06 October 2008

October baseball

The baseball postseason is underway, and hopefully we're going to be treated to more than the dismal level of intrigue of the past couple of years. The 2006 NLCS was the last entertaining series, and the World Series hasn't gone beyond five games since 2003.

The National League pennant fight is already set, with the Dodgers sweeping the Cubs and the Phillies dropping Milwaukee from their first playoff appearance since 1982. The Brewers could've used Harvey's Wallbangers in that series. I overlook the anti-climax of a sweep when the Cubs are on the short end of the stick, since nothing satisfies the soul like a warm bath in the flowing river of Cubs fans' tears.

I'm going to stand by something I said several years ago; I don't think the nationwide pity club known as Cubs fandom feeds off a strictly masochistic fascination with losing. If that were so, they should all be flowing to the Royals or Pirates, at least. Sports fandom is quasi-religious at heart, and it has an obsession with self-flagellating asceticism, with the highest form of heresy reserved for those who are deemed "bandwagon" fans. Cubs fans, being a mix of knucklehead frat-boys, lazy jocks and half-awake know-nothings, are hoping to slide through playing it both ways. They are not actually courageous enough to root for an actually abysmal franchise but still image-conscious--and indeed, this is the only reason they became Cubs fans in the first place, to join a trend--to realize that rooting for the Yankees is seriously unhip. Thus their affinity for the Cubs, a rich, large-market franchise that nonetheless seems guaranteed to fail in the end.

We should put aside any notion that finally winnning the damn World Series will make self-righteous Cubs fans any more tolerable. Red Sox fans have similar genetic material, and winning the series has only made them more whiny and entitled. It's likely, given the much larger spread of the disease, that winning a title would make Cubs fans exponentially more insufferable. While I think it's still likely to happen in the next decade, that's one pre-emptive war I can get behind.

In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to be the story of the season. The team won more than 70 games for the first time in franchise history after shortening their nickname from "Devil Rays" in the offseason. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Cincinnati Eds. The Rays lead two games to one over the Chicago White Sox, home to the most obnoxiously awful broadcaster in baseball; Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson, who single-handendly makes the team as hateable as their metropolitan neighbors. The other AL series is a battle of perennial playoff teams, with Evil Empire North leading 2-1 over the Pacific Rim Angels of Mexifornia.