Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Good Sports

The World Series is upon us and it is incumbent upon us non-sports fans to pay a minimal level of attention so that we aren’t completely cut out of water cooler talk. I’m pretty sure one of the teams is from Boston because Her Royal Highness Courtney, Queen of Everything is sure excited about something.

I don’t follow pro sports and have used all the time I have saved by not watching 20 hours a week of ESPN on even more ephemeral pursuits such as what you are reading now. I couldn’t name five current baseball players even if coerced under enhanced interrogation techniques personally conducted by Dick Cheney. I think the best paid baseball player is named A-Hole or something like that and plays for the Yankees. And my new favorite stolen line is that rooting for the Yankees is like hoping Brad Pitt gets lucky.

In developing sports loyalties, there are hierarchies. As a Baltimore resident, I have to support the Orioles until they are mathematically eliminated, which is usually about mid-May. With DC nearby, I’m allowed to have the Nationals as my National League team, but I keep reminding myself that they are really the Montreal Canuckis in disguise.

My high school hometown is Tampa, so I would have claim to the Devil Rays except that due to the machinations of waste removal capo Wayne Huizenga (remind me someday to spin my conspiracy theory about how Blockbuster was a money laundering scheme gone horribly profitable), the Tampa Bay area was deprived of a franchise until long after I moved away.

In my youth, the Cincinnati Reds in their heyday spring trained in Florida. Sometimes on a Sunday afternoon when there were no good monster movies on television I would actually watch the Reds. It's entirely possible I even saw The Big Red Machine play a game or two. I might have even once stuck a Johnny Bench trading card in the spokes of my banana seat bicycle, but don’t make me swear to it. I’m not sure the Reds are even in major league baseball anymore. They may have been traded to Europe for David Beckham.

My astoundingly undistinguished Little League® career is no help either. Unlike other people with fond memories from their youth, five seasons of wearing itchy poorly fitting stretch polyester knickers didn’t fill me with nostalgia. My year with Palma Ceia Tigers when we went winless was my only memorable season. I spent many an otherwise perfectly fine afternoon counting daisies in right field. If it weren’t for two inning must-play rules I would have never seen the inside of a batter’s box. Getting beaned by wild pitches was my most successful on-base strategy. According to Moneyball (reviewed here), I was well ahead of my time in that regard. If it weren’t for the free suicide soda after the game, I never would have lasted an entire season.

My maternal grandfather was a lifetime Massachusetts resident and I do have both an uncle and an aunt (pronounced awwnt) living in Beantown. By rights of two degrees of separation, I can officially declare the Boston Rouge Hosiery to be my favorites in the World Series over the Square State Mountain Ranges (Ha! I lead you to believe I didn’t know who the teams were). I just fear that if the Sox win two World Series in the same century, success will go to their head and people may even expect Ben Affleck’s career to recover.

The hosiery jab does remind me that baseball team nicknames are far wimpier than football teams. I don’t know of any football teams named after articles of apparel. Even in a Jeopardy category like Sporting Birds, you would have to admit that Eagles, Falcons, and Ravens are much tougher than Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Orioles. Of course, this is coming from a guy whose college mascot is a particularly ferocious insect.

Play ball! Wake me when it's over.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: How do you pick a favorite team? Cute uniforms? Hot guys? Fewest team felonies?


Anonymous said...

I inherited my dad's Yankees hate -- he grew up in Brooklyn and managed to form an attachment to the Giants just in time for them to leave town. I became a Mets fan during the 1986 series, and my affection for them has lingered through the subsequent 20 years of dissapointment.

When I lived in the Bay Area for several years, I became an A's fan -- games were cheap and very easy to get to by subway so I used to go fairly often. This had the side-effect of making me an anti-Giants fan, much to my dad's consternation. Moving to Baltimore, I sort of became an O's fan by default, even though they've done nothing in my five years here to inspire any kind of loyalty or affection.

This year, the A's have declared their intention to move from their ugly, bomb-shelter like stadium in the industrial wasteland of east Oakland to a shiny new suburban stadium in Fremont, a suburb in the same county as Oakland but at the far south end and thus essentially in Silicon Valley. This has had the effect of destroying my affection for them -- which is bizarre, since I no longer live there and probably would never have gone to another A's home game as long as I live. Still, the fact that if I did live in Oakland I wouldn't be able to take the train to games anymore kills my misty memories of fun evenings in California.

Anonymous said...

I came to my appreciation for sports in my post-high school years, but having grown up in LA, I was a Dodgers fan. OTOH, I was also a Brewers fan and may even have liked them better. (I turned my back on baseball the year they canceled the World Series.) I also never liked the Rams and have been a big Niners fan since the days of Montana to Clark.

But you don't really pick a favorite team any more than you pick the person you fall in love with. Proximity is a big factor, although communications these days have blurred that. (Still, you're more likely to go out with that girl in homeroom than the one from the next town over that you met at a party.)

Teams that are doing really well at the time you get interested in a sport are more likely to get your attention, like me with the Brewers and Niners. (Face it, the hotter the girl, the more you want to go out with her.)

Style of play and presentation are also really important. Some prefer a line-up full of home run hitters, others like a bunch of punch-and-judy hitters who turn single into doubles and triples with their speed. Or smashmouth football as opposed to the precision elegance of the old West Coast offense. (Blonde or brunette? And all the other tangibles, intangibles, and you'd-better-not-tangibles.

BTW, football has Cardinals, too. And my college mascot was either a dude with a fish-tail and a horn (official) or a koala (unofficial). At least it wasn't a tree.

Impetua said...

Couldn't care less. Don't give a flying, flaming rat's ass about organized sports either way. Fail to understand the bizarre amounts of money and fervor that are involved.

That being said, I suppose it's mostly harmless, except when it's not. And, you might understand my apathy when you hear that I lived in Portland most of my life, home of the Trailblazers, once a decent team but lately more often known for criminal pursuits and poor sportsmanship of various types.

Yep, still not caring. But bully for those of you who do. Enjoy.

Jamy said...

Another stolen line, "Rooting for the Yankees is like backing Walmart over mom & pop stores."

I pick my favorite teams exactly how you do, by where I've lived, and secondarily, by where my family lives. Since I like sports, the first way covers all the bases.

Baseball: Mariners, because Seattle is the first place I lived with a major league team (I was born in NYC, but we moved when I was 2).

My NL team is the Nationals, because I live in DC.

Football: Seahawks then R******s (see above).

Basketball: See above.

College sports are more complicated, so I'll save that comment for a different post, but I appreciate it if someone hates Duke.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

For someone who isn't a sports fan, this is very clever.

When I first saw this in my reader I thought, Oh no, baseball junk! so I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading it. I dare say you make a fine "unsports" columnist.

Mooselet said...

First is hometown teams - Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox from my youth, and the Brisbane and Queensland teams here. I still have a fondness for the Boston teams, despite the Celtics being a shadow of what they were in the 80s and the Red Sox, with the exception of '04, continuing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

After that comes the attitudes of the team; do they play fair? keep their noses clean off the field? come across as decent people or stuck up assholes?

Then it's uniforms. I loved the Minnesota Vikings as a kid because they wore purple. And they need a good name. You can't possibly cheer on a team with a silly name - the Nationals? WTH? "Let's go Nationals, let's go!" See, you can't do it...

TBG said...

yello... your A-hole remark is my new favorite baseball line. Thanks!