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Rays of Light

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As a Boston Red Sox fan — and make no mistake as you read these words to follow, I am a Red Sox fan — I was, of course, sad to see them lose the American League Championship Series to the scrappy, upstart (I’m legally required to refer to them as such) Tampa Bay Rays last night.  But the only other team I care about at all is that same Tampa Bay team, so I was also quite happy to see them win it.  Even more importantly, as a baseball fan, I was thrilled to see the Rays advance to the World Series.

When big championship-level sporting events come around — especially, but not exclusively, ones where I haven’t paid a damn bit of attention to the regular season — I almost always root for either the underdog or the team which hasn’t won in a long time or has never won before (provided, of course, that I don’t have an actual rooting interest in either team involved).  I really like seeing new teams win championships, knowing that fans who haven’t gotten to see Their Team win are enjoying that experience, knowing that a new generation of kids is learning to support their favorite team and knowing that sometimes that love they feel for their team is rewarded.  I think it’s good for any sport for fans to think that any given year, their team could win it all — “Hey, if the Rays can make it to/win the World Series, maybe we can, too!”  

For this year’s Series, the “Who’s Suffered More?” criteria’s almost, but not quite, a toss-up for me:  the Rays have never been to the Series, while the Philadelphia Phillies were there 15 years ago.  But the city of Philadelphia, though they have teams in all four major sports [1], hasn’t won a championship in any of them in a combined 743 years.  (I’m guesstimating on the math there.)

The Rays, though, have thoroughly, thoroughly sucked every year of their existence before this one.  Yes, surely Philly fans have suffered more than Tampa fans, but that’s partially because until this year, the Rays have been utterly insignificant.  They’d never finished higher than fourth in their five-team division, and even that was only once. The reality is that teams with payrolls as miniscule as Tampa Bay’s aren’t really able to compete every year; magical seasons like this one come around infrequently, if ever, for most small-market teams, and I’d like to see the Rays win it all while they can.  (And it’s hard to be too upset as a Sox fan, seeing as how they just won it last year and then three years before that.)

The way baseball tends to work, chances aren’t bad that next year the Rays will still be competitive but will be back toward the middle of the statistical pack while the Red Sox probably will again be a World Series favorite.  If I had to make a quick-impression prediction right now, I’d say Tampa Bay ends up somewhere around 84-78 and out of the playoffs, while the Red Sox and Yankees will both win 90 or more games and again fight to win the AL East with both teams quite possibly in the postseason.   This might be their one shot, so go you Rays; you Red Sox, don’t worry — I’ll be cheering you on again come April.

[1] Assuming you still count hockey as a major sport, of course, which I suppose is kind of debatable for a league which broadcasts its championship series on the Outdoor Life Network.

Written by Allen

October 20th, 2008 at 11:01 am