"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Remembering My Roots

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(Old habits die hard)

Apologies for the lack of updates lately, but if you want to know the truth, I've been largely sleepwalking through this World Series. It's not that it hasn't been interesting, because I guess it has, and it's not that it hasn't had it's moments of drama because - ask Brad Lidge - they've been there. I think it's just that the more I watch it, the more conflicted I become about who I want to win. At first I was all about Chicago. I mean, I was rooting against Houston (albeit half-heartedly) in the NLCS so it seemed strange to switch my allegiances once the series changed. And I'd gone along with the "Chicago beat the Red Sox and if they're eventually crowned World Champions, at least we can say we were beaten by the best" train of thought. And I still do...to an extent.

Here's the issue: The ball is bouncing Chicago's way. Just ask A.J. Pierzynski and Jermaine Dye. They're getting the calls. They're admitting they're getting the calls and they're taking advantage of the bogus calls. Which, okay, I guess, but it almost makes me hate them a little bit. I mean, not really, but the thing is, the Red Sox have been Houston before. We have seen this eleventy billion times. We've played against a team getting all the calls and no amount of fighting could snap us out of the funk and stigma that a run of bad luck brings.

(And yes, I realize the Red Sox had many calls go in their favor last year but, unless I'm overlooking something, I don't believe those calls were made in error. The ground-rule double was, in fact, a ground rule double. Bellhorn's home run was actually a home run. And A-Rod's slap play was, technically interference.)

I guess, in my infinite and irrational sense of justice and fairness in baseball, I have a hard time rooting for a team who gets things handed to them by the umps. Which is not to say that Chicago isn't doing the right thing by taking advantage of these calls. It just feels a little, well, cheap.

Okay, here's the real deal. I'm pretty sure that whoever was losing is who I'd be rooting for. I'm a Red Sox fan. And you know what they say about old habits dying hard.

And speaking of old habits, the Frank Thomas picture is largely for sentimental reasons. You see, when I was little, my favorite baseball players were Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn. I loved 'em. I loved The Big Hurt and had a White Sox hat that I wore proudly. I found it a couple of weeks ago as I was cleaning out my parents' attic and it all came back to me. Man, I used to
love that guy. Since then, he's been proven to be anything but infallible, but he was sure something. Because when you're young, at least in my case, it's not so much about the teams as it is about the players. When you're eleven-years-old, you don't understand what decades-long championship droughts mean or the stigma of having a cheapskate owner. You know only that you love the players and, in your young and unjaded hearts, you consider them your friends.

Remember when Nomar was traded last year? How there were all these stories of New England five-year-olds crying themselves to sleep? Those stories broke my heart. Not because I wanted Nomar back (and as we have seen, that was a shrewd, if ballsy move on Theo's part), but because I remember what it was like to be those five-year-olds. When the Bruins traded goalie Andy Moog to the Dallas Stars in 1993, my then nine-year-old brother was beside himself. He cried and cried. To him, the Bruins had just traded away one of his best friends. He didn't understand how someone could do that. I don't know when or where that mindset changes. I don't know if it's when fans come to understand free agency or when they first get their heart broken by a player they thought was their friend but at some point, we become less innocent and more jaded about our rooting interests. We start rooting for teams instead of players. Laundry instead of stats. And it's too bad, but it's the way it is. It's so rare these days that someone will have the same favorite player as his or her parents because that player has likely been traded four times or been sent to Colorado before the kids have gotten a chance to see him play. That's why the Troy Browns and Tedy Bruschis and Trot Nixons and Frank Thomasas are special. And that's why the Roger Clemens and Ty Laws and Nomar Garciaparras and Patrick Roys will always leave a trail of broken-hearted six-year-olds in their wake. I'm not saying they're bad people. They understand the business side of the game. And they do what they have to do. But the scars you suffer when you're young take the longest to heal. That's why a part of me still has a problem rooting for Roger Clemens. And it's the same reason that part of me wants the White Sox to win it all. Not for Frank Thomas and the eleven-year-old I used to be that loved him. But for the eleven-year-olds that love him now.