I've known Adam Morris for...God, I don't know, something like the last nine or ten or eleven years. For those of you who don't know, Adam Morris is the guy who founded and continues to run Lone Star Ball, our network's Rangers blog. But I knew him before Lone Star Ball ever existed. I knew him before the concept of SB Nation occupied a single neuron in Tyler Bleszinski's brain. I knew him when I thought the would be okay without Alex Rodriguez because they signed Bret Boone and Boone had 74 RBI the year before.*
*bad process, good result!
I knew him as meno71 on the ESPN baseball message boards, where I spent entirely too much of my time during high school. It was that experience that started me on the path to where I am today, which is cool and makes it seem like less of a waste, but I probably could've been off getting laid. I wasn't off getting laid. I was online, talking about baseball, often on the Mariners board, but frequently on the Rangers board, because the Rangers board was smarter.
A lot of the time, meno71 would be on the Rangers board, and he stood out to me the way people on a message board stand out when you can tell they actually know what they're talking about. He was the rare internet user with whom it's a pleasure to interact.
We continued to interact for some years, and right around when I started up Leone For Third, Adam began his imaginatively named Texas Rangers Blog. The way I remember it might not be the way it actually happened, because it's been a long time and it's also dreadfully late at night, but I believe that, after I joined SBN, I recommended Adam for the Rangers site. Adam was a great Rangers blogger - the best I knew, and probably the best there was.
Adam and I have been colleagues of a sort ever since. We don't talk all the time. We've never met. I've only actually heard his voice once, and I liked the way it sounded more in my imagination. But I consider him to be an internet friend. You know what I mean. Many of us have real friends and internet friends, and while internet friends can become real friends, there's still a connection there regardless.
Why do I bring this up? That's a good question for me to ask myself right here because hopefully it'll help me stay on track. This was a World Series between theand the . Immediately, when the matchup was set, I knew I'd be rooting for the Cardinals, and rooting hard. I'm a Mariners fan, and as a Mariners fan, the last thing I want is to see a division rival celebrating a world championship. Particularly a division rival that had never won before. The Mariners have never won before, and it's nice to have company.
There was no doubt in my mind which way I was leaning. Then I tried to break it down. Why? Why root so hard for the Cardinals, and so hard against the Rangers?
Something I realized is that, from a Mariners fan's perspective, it doesn't really matter whether the Rangers win the World Series or not. The Rangers made their second World Series in a row. They built an outstanding team, and they are, overall, an outstanding organization. They're set for the present and they're set for the future, and a championship wouldn't change their situation one bit. It would, I guess, give them a little extra money to spend, but not much compared to the money they already have, and it's not like a championship would make them a more appealing team to free agents or young players they might be looking to sign to extensions. Basically, a championship wouldn't determine whether or not the Rangers are great. The Rangers are already great.
So there wasn't a rational reason to root against them. Then I thought of Adam. None of my personal friends are Rangers fans, nor are any members of my family. None of my personal friends are Cardinals fans, nor are any members of my family. I know two Cardinals fans - one who posts here, and one who just moved in nextdoor a couple weeks ago. They both watched the World Series in 2006. But I know a handful of Rangers fans, and Adam the best among them. I like them, and they have never seen the Rangers win the Series. It would seem sensible to root for the Rangers, right? So that these people could be happy? Why would I want these people to be sad?
It's not like I ever had any actual investment in the Cardinals. I don't care about the Cardinals. My rooting interest was never so much for the Cardinals as against the Rangers, and when I thought about the Rangers fans I know, that made me feel kind of shitty. I was essentially rooting for those people to be sad, for no other reason than I would have the satisfaction of knowing the Rangers lost, and that those people would be sad.
Horrible. Rationally, because of Adam and a few other guys, I should've been rooting for the Rangers. Rationally, because of Adrian Beltre, I should've been rooting for the Rangers. But it was my mistake to try to break this down rationally, because there's nothing at all rational about sports fandom. I've mentioned it before, but if we were truly rational about sports, we wouldn't watch sports.
As far as I can tell, this was the internal thought process:
- Go Cardinals
- Because the Rangers are the enemy
- Because they play in the Mariners' division
- So what?
- So that makes them the enemy
- But the Mariners aren't playing anymore
- But rivals
- What's a rival?
- A team you don't want to win
Fandom just is, and you can't control it, and my fandom was with the Cardinals. As such, I found this to be just about the perfect World Series, right down to all of the agony. The irrational sports fan in me, the fan who loves the Mariners and hates their rivals for some reason, is absolutely delighted by the fact that the Rangers twice came within a strike of winning it all. If the point is that the Rangers and their fans have to suffer, I'm not sure they could've suffered much more than they did these last few days.
Feelings are so stupid. I'm glad I can have strong feelings about sports, because at the end of the day they're just sports, and strong feelings make sports what they are, but I can't rationally process why I would root for good people to be miserable. Some bad people are miserable, too, and that's fine (fuck 'em!), but there are bad people everywhere. How can I hope for misery and not feel like a 6'5 pile of shit?
Man, I'm starting to lose track of what I'm writing. I might have to wake up and take this whole post down, even though I don't plan on waking up until Tuesday because baseball season is finally over. I love baseball season, and the past month has been nothing short of breathtaking - can you believe the last day of the regular season and World Series Game 6 happened just 30 days apart? - but I'm going to savor this. After the final out, there were a lot of people tweeting something along the lines of "come back, baseball." It's like, hey, don't hurry. Speaking at least for myself, I need this breather.
I feel like I've barely said anything about the Cardinals. One of the tricky things about this year's Cardinals is that I don't know what lesson we can take from them. Last year, when thewon it all, we could realize that the Giants won it all with Brian Sabean as their GM, and that was enough to make even the most negative baseball fan a little more hopeful. But this year, what's the lesson? "Never give up"? It's a fine lesson, I guess, but it's overly simple and hardly original. We don't need the Cardinals to teach us shit we learned in first grade.
I remember back in the spring, before the season started, I was doing division-by-division previews with the host on my weekly radio spot, and one week we got to the NL Central. At that point I still liked the Cardinals, but I liked the Adam Wainwright needed Tommy John surgery, and I could hardly wrap my head around that kind of loss. It was severe - a probable blow of something like four or five or six wins. Four or five or six wins that I didn't think the Cardinals could afford to lose.a lot more, because the Cardinals had recently learned that
And they survived. They survived without Wainwright. They survived a ton of other injuries. Actually, "survive" isn't the right word. Obviously, "survive" isn't the right word, because the Cardinals did so much more than that. They survived for their first 130 games. They thrived for their final 50. They finished 34-16, actually slowing down once they reached the playoffs.
It's going to take me a long time to fully appreciate what the Cardinals pulled off. It's possible I'll never fully appreciate it. It's also possible I already fully appreciate it, and this is what full appreciation feels like. The Cardinals were 10½ games behind thewith 32 games to play. They made the playoffs on the last day of the year. In the NLDS, they did away with a bulldozer, and then in the NLCS, they knocked off the team that took their division.
Which took them to the World Series, where - and you know I hate this - they captured their whole season in a nutshell. They battled, they scuffled, they found themselves faced with impossible odds, and they stormed back. They stormed back to win. They stormed back to win everything.
Saturday is a day off. It is a day that I don't even have to think about thinking about baseball. It is the first such day I will have had in about eight months. I'm going grocery shopping. I'm excited. And the whole time I'm at the store, I just know I'm going to be thinking about the Cardinals. There's a slight but significant difference between impossible and improbable, and the Cardinals just lived it.