It is quite pathetic that I feel the need to justify my desire to root for the Tampa Bay Rays (where I live) this year at the expense of the ubiquitous Boston Red Sox. I have taken the fair amount of abuse and smack talk from these people, none of which grew up in Boston... they lack the charming pugnaciousness of your typical native Southie.
During the past 2 weeks I have been accused of treacherous behavior, band wagon jumping and non-loyalty. I feel like a Republican that has seen the lack of vision from his own party and chosen to vote for Obama, treated with contempt by the loyalists to a dying empire in light of the potential future, attacked as unpatriotic for seeing through a different prism than those unable to see beyond partisan rhetoric (does this equate Sarah Palin to Coco Crisp?).*
Like picking Obama early, I have been thinking the Rays could make it to the WS when all other doubters were waiting for a collapse. They are managed better than almost anyone in the majors and they were built for an entire season and playoffs, unlike the Mets, Angels or Cubs. None of you believed they could win, even yesterday. I did.
To those fans, I point to the following...
1. I am a lifelong Cardinals fan. No other team is in the same ballpark. I will root for the Cards above all other teams until my last breath (even if one of my sons plays on an opposing team). The Red Sox never were. The Rays never will be. But, I can like other teams. As Stephen King said, the Red Sox are my wife, but the Rays are my mistress." **
2. I chose to root for the Red Sox as my AL team for a number of reasons including, a) they are not the Yankees, b) the charm of rooting for a team striving for the top, yet not attaining it, c) I moved to Boston and there was fever in the air, d) I was watching and rooting for them in 86 against the Mets (whom I hated)- I have had a soft spot in my heart since 86 (they had been #2 for 15 years when I moved there).
3) However, some things happened; a) we moved from Boston (which changed nothing), b) they won 2 World Series, c) their fans got greedy, self centered, obnoxious and had a sense of entitlement (in other words, they became Yankees fans), d) the band wagon nature of the Red Sox Nation- there were few pre-2000 fans I could find (they jumped on the wagon and complain about any other wagon jumpers), e) some of their players rub me the wrong way, especially Coco Crisp, f) the fans and media got more obnoxious as the Rays got better, g) the luster began to leave when, to win their first WS in 86 years, they beat my beloveds.
4) Regarding the Rays; a) I am a native Floridian and we only got baseball teams post- loyalty oaths, b) I have followed them since their inception, mostly through my dad (got me a G-d awful original t-shirt), c) they have been building quite the team for a few years and I have been waiting for something good to happen, d) the new uniforms are snazzy, e) all teams that suck for a number of years get a bandwagon, including the Red Sox and Cubs when things move into a better direction, f) did I mention.... that I live here?
5) my children are in the midst of picking their teams. We live in Tampa. They (especially Aedan) are picking the Rays over the Red Sox (and maybe the Cardinals). I will support this. Plus, the Rays have kindled an interest in baseball for our kids (after watching them in person). If the Rays make my kids like baseball, they get some serious props and loyalty.
6) If the Rays and Cards were in the World Series against each other... make no bones about it, there is no competition for my loyalty.
So, Red Sox fans- get off your high horse, unless you are a true Native. If you are not a native, you jumped on a bandwagon some place along the way. There is nothing wrong with that... just don't begrudge Rays fans that have done the same. This team is plucky, well managed, has a small budget, young players, a good farm system and serious talent. In other words, they did it the right way. Plus, a guy that just got called to the majors made the save. Seriously, 69 Mets are nothing.
Go Rays! And Red Sox fans... get over yourself. You had a great season and were beat by an evenly matched, slightly better team. Raise a toast in their direction and remind yourself they kept the Yankees home. As the great Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe said, "So now you know. Experience is nice, but nothing beats talent. The best team in the American League is going to the World Series."
* little over-the-top, I admit.
** my loyalty is in this order
1. Cardinals- not subject to change
below subject to change
3. Red Sox
4. Marlins (beat the Cubs and Yankees in 2003)
5. anyone playing the Cubs with a potential to embarass them.
6. anyone playing the Yankees with a potential to embrass them.
7. anyone playing the Astros with a potential to embarass them.
8. anyone playing the Braves with a potential to embarass them.
9. whoever has a great story.
10. anyone with a player I really like.