Baseball and Politics

Posted on October 29, 2011 by

My team lost the world series in an especially agonizing way. 

I was rooting for the Texas Rangers, indifferent to their home state’s conservative politics or even the presence of former team owner George Bush in the seats behind home plate. 

In that respect, at least for me, sports transcends politics. 

But I do associate a loss like this to big elections.  If you think this was bad, I tell myself, what will it feel like the morning of November 7, 2012? 

When you pick sides in team sports, your emotional experience is vicarious. 

Like great literature, this world series (the entire post-season, in fact) had fantastic dramatic elements and was baseball at its best. 

My partisanship toward the Rangers was based largely on the fact that the Texas team had never won the title while the Cards were champs five years ago. 

But even more than that was my affinity for Ranger manager Ron Washington, a populist team leader with a great heart and overt love for his players. 

I demonized his adversary, the aloof Tony La Russa, making him into a consummate technocrat – a man without a soul – who used his players like chess pieces, with the same kind of calculated indifference corporations show when shipping jobs oversees. 

Who cares if my characterization was accurate, fair or fabrication?  After all, it’s only a game. 

For a casual fan like me, it takes a few days to get over a big loss. 

(Though with the Rangers coming so excruciatingly close in game six – only to see the dream slip away in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings and then in game 7 – this one might take a little longer). 

Though competitive sports has an important role in American history and culture (particularly so in race relations: Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Mohamed Ali) there will be no critical consequence to the outcome of this year’s world series. 

But just one year from now is the 2012 presidential election.  If we lose that one, my pain and suffering won’t be so easy to manage.  And the consequences won’t be vicarious or imaginary.

Comments (6)

 

  1. Goetz Wolff says:

    Hey – thanks for confessing. I hadn’t thought about the reasons one might be for Texas.

    Since my high school days, I’ve become what you describe as a “casual fan.”

    But deep in my heart, I still love the old American League and National League.

    I confess, I despise all the expansion teams, especially the ones who abandoned their fan base: Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers, etc.

    So, I was rooting for Detroit to defeat Texas, so we could have a “good old” American League team go against the National League team of Stan (the Man) Musial.

    What a wonderful uphill struggle by St. Louis this year! I hope that it can be a symbol for all the underdogs.

  2. Buddyg says:

    I can’t get past Dubya’s continuing association with the team, perhaps accentuated by the fact the fans cheered him when he threw a passed ball to Nolan Ryan. To be sure, this is from an unreconstructed Yankees fan.

  3. Ben Sears says:

    Yeah, Lou, your connecting sports to our country’s history resonates with me. Remember game 7 of the ’55 World Series when the Dodgers finally won? (talk about dating yourself!) That team had, of course, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Carl Erskine, etc. It also had Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Jackie Robinson and Sandy Amoros in prominent roles. That was something for a twelve year old kid to watch.
    And I also found myself rooting for Texas. Ron Washington’s team deserved a series win; the Cardinals have won alot already.
    But for fans from Philly (such as yours truly) it’s not hard for us to make the connection. You think you’ve got problems? I’m still getting over the Cardinal’s 1-0 game 5 victory over our team. But in the long run, look at it this way: when a Philly team wins the world series, something big is likely to happen, for better or worse. Take 1929 (no I don’t remember that one) when the A’s beat the Cubs. A few weeks later the Wall Street crash signalled the coming of the Great Dep.
    1980–Phillies finally win:-)
    Then Reagan gets elected:-(
    2008 was all good: Phillies win; 5 days later, Obama does the same! So are we making progress?
    In 2012 I would like to have it all; but I agree with you here also–given the choice (a world series win or an election victory), I’ll feel a whole lot better if the election has a good outcome than I will if it’s the other way around!!

  4. Like you, I tend to root for the underdog. My heart goes out to the Rangers who have yet to win a world series. I love the city of St. Louis and have been there twice. I have no love for Dallas, which I didn’t like when I was there. But I root for a team, not the city and its fans, and I agree that La Russa and his boys are a bit arrogant. Last year I rooted against San Francisco for the same reason. It’s my favorite city , but not its team.

    In the long run, baseball is just a game. It’s fun to be a partisan. In politics, this kind of partisanship for winner taking all is not fun, it’s short sighted and maddening.

    Keep up the good blogs.

  5. Greg II says:

    I too root for the underdog without fail — except for Texas. They have George Bush, Rick Perry, the overused death penalty. All of that leads me to think they are the underdogs by design. Meanwhile, I am certain, Lou, you will have nothing to be upset about the morning after the election, especially if we can get everybody we know and agree with politically to vote.

  6. Hi Lou,
    I don’t know if kelly told you, but our younger brother casey is now a “roving” coach with the rangers. He travels to several minor league teams each month, and does various concentrated skill sessions with the players. So I was with you on a Texas victory. But truth be told, having grown up in a sports family nut house, I don’t pay any attention these days, but when forced prefer college games to the pros. As my brother–who played for ten years in “the show”–put it, if someone is making millions of dollars a year, once the team is out of contention for post-season play there is an incentive not to try too hard in the field if it means one might get hurt and lose future earnings. Depends on the character of the player of course, but I prefer to watch the hungry ones, in triple and double A ball, or even high school where there seems to be so much at stake for the players.

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