I grew up in a family of Green Bay Packers fans, within the borders of America's Dairyland. It's not like I really had much of a choice but to become a Packers fan. Still, if I'm being honest with myself, it was the team's mid-1990's run, including the victory in Super Bowl XXXI, that solidified my fandom as a lifelong endeavor.
It seems I'm not alone.
In an article that went live on Friday morning, the New York Times published the results of a study of sports fans' affiliations relative to their age, as reported by aggregated data from Facebook. The premise of the study boils down to this: fans, especially male fans, are very impressionable between the ages of 8 and 12. Furthermore, the article asserts that if a given team wins a championship while a boy is in that age range it significantly increases the likelihood that he will become a lifelong fan of that team.
Because this was published in the New York Times (and because the author is an avid New York Mets fan), the two fan bases that were primarily analyzed are the Mets and the New York Yankees, baseball clubs that compete for fans in the same market. However, it would be logical to extrapolate the data out to other sports and other franchises as well. One interesting facet of the study, though, was that the fandom of female fans studied showed less of a dependence on the age at which they experienced team success.
In my case, results are mixed. Obviously, I identify as a lifelong Packers fan, and that Super Bowl XXXI victory, earned following the 1996 season, came when I was in the heart of that age range. Similarly, I am a Detroit Red Wings fan, and that franchise won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. I had latched onto that team at an early age, as it was the nearest NHL team not based in Chicago or Minnesota, but I will acknowledge that seeing those Cup wins probably helped to solidify that fandom.
Then there's the Milwaukee Brewers, who demonstrate to me that other factors play critical roles in developing lifelong fandom. I argue that this was forged far earlier than my eighth birthday. In fact, one of my favorite childhood memories was seeing Robin Yount's 3,000th hit, and my parents like to joke that I learned to read by going through the Brewers' recaps and box scores in the newspaper. In addition to those experiences (which took place well before I turned 8), I regularly attended Brewers games in person as a young child, so I believe the groundwork for my love of the Brewers was laid in my early childhood rather than when I was 8 through 12.
Plus there's the fact that the team did not finish over .500 for a few years prior to my age 8-12 years, and for several seasons thereafter. That in and of itself demonstrates that it was not their success that makes me a die-hard Brewers fan; it's my personal experiences with the team that does so.
We at Acme Packing Company are curious to hear from you, the readers. When did your Packers fandom become truly entrenched in your life? Do our male readers have similar experiences to this, where love of the Green and Gold was forged in Packers' successes during your youth? Do the female Packers fans out there recall similar trends, or was there some other moment (or set of experiences) which brought you to become a lifelong Packers fan?
If you're willing to share, we'd love to hear your stories.