My daughter Helena went to a Utah Jazz game with me the other night.

She's quite a little athlete, but she's still learning the ropes when it comes to being a fan.I tried to help her out.

"It's pretty simple, really," I said. "When any Utah team plays, you root for the Utah team. When two Utah teams play, you root for the Utah team closest to your home."


"Of course, when two out-of-state teams play, then you root for the team that's closest to Utah, unless you like some out-of-state team for sentimental reasons."

She didn't say anything.

"I mean it's like this: If UCLA plays Notre Dame, you root for UCLA because UCLA is a Western team like Utah and Notre Dame isn't. If you have special feelings for Notre Dame, however, then it's OK to root for Notre Dame."


"On the other hand, the only time I root for a non-Western team is when a famous Western team like UCLA plays a team like Providence. I root for Providence because Providence is the underdog. It's a regional school that doesn't get a lot of respect. Rooting for Providence is kind of like rooting for a Utah team."

(Pause, pause).

"If UCLA has a player from Utah in the starting line-up, though, you might want UCLA to beat a team like Providence so the Utah guy doesn't look bad. On the other hand if the other players on UCLA are all jerks, well, you'd be perfectly justified in pulling for Providence to beat UCLA even though UCLA has a Utah guy. If there were two Utah guys on UCLA, though, two guys would probably cancel the jerks out."

Helena gave me a sidelong glance. "But tonight we root for the Utah Jazz to beat Sacramento," she said.

"Yes," I said. "All the way. Every minute . . . unless Utah gets way, WAY ahead. Then we might root for the Kings to make a little run so Sloan doesn't sit Karl down early. See, I have a milkshake riding on Malone scoring 35 tonight. That's another thing. Never mess with the point spread. Make up your action. Betting the official line gets to be a bore."

I looked down, but Helena wasn't paying attention to me.

She was totally engrossed in the game.