For what seemed like the first time all season, I watched a baseball game with no real emotional interest. On Sunday night, I was pacing and gnawing at my fingers as the Tampa Bay Rays gritted out a Game 7 ALCS win over the Red Sox. Tonight, I sat passively — flipped to South Park at 10 — and returned to watch a compelling 3-2 Philadelphia Game 1 win in the World Series. It was a liberating feeling to say the least.
As this Fall Classic kicks into gear, I’m not really sure for which team I’m rooting. I went to college outside of Philadelphia, and for four years, I saw a good number of Phillies games. I remember seeing Chase Utley and Ryan Howard when they first arrived in the City of Brotherly Love. I tracked the hype of Cole Hamels and saw Jim Thome, pre-White Sox trade, blast a few balls into the far reaches of the lovely Citizens Bank Park. That the Phillies continue to trump the Mets is a source of joy too.
Meanwhile, the Rays are the classic example of the adage that says the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Never before last week had I rooted for Tampa, and I poured a lot of emotion into the Rays. I needed to see them beat a very vulnerable and not-too-impressive Boston team.
I needed it to give it back to that one guy in the bars I was at on Saturday night who kept applauding for the most mundane of outs. I needed it so that Boston fans — the bandwagon Boston fans — could know that their team isn’t entitled to win every year and that with success comes postseason disappointment as well. We in New York know it well; Boston should grow accustomed to it as well.
As I feel no love for the Boston bandwagoners, Tampa then presents a problem. As Florida news reporters are eagerly noting, Yankee fans and other Florida residents are hoping aboard the Tampa bandwagon. Tonight’s game — the first World Series game in Tampa history — drew 40,783, but on the season, Tampa, nearly the wire-to-wire leaders in the AL East, finished 26th in attendance. They drew just 22,259 per game, and most nights, the Trop featured crowds in the low-to-mid teens. These fans at the game now are bandwagoners pure and simple. Can I really reward that level of fandom with my own support?
To make matters worse, Major League Baseball is exploiting this temporary attention on Tampa to push for a new ballpark. Why can’t the game just speak for itself for a few days? Does it always have to be about money? I know baseball is a business, but for a week, let the Series play itself out.
In the end, I might root for the Phillies to see if our neighbor to the south can ends its string of sports championship losses. I might root for the Rays to see if they can become the fifth AL East team to down Philadelphia in the World Series. But no matter what, I’ll just kick back, relax and calmly enjoy the games.
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An aside: I watched tonight’s game mostly on mute, and it was glorious. While mostly I did this to tackle some Civil Procedure reading, I also didn’t have to hear Joe Buck. When I finally turned the game on in the 9th, Joe Buck had some expert analysis for me.
“If Carl Crawford can reach, Willy Aybar is in the on-deck circle,” Buck said. The only problem is that this isn’t a true statement. Crawford was up; Aybar was on deck. If Crawford can reach, then Aybar is up, unless someone else hits in between Crawford and Aybar.
Sure, I’m arguing announcing semantics, but if these two are the best FOX has, I’m going with mute until this series is over.