Ever since 1981, when as a fourth-grader I first started following the World Series avidly and aligned myself with Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, and Craig Nettles, I’ve been a New York Yankees fan. I’ve always believed in choosing a sports team to follow and then sticking with them in good times and bad. Of course with the Yankees, there have been decidedly more good times, but keep in mind that after losing the ’81 series to the Dodgers (amid “Fernandomania”), the Yankees did not make the playoffs again until 1995. I did, however, get to experience in person the joy seeing New York win the World Series in 1996 over Atlanta. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
But aside from the Yankees, I’m more used to rooting for underdogs. My favorite team, of course, is the Oregon Ducks, who have enjoyed more than a decade of consecutive winning seasons but are not a classic team in the mold of Notre Dame, USC, Penn State or (more recently) Miami. And it’s a similar story with the Portland Trail Blazers, who until last year made the playoffs something like 19 years in a row, but have not won the NBA Championship since 1977 and do not enjoy the mythic status of the Lakers or Celtics.
All this has been on my mind since the Yankees lost Game 7 of the ALCS to Boston, the latter being baseball’s poster-child (along with the Cubs) for baseball frustration because they haven’t won the World Series since 1918. Of course I was rooting for New York to win this recent ALCS-deciding game, but I knew Boston deserved it more. Yet supporting Boston is of course easier said than done. Not only are the Red Sox our arch rival, but aside from the sympathy their so-called “curse” generates, I also don’t find either the Red Sox players or their fans very likable—especially that Johnny Damon: get a hair cut, caveman!
Nevertheless, I’m rooting for Boston to win the World Series. I was actually rooting very hard for the Red Sox in 1986, when they famously choked in Game 6 against the Mets. (Incidentally, I don’t believe it was entirely Bill Buckner’s fault. The dam had already begun to burst before then.) It comes down to simple fairness, something that rarely seems to happen in major league sports where money is king. Much as I love the Yankees, I’m always aware how much their advantages not just in money but in location and reputation resemble the pro sports team I despise more than any other: the Los Angeles Lakers. The Red Sox are more like the Trail Blazers, the often-talented team that nevertheless virtually always becomes the punching bag in a one-sided rivalry. So go out there, Boston, and take the bouquet for all us bridesmaids.