Jim Lonborg in . . . the Nagging Question

October 20, 2008

“I tell you folks, it’s harder than it looks. It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.” — Bon Scott

What is your general policy of rooting once your team has been eliminated? I think some people go with the thinking that if the team that beats them goes on to win it all, it makes their own team look better, so they root for their conqueror. Back in 2005, the last time the Red Sox were dethroned as World Series champions, I think I did actually pull for the team that dumped them, the White Sox, in the World Series, but not with much passion and mostly because I found something unpalatable about the Astros’ funhouse home ballpark. This year I certainly will not be rooting for the Rays, but that’s only partly out of bitterness. In truth over the course of their seven-game victory over my team (and the team the Phillies player pictured here is most often associated with), the Boston Red Sox, I came to understand that the Rays are just the better team, with more pitching weapons and a balanced, speedy, powerful, resourceful lineup. But then again bitterness may well have something to do with it, bitterness overlapping with my prejudice against young phenoms to whom success seems to come easily. This prejudice usually rears its ugly envious head when I read about some novelist in his early 20s getting a six-figure book deal and, it is implied (at least in my mind), more literary ass than a Breadloaf toilet seat, but I can also resent a team full of number one draft picks in their early 20s who have yet to really get stung by life, or so it seems. So I probably wouldn’t be rooting for them even if they hadn’t bounced my team or weren’t playing against a team that I have long had a soft spot for, in part because I have some Philly area cousins who love them, in part because my parents lived in Philadelphia for a few years, in part because, as in 1993, the last time they made it to the World Series, they seem stocked with likable, fun-to-watch characters: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, the Flyin’ Hawaiian, 90-year-old Jamie Moyer, etc. Also, unlike Rays fans, Philadelphia sports fans know what it’s like to suffer. For them, as for most of us (but not for Rays fans in their brand-new finery), Bon Scott’s words of wisdom ring true. . .


  1. 1.  It’s simpler to be nominally nonpartisan.

  2. 2.  1 : That’s true. I’ve gone that route sometimes. Here’s who I’ve rooted for in the non-Red Sox World Series of my baseball-watching life:

    ’76: Not the Yankees
    ’77: Not the Yankees
    ’78: Not the Yankees
    ’79: Pirates
    ’80: Royals
    ’81: Not the Yankees
    ’82: Brewers
    ’83: neutral
    ’84: neutral
    ’85: Royals
    ’87: Twins
    ’88: neutral
    ’89: neutral
    ’90: neutral
    ’91: Twins
    ’92: Braves
    ’93: Phillies
    ’95: Indians
    ’96: Not the Yankees
    ’97: Indians
    ’98: Not the Yankees
    ’99: Not the Yankees
    ’00: Mets (in addition to Not the Yankees)
    ’01: Not the Yankees
    ’02: Angels
    ’03: Not the Yankees
    ’05: White Sox, sort of
    ’06: neutral
    ’08: Phillies

  3. 3.  Top priority is to root for a good series — and after 4, 5, 4 and 4 gamers, we deserve one. To that end I’m sad that the Red Sox are gone if only because they’ve been involved in the best two series of this postseason so far.

    Next, I try to support the the NL team, and I will be happy if the Phillies take it this year. They really have an admirable team, full of home-grown players, a folksy old manager, a few dangerous guys on the bench, and they’ve played best when they’ve needed to.

  4. 4.  I usually am a soft fan of the AL team unlees it’s the Yankees. In 1985, we were hanging around a kid who was from Overland Park, KS so we were pulling hard for the Royals. It’s still one of my favorite WOrld Series.

    Josh, your comment about the young literary genius reminded me of this hopefully optimistoic article:


    One of my Primate friends turned me on to that.

    PS- optimistoic was a typo, but that really should be a word.

  5. 5.  Though I rooted for the Rays in the ALCS, I’m pulling for the Phillies in the World Series. As you said, their fans have suffered plenty. The Rays have had a hell of a run, but they haven’t earned it all yet. Plus, I actually KNOW some Phils fans and want them to have joy in their lives.

    I also got to see a number of the cornerstones of this Phillies team when they were still minor leaguers earning their keep at Scranton-Wilkes Barre, so I identify with them a bit more.

    Ennui Willie – Overland Park is also the hometown of one of the stars of the 1983 postseason, Mike Boddicker. Useless fact for the day.

