In 2004, I was a Junior at the University of Washington. My roommates and I huddled around our 24 inch TV on a dark September day, waiting for the Boston Red Sox to complete the impossible comeback against New York. At that moment, seeing the Yankees lose was all I ever cared about in the playoffs. Still bitter from 2001, still sick of all the titles that they'd won. Boston was the loveable underdog, a team full of self-proclaimed "idiots." Personality. Johnny Damon launched a grand slam in Game 7 of the ALCS and we all exploded out the door, running around outside going nuts. It's the last time I can remember rooting so hard for a team that wasn't Seattle.
Boston went on to win that World Series and another in 2007. They weren't the underdog anymore, they were the favorite. By 2005, rooting for the Red Sox was unbearable, and it was even worse after 2007. When the Red Sox came to town, Safeco would be littered with pink B hats as far as the eye could see. They were the biggest bandwagon franchise in baseball, and for a few weeks in 2004, I was a part of it.
Now, everything has changed. Boston has sustained their success, but the novelty of the curse being lifted has worn off. They're still a massively popular team nationwide, but the gigantic cultural phenomenon isn't the same. Dane Cook doesn't really exist anymore. Now there's Louis CK to represent Boston comedians, and Louis CK is awesome. I've made some new friends that are Boston fans. The resent has faded.
It's a classic World Series match-up. Two storied franchises, each with multiple World Series titles in the past decade. Both with huge national fanbases and superstar players. I've found myself cheering for the underdog every October for the past decade, and I can't do that this time around. I couldn't even do it in the championship series, where the other options were a team that had just been to the World Series and a team that threw duffel bags of gold bars at their entire roster. The fantastic underdog I wanted to advance so badly, Pittsburgh, had fallen at the hands of St. Louis.
I suppose, to some degree, we're all a sucker for a good narrative. These two teams don't really fill obvious ones, other than being excellent, well-run franchises who deserve to be in the position they're in. Still, Boston has the beards and new manager, the Cardinals have Beltran's possible swan song and Allen Craig's return - it's not the same as the story of a franchise who hasn't been in this position before. These are familiar faces.
Still, this year's Boston team is likeable. I like the beards, though I've barely paid attention to the evolving media attention around them over the past month. I like Jonny Gomes from his glorified rally monkey days with Tampa Bay, back during their World Series run. Jacoby Ellsbury is an electric player, and there's at least a small chance he could be a Seattle Mariner in a matter of months. Mike Carp was once a Seattle Mariner, and he now has a horribly disgusting yellow beard that's awesome. Baseball players are notorious for having really shitty haircuts, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has one of the worst in the league, and the cameras can't stop showing him. I love it.
Then there's St. Louis, just two seasons removed from their last World Series victory. If everyone's a sucker for a good narrative, then many of us are guilty of falling into bad narratives as well, and this year the chatter about too much celebrating has reached an unbearable level. The Cardinals are the latest culprit of whining about this after the Mickey Mouse comments towards Adrian Gonzalez, and it's tired. This is the playoffs, where teams should be allowed to go nuts, celebrate, and be emotional. Complaining about teams living it up is more obnoxious than any amount of celebrating, and even though it's unfair to extend an individual comments into an entire team philosophy, you have to draw lines in the sand somewhere. Make a reason for you to care.
I hate when writers force a narrative into analysis, but I have no problem doing it as a fan. There's a time to crunch the numbers and a time to watch games unfold with a clean slate, and the World Series is the perfect time to let the latter happen. The numbers accumulated in these games don't really matter, they won't be factored into player projections for 2014, they won't really count in a player's career stats, at least not on the most common ground. All that matters are wins, losses, and moments. When faced with two baseball juggernauts, I'm choosing my own narrative and making some of my own, because this is the last time I get to do it before off-season analysis starts and rationality takes over once again. Go Boston.
We'll have game threads for all the World Series games, so make sure to stop by to root with or against me. Sound off with who you're pulling for with the poll below and in the comments.