Covering Ground

Phillips Academy strives to educate “youth from every quarter.” Andover students, coming from 46 states and territories and 36 countries, bring a variety of interests, values and perspectives to campus. And yet on Super Bowl Sunday, a Patriots rallying cry sounded from and blanketed every corner of campus. As a Giants fan, I’ve largely been left on my own to watch and cheer for my team throughout the season. My friends back home rooted tirelessly for the 49ers up until the team’s loss in the playoffs. Meanwhile, my Andover friends who follow football have been cheering on the Pats since the beginning of the season. The overwhelming school-wide support for the Patriots continues to surprise me. On a campus so diverse in nearly every category, this homogeneity seems out of place. Girls in my dorm from as far away as Switzerland and as near as Connecticut donned their jerseys and gathered around the television to watch each game together. Upon coming to Andover, many students seem to have severed former franchise ties. Others, having been influenced by campus culture, have only recently begun to follow football. It begs the question: as a football fan, how do you decide which team deserves your support? Do you go with the crowd so that you can enjoy games with your friends, or do you stay loyal to your roots? My mom went with the latter. Although she left New York at the tender age of 15, she remains dedicated to the state’s sports franchises decades later. She raised me a Giants fan in the heart of California, amid a passionate legion of 49ers supporters. Because my family didn’t have cable, we followed games online or watched them at the home of my parents’ friend, a die-hard San Francisco fan. My friends and teachers similarly rooted for the home team. Last year, whenever the 49ers were playing, my journalism teacher kept the score up on the board while we edited articles after school. Still, my mom has never swayed in her support of the Giants because of her environment; after nearly 30 years of living in California, she’s still as committed to the Giants as ever. And after 16 years, so am I. Supporting a team from afar isn’t easy. Games aren’t shown at sports bars, friends are rarely fellow fans, and the commute to the stadium is inconveniently lengthy. But I love being a Giants fan. I love sticking up for Eli Manning and griping over mediocre special team performances. I love watching Victor Cruz run in touchdowns from more than 50 yards out. I love rooting for the underdog. And, most of all, I love cheering with my family. Even when I’m sitting in a room full of Patriots fans, I know that my grandmother and my mom, miles away, are watching the same game and rooting for the same team as I am. Sometimes, after an especially exciting play or controversial call, I call them, and we’re thrilled or outraged together. It may feel lonely at times, but there’s something to be said for holding on to this little piece of your origins, whether it’s a family tradition or a hometown allegiance. Like the foods we eat or the accents we speak with, the teams we support are a part of our culture. Our fandom is something we bring with us when we come to Andover, and we should celebrate our differences in team loyalty as another measure of our diversity. Just because we’re in New England now doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of where we come from. Annika Neklason is a New Upper from Santa Cruz, CA.