  6. 6.  In keeping with my post-2004 fair-weather-fan approach to the game, I shall disengage and return again only when the Sox are poised once more to trample another city’s dreams. Or not. It’s all good once you’re “made” and feel reasonably confident that the next serious summit attempt will be along soon enough.

    Josh — I’d never seen B.J. Upton before game 2 of this series; tuned in just in time to see him step into the box in the 3rd and feel absolutely dead certain he was about to park one. Dude’s got body language like Strawberry — immense talent that, when coiled in just the right way, loudly telegraphs that there’s nothing to be done short of INT-BB.

    4 “optimistoic” has my vote for inclusion in next edition of Merriam-Webster’s.

  7. 7.  I keep hearing the Rays are all about number one draft picks but to be honest this team is about other teams number one picks.
    1st – Carlos Pena – Texas Number One Pick(Oakland, Detroit, Boston, NYY) all gave up on him.
    2nd – Iwamura – smart FA pickup
    SS – Trade
    3rd – Longoria – Rays own number one Pick
    RF – Gross – castoff
    CF – Upton – Rays own number one pick
    LF – Crawford – 2nd round
    DH – Willie Aybar – trade

    Kazmir – Mets number one pick
    Shields – 16th round draft pick
    Garza – Twins number one pick
    Sonnanstine – 13th round

    So what you have are two home grown number one picks that played a key part in the 2008 season. David Price may have got them into the World Series but he did nothing to get them into the playoffs. Granted they would not be where they are right now without Longoria/Upton but it seems to be sour grapes to complain about it. This team has been smartly built.

  8. 8.  6 : I had the same thought about Upton’s Strawberryesque body language.

  9. 9.  Forgot … Malcolm Gladwell’s latest on “genius,” which ought to hearten all the silverbacks among us… Damnit, we can still grasp the brass ring, if only we plod along optimistoically….


  10. 10.  7 : Yes, good point. They’re a very well put together team. My thoughts today were more generally about how their players and the experience of their fans is in the young and painless stages, which galls me a little, which I know is sour grapes.

  11. 11.  I like the Eric Davis comparison to BJ Upton more the D Strawberry. I’m forever bummed the Dodgers got the bad E Davis years instead of what came before and after. He was my favorite player and I couldn’t believe he was going to be a Dodger. Careful what you wish for.

  12. 12.  I’m still awaiting Bill Simmons column about the game on ESPN.

    I’ll be waiting right here.

    I can wait all day….

  13. 13.  I’m also looking forward to Simmons’ next podcast with JackO.

  14. 14.  Lifelong Phillie fan here, and I was rooting for the Sox, since I thought they’d be a better matchup for the Phils. In a bseball sense, I think this is a better matchup for the health of the game, even though some permutation of games involving LA or BOS would have made for better ratings. Here’s to hoping the Phils win it.

    I’ve been out lately, but noticed the assorted Kerouac references in recent posts. I wanted to mention Josh, that the latest edition of the SABR publication “The National Pasttime” has a nice story on Kerouac having quite the active imagination and playing a lot of made-up baseball fnatasy games, a la the fictional J. Henry Waugh. I’m not sure if Kerouac’s connection to baseball gaming was common knowledge–it wasn’t to me.

  15. 15.  I fell in love with BJ Upton on August 13, 2006, and wrote a love poem to him on April 30, 2007:


  16. 16.  Red Sox in the ALCS in 4 of the last 6 ALCSs,5 of the last 6 ALDSs with 2 championships. I initially was concerned when I woke up this morning to a season that had ended and wasn’t heartbroken..then I remembered how freaking great my favorite baseball team is.

  17. 17.  I sort of root for the team with the better home ballpark, and I factor in how much I like or dislike any fans of theirs I’ve met. I’ve never met a Rays fan, but I’ve spent time around Philadelphia and liked most of the Phillies fans I met.
    For the last few years before the White Sox won, I was bitter and rooted for the team whose success would make the fewest people happy or the most people unhappy. That meant I was usually a Yankee fan.
    In 2005 I really wanted the Cardinals to beat the Astros, because I was certain the White Sox would lose a World Series game because of the hill in centerfield or something stupid. It was kind of fun watching the Bushes seeing their team lose though.

  18. 18.  14 : Yes, I’m aware of that article, thanks to Tireless Bob Timmermann. I’d known about Kerouac’s baseball game for a while, but I definitely learned more about it from the article.

    16 : Amen. But I really liked this year’s team a lot, and it hurts a little that they won’t be as celebrated as the heroes of ’04 and ’07. In the end they were just one lightning bolt short.

