) and have been officially living together for 3 months (you may ignore the 3 month guideline if you have been dating for a respectable amount of time prior to officially moving in together).
• You currently work for said school’s main campus (in any capacity) for less than 3 years.
• You currently live in the county where the main campus of school resides for a minimum of 4 years (if you previously did and moved, or you have lived there under 4 years, then you go to the 25% credibility level).
• One of your parents played on the college team for the specific sport you are rooting for (e.g. you father was on the football team so your football rooting credibility is 50%).
• For example: My lovely wife graduated from Michigan State’s main campus. When I yell “Go Sparty!!!” with 100% love and good knowledge of the team, that rooting only holds 50% credibility. Also, I currently reside in Orange county (for over 4 years), the same county that has the University of Central Florida (UCF). If I choose to I can root for UCF with 50% credibility. But just because I hold this power, it doesn’t mean I’m going to exploit it.

Rooting counts 25%!
• You are in a relationship (with someone that holds 100% credibility) for less than 8 months and are not officially living together.
• You grew up in the area where this college was located.
• You attended a satellite campus of this school for a minimum of one academic year including one summer session.
• You are in any form of domestic partnership or relationship with someone that holds 75% or less rooting credibility.
• For example: If I attended school for a minimum of one academic year, including one summer session, at the University of Minnesota’s satellite campus in Rochester, and not their Twin Cities main campus, when I cheer for good ol’ Goldy Gopher it’s only holds 25% credibility.

Rooting counts 10%!
• Your parents attended the main campus of that school for a minimum of one academic year including one summer session.
• You are dating and/or friends with benefits, and/or got “lucky” you crazy chap or chapette with an individual that has 100% credibility.
• For example: Ann Curry say’s “Yo! I totally crushed it last night with that rad sophomore from Gonzaga!” Ann Curry’s father says, “Well then you can root for Gonzaga with 10% credibility. When do we meet this fine young man?”

Rooting counts 0%!
• You know if you’re here, but don’t feel too bad about it because you’ll always have professional sports and the Olympics
• You have wooden words in your house (this has nothing to do with sports, I just think it’s weird)
• You truly like “Cleatus” the FOX Sports robot. If this is the case you actually lose credibility in general life and may Darwin Bless Your Soul as you continue through your existence.

THE GOSPEL of ROOTING is very clear (except for the parts that aren’t that clear) but I am open to amendments. I may be the wisest in this area, but I will still hear you out and then probably drink a milkshake. In addition, this list may confirm your beliefs or make you feel yucky. As a professional I encourage you to look deeply into that yuckiness and sit with it. Feel the yuckiness and I promise you that the pain will go away eventually. And hey! I never said you couldn’t root for your team; just understand that credibility defines it a bit more. You also may be thinking, “I don’t care what others think” but that’s never been true for anyone in the history of life … the history of life. Go Sports!


  1. A list of modifiers would be useful to get everyone to an exact credibility value:

    Travel to 1 or more away games for at least two consecutive seasons: +25%
    Have a regular tailgate spot at all home / neutral site games: +10%
    Have 100% credibility for current week's opponent's rival: +50% (for that week only)*

    * For example, if Florida were playing Auburn, Alabama fans could root for Florida for that week only with 50% credibility (although it is understandable if they choose to root against both teams)

  2. I lived in a city that was full of the 0%, not having a sports university of even a pro ball team of its own at the time, Jacksonville full of angry love for the Gators. As a former Gator myself, I found the violent, toothless yokel blind support of my school's sports team to be very Spartan Arena/Riotous Villagers/Mob Rules. Thank you for clearing this up.

    How does rooting work with non-sports? Political parties? Beatles vs. Elvis? Star Wars vs. Star Trek? Or the very popular Twilight argument of Team Stupid1 vs. Team Stupid 2?