The idea for this guide came to me at work the other day. Some guys were talking about baseball (always acceptable small talk in any work environment) during the 2003 LCS. A co-worker of mine was asked whom he was rooting for and the response was, “Eh, it doesn’t really matter to me now, I’m an Oakland fan.” At this point I was delighted that another A’s fan was in my midst, but then something strange occurred. The asker of the question then said “Ah, okay so you must want the Yankees to win, I’ve got a good joke for you.” (Note: I have not yet heard the joke as our supervisor came barreling in within seconds to remind us all about the work we should be doing instead of talking about baseball—the nerve!). My brow furrowed. Oakland is my favorite team. The Red Sox beat them, so logically I want the Red Sox to lose...to the Yankees? Heck no! Actually, until that exact moment, I hadn’t thought about whom to root for next. Come to think about it, I never thought about any of those fans of the Twins or Giants or Braves. What are they doing right now? And finally, one has to wonder what a Padres fan is thinking right now.*
(* I was pondering this in rhetorical fashion, but the