Imagine this situation: You're laying on your couch on a Sunday afternoon. You're (obviously) hung over, and you simply need something to distract you from the headache rampaging through your skull. After scrolling through 6 pages of the DirecTV guide, you stumble across Arena Football on TWWL. Colorado Crush vs. Georgia Force. Good enough, right? But now it's five minutes after you turned the game on, 37 points have been scored, you're bored again, there are no in-game lines on an AFL game (you've checked three times), and your headache continues to slowly destroy your will to live. If only you could find some sort of rooting interest in the game, your problems could be solved, right?
Well, my friend, just follow my advice. Here, now, for the first time ever, it's the Hawkeye State rules for choosing a team in an insignificant game. Simply go down this list of rules, and stop once one has been violated. Cheer for the team which did not violate said rule. Perfect for those dreary days spent watching games from insignificant sports leagues like Arena Football, professional lacrosse, or the NBA.
1. Financial interest - Check one more time. Make it absolutely certain you can't get money down. And, if you can, don't even bother with research. Just pick a team and throw down one unit.
2. Take the Team With Players you know - Did I just catch Rebecca Lobo playing for the Phoenix Mercury? Might be, might not, but it's good enough for me to choose the Mercury over the Connecticut Gambling Native Americans, right? And it's a good thing Phoenix found that Rebecca Lobo lookalike, because the Mercury would have lost under a couple of other rules.
Oh, I'm very sorry, Ms. Lobo."
Now, the standards for using this rule are very subjective. Todd Marinovich playing for the Nashville Kats? Good by me, but maybe not by you. Bobby Hurley as a D-league assistant? Not enough for me, but you're different.
Rule 2 Corollary. Go Against Teams With Players You Inexplicably Hate - This especially applies when the hatred comes from years ago and has festered in your soul, just waiting to reappear. Doesn't happen too often, but if I see Marcus Fizer on the floor, that team is dead to me.
3. Take the Team that Didn't Steal its Name from European Teams (MLS Only Rule) - Essential to watching the trainwreck that it America's premier soccer league. The following teams must be stopped at all costs (that is, unless they signed wild-haired, 55 year-old defender Carlos Valderrama from the 1994 Colombian National Team):
- Real Salt Lake (rips off Real Madrid and about 47 other Spanish soccer clubs; the most noxious faux-Euros; adding a Spanish word to the front of Salt Lake is like adding Jazz to the back of Utah...wait, that happened; this name also violates rules 5 and 7)
- FC Dallas (burglarizes just about every soccer team outside England, including Barcelona, Monaco, and Porto, all of which are located in better places to be than Dallas)
- Dynamo Houston (blatant attempt to steal from Dinamo Kiev and a couple of Russian teams; makes sense in that you have approximately the same chance of being shot in Houston as you would in an Eastern European ethnic conflict)
- DC United (ManU, Newcastle United, and a half-dozen other British teams are calling in an APB)
- Toronto FC (see Dallas, but at a lower exchange rate)
- Red Bull New York (naming your team after a brand is the same move made by former Welsh side Total Network Solutions...and no, I'm not making that up)
- Nashville Kats (AFL; I thought Kats was the college basketball guy on ESPN)
- New Orleans VooDoo (ticky-tack, but we don't need the capital "D" in voodoo)
5. Go With the Plural Name - This is VERY important when watching WNBA, Arena League, MLS, or any other league contrived by a bunch of people looking to go totally x-treme (see: Vince McMahon). If faced with a team with a singular mascot and a team with a plural mascot, go with the plural, if for no other reason than there are multiple people out there representing a franchise, and to call them each Force (or Surge, or Fever, or Rush) is completely idiotic.
6. Go With the Team That Avoided Looking Like a Marshmallow Peep - Pastels on professional athletes look even dumber than pastels on normal people. Unfortunately, this eliminates pretty much every expansion team from the early-to-mid-90's (Florida Marlins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning) or team which last updated its uniforms in that period.
7. Avoid the Team Whose Mascot Doesn't Match the Location - Especially true in the NBA, where franchises have been hopping around for years. There is no Jazz in Utah. There are no Grizzlies in Memphis. I've never had a Rush when visiting Chicago (AFL). And I may have a Fever, but the only prescription is not Indiana WNBA basketball.
Rule 7 Corollary. Absolutely Take the Team Whose Mascot Inadvertently Fits Too Well - Really only applies to the Orlando Predators of Arena Football, because where are you more likely to see a pedophile than a Disney theme park? I think Chris Hansen's kitchen is in Epcot.1
8. FINAL RULE - Take the Mascot Who Would Win in a Fight to the Death - Have you gone through all of these and still not found a team? Well then, who wins a fight between a (Calgary) Flame and an (Edmonton) Oiler? Clearly it's the flame, so Calgary it is. A (Grand Rapids) Rampage vs. a (Philadelphia) Soul2? Probably the rampage, which would overtake the soul with its anger and frustration. A (Connecticut) Sun vs. a (Chicago) Sky? Um...I guess the rainbow wins. Which brings me to this last point: Rule 8 is flawed for a couple of reasons.
- In leagues such as the WNBA and MLS, the mascots either don't exist or are so nondescript that they simply can't engage in a fight.
- In the NHL, the San Jose Shark must be allowed to fight in a special third media which allows the shark full range of motion but also allows an Islander to breathe. Wittgenstein couldn't even imagine that.
- In the CFL, it's always a draw, because the Rough Rider always beats the Rough Rider.
- AFL - Arizona Rattlers vs. Tampa Bay Storm - Arizona has former Iowa linebacker Grant Steen, who once intercepted a pass on third-and-long at Iowa State in 2001, then fumbled the ball back to the Clones, giving them a new set of downs, allowing them to score the winning touchdown, and causing me to temporarily descend into my own personal hell. I still hate this guy, so I'd go with Tampa Bay under the Rule 2 corrolary. But for sane people, Rule 5 decides it. Plural over singular. Rattlers over Storm.
- WNBA - Connecticut Sun vs. Washington Mystics - suffice it to say, I doubt I know anyone on these teams, and I'm not going to look. Connecticut is done in by Rule 5 (Singluar) and Rule 7 (Mascot Makes No Sense). However, they are subject to an exemption for playing their games in a casino. Plus, if it's WNBA, it's likely Rule 1 applies, because you always take the WNBA under. Always.
- MLS - New England Revolution vs. DC United - Normally, New England would be done in by Rule 5, but they're saved by Rule 3, as DC United is a ripoff.
- Canadian Football - British Columbia Lions vs. Toronto Argonauts - You could make the case BC violates Rule 7, but I think there are some mountain lions in Vancouver, so this makes it all the way to Rule 8. I don't know what an argonaut is, other than a person who hangs out with Jason, but I'm damn sure he isn't beating a lion. So go with BC.
2 - This game would have actually been decided earlier, as Jon Bon Jovi's ownership stake in the Soul is sufficient to pass Rule 2.