Rangers vs. Cardinals: Who do you love?
After a 162-game season and two rounds of playoffs, we finally have our World Series teams: the Rangers of Texas and the Cardinals of St. Louis. Yikes. Not a very interesting matchup.
Sure, I’m happy for the fans of those teams (not really). But I feel bad for all the other baseball fans out there that are stuck watching these two teams. And this can’t be at all what FOX was hoping to broadcast when the season started or ended or even just a week ago. The ratings for these games are going to be awful outside of Texas and Missouri. Maybe you’re one of those guys that doesn’t care about ratings, so then you’re against money and capitalism and you should probably move to France and drink wine all day with your non-bathing Socialist friends.
Am I going to watch the series? Of course I am! What do you think I am some kind of monster?! And a lot of other people will watch it, as well – it’s not like the other networks are programming any shows worth watching (see: “Whitney,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Revenge,” “Two Broke Girls,” etc.). And it’s not like people are going to start reading books again or ever turn off their televisions ever.
But if you’re watching two teams battle each other in the World Series and you don’t usually root for either of them, you’re going to lose interest real quick if you don’t find some way to invest yourself. “But, Jed, I just love watching great baseball played at the best level with the highest stakes.” Blah blah blah. Put a lid on it, hippie. Sports are about competing and doing battle and waging war. Man up (or woman up), pick a side and give your life some meaning.
“Okay, Jed, I’m ready to stop being a spineless dweeb and pick a team, but how do you do it?” Well, there are a lot of different ways that range from the very simple to quite complicated. I remember watching the TV show “What’s Happening!” and Dwayne Wayne, the show’s default village idiot, picked football game winners based on which had the better uniform. As you can imagine, the system ultimately fails and there are a lot of valuable lessons learned. Now that I think about it, these days, I don’t think that a network would allow a comedy featuring inner-city youth with gambling problems. And just so you don’t think I’m too old, I only ever watch reruns of that show. And there was a guy named “Rerun” on the show. Reruns of Rerun. Hilarious.
Okay, where was I? Oh, right. The simplest way to pick a team to root for is to place a bet on one of the teams. If you bet $100 on the Cardinals, this will immediately make you a huge Cardinals fan and you will have metaphorically as well as literally “invested” in the team. That’s the easy way – instant fan.
Getting slightly more complicated, another way to pick a team is based on sports hatred. There’s that old saying that fans have, “My two favorite teams are the (favorite team) and whoever’s playing the (hated rival).” I don’t think I’ve ever heard or read about anyone hating the Rangers and the only fans that hate the Cardinals are the Cubs’ fans, but they’re all too depressed to work up any sort of real hatred. I guess the Brewers fans and Tigers fans have some fresh hatred since they just got eliminated, but I always kind of prefer when the team that knocked out my team goes on to win the championship, because it takes a bit of the sting out of having lost.
This might take some thinking with these two teams. Maybe you dated a girl from Texas and everything was going great and she dumped you for a better-looking guy with an Audi – you are now temporarily a huge Cardinals fan. Maybe you went to college with a guy who was a Cardinals fan and he spilled his bong water on your laptop at four in the morning and you lost your mechanical engineering thesis – you are now temporarily a huge Rangers fan. As the Emperor once said, “Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you.”
A few years back when the Giants and the Angels played in the World Series, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of having sports hatred for both teams. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I learned pretty quick that I was supposed to feel superior to everyone – especially people from San Francisco or Orange County. Who did I root for? No one. But since there was no way for both teams to lose (yeah, I checked), I rooted for the Giants to lose more. It was a rough couple of weeks. But I feel better now.
Picking the team you’re rooting for can also be made very complicated. You can look closely at the teams in the World Series and choose the one that appeals to you in the most ways. Try looking at team managing and styles of play. The Rangers have Ron Washington as manager. He is not very good. But, man, is he ever fun! You never really know what he’s going to do. And somehow he’s in the World Series for the second year in a row. I say “somehow,” but I know the real reason: the general manager of the team did a heck of a job. He even went out at the trade deadline and brought in guys that would almost force Washington to be more logical.
The Cardinals have Tony LaRussa as their manager. You know what you’re going to get when he manages a game: everything. He constantly changes pitchers and batters and fielders – maybe he’s got too much experience. Sometimes it looks like he’s deliberately throwing games and other times he looks like a genius. I was kind of hoping the Brewers would get in the World Series so we could see their manager Ron Roenicke continue to look like a junior high school dropout who stumbled into an advanced calculus class.
Another aspect to look at is star power. This is the one thing that the guys at Fox are hoping will help draw viewers (besides people preferring to do their taxes at the DMV while getting dental work than have to watch “Whitney”). Sports are star-driven and baseball is no exception. Neither of these teams have any starting pitchers that are particularly great – and certainly no “stars.” But in the field, the Rangers have Josh Hamilton – last year’s Most Valuable Player – and a secondary cast of almost famous guys like slick-fielding, power-hitting Adrian Beltre, playoffs monster Nelson Cruz, and other quality guys like Ian Kinsler and Michael Young.
The Cardinals have superstar Albert Pujols – who, besides having one of the best last names ever, is one of the best players of the modern era. They also have offensive powerhouse Matt Holliday, the revitalized Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal, and most importantly, they’ve got “Lady Luck” on their side. This team’s run to the playoffs and through the first two rounds has been incredible.
Look, I don’t know what you’re into. I don’t know what blows your hair back or floats your boat or flips your pancakes or peels your banana. Maybe you’ll place a wager or maybe you’ll use some real or imagined rivalry to pick your team – or maybe it’s regional or ballparks or even mascots. We’ve all got different tastes. I hope I’ve helped give you some guidance with your hair, boat, pancakes or banana.
For me, picking an alternate team to root for was easy. The Rangers of Texas have Josh Hamilton. I am a huge fan of Josh Hamilton. And so I am a huge fan of the Rangers – temporarily. Go find some way to have a rooting interest in one of these teams. It’s more fun. After all, sports without a rooting interest is like sex without … well … sex.