I root for Tiger Woods--the most dominant player in a sport that I don't play and didn't really watch before his arrival. I root against the Yankees, in part because I am a Mets fan, and in part because I don't want to just be a bandwagon-jumping front-runner. But isn't that what I am doing as I cheer on Tiger?
I don't think so. I follow Tiger because he is a phenom. He does things on the course that no one has done. He is always capable of a moment that is simply stunning. I have started watching NBA playoffs to watch Lebron James do the same thing. I regret not watching Michael Jordon much during his peak. I do remember watching Dr. J swoop around the Lakers and the basket in one of the most amazing feats of all time.
On the other hand, I have been rooting for the New England Patriots for the past seven years or so, which is a classic case of front-running. Is it because they are a once in a lifetime collection of athletes? Well, two years ago, they were on offense. But no, the reason why is the same as one of the reasons why I want Obama to succeed--I enjoy watching intelligent, strategic folks operating at a high level. What makes the Patriots so very good is their ability to adapt and adjust to the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of their opponents. Of course, they cheated and I find that problematic.
But I justify it in my own mind through a variety of tricks of cognitive consistency (an old running theme at this blog).