  19. 19.  125 years. One World Series title.
    What’s not to cheer for?

    (Cheering for the Phillies from Allentown.)

  20. 20.  Here’s my rooting logic:

    1. ABB. Anybody But Boston.
    2. Any team that the Yankees do not have a perceived grudge or rivalry with (according to me). For instance I could easily root for the Phillies if they were playing the Sux, but it was extremely difficult for me to root for the Angels this year. Also, cannot root for the Dodgers due to rivalries in 1970s, and sympathetic rooting interest with my beloved, a Giants fan.
    3. Any team outside “our” division, the AL East. Just can’t root for a team that we play 18 games against every year.
    4. Any team whose fans aren’t jerks (again, subjective).
    5. Any team whom the media does not constantly fawn over for no good reason (see also #1).
    6. The home team of wherever I happen to be living. Could easily root for Kansas City if they ever go anywhere, unless of course they are playing the Yankees.

    I won’t be rooting for the Rays due to #3, and won’t really be rooting for the Phils due to #4 (more data required though). I’m just looking forward to some really good baseball with pretty much NO rooting interest! Ahhhh it feels so good!

  21. 21.  Usually I’ll develop a secondary team to root for based on my affinity for certain players. In recent years that team has been Cleveland because I’m a huge fan of Sabathia and Sizemore. Before that it was the Bagwell-Biggio Astros. At one point it was the Red Sox because they employed several of my favorite ex-Dodgers (Offerman and the Martinez Bros.)

    2007 Rockies
    2006 Tigers
    2005 Astros
    2004 Red Sox
    2003 Anybody but the Yankees
    2002 Anybody but the Giants
    2001 Anybody but the Yankees
    2000 Anybody but the Yankees
    1999 Anybody but the Yankees
    1998 Anybody but the Yankees
    1997 Cleveland
    1996 Anybody but the Yankees
    1995 Cleveland
    1993 Blue Jays
    1992 Blue Jays
    1991 Twins
    1990 Reds
    1989 Anybody but the Giants
    1988 –
    1987 Twins
    1986 Red Sox
    1985 Royals

    That’s about as far back as I remember.

  22. 22.  Generally, I tend to follow the whomever-beat-us philosophy, unless there are other phenomena to guide me, such as:

    – I have a good friend who loves the Angels the way I love the Dodgers, so I can comfortably back the Angels

    – My Dad grew up watching the Cubs, so I can back the Cubs (when they aren’t playing the Dodgers)

    – The Yankees are spawn of the devil, so I celebrate in a small way each year when the Yankees are eliminated.

    – Jint fans are particularly detestable in their hatred of the Dodgers, and one major defense I offer is “the phrase, World Champion San Francisco Giants, has never been uttered in truth”. So I also celebrate a little when the Jints are eliminated. 2002 was too close for comfort.

    – The Red Sox are gaining on the Yankees, so I have to admit that I was pleased to see the Rays beat them.

    – And though it overlaps with the base-philosophy, I am sick and tired of all this “The AL is a superior league” crap, so I’m happier these days if the NL team wins.

  23. 23.  I will never forget an early roommate of mine, who rooted for whichever city she would more like to live in. When applied to the weekly football pool, it produced surprisingly good results.

    In a series like this I usually start out nominally nonpartisan, eschewing hatred, transcending attachment, embracing the game as game. By the end I’ve always got a favorite. I’ll have to see how this develops, but frankly I can’t imagine rooting for either, tho’ watching the games should be good.

  24. 24.  23 : Ellen, I should warn you not to lean toward the Phillies. Your Yankee compatriot Akim has already harangued me (and called my manhood into question, and implied that I was never born but “dug up,” and called me “a sham”, etc., etc.) for abandoning the American League in the upcoming World Series.

  25. 25.  Dodgers fan here. I root for the National League regardless. I have a problem rooting for the Giants, needless to say, but I would rather they win the WS than some team from the AL with a 43 year-old former NL first-baseman making 8 million a year so they don’t have to worry about when they should pull their pitcher. I also hate asymmetrical outfield walls and the Yankees. It makes it easy come October. Go Phillies.

  26. 26.  As soon as someone said BJ Upton reminded them of Darryl Strawberry, I knew he was going to break my heart.

    And when he scored the tying second run in Game Five, I knew it was true.

    Imagine my unfettered joy when he came up in the eighth with the tying run on base and grounded into a double play.

    Awwwwwww yeah.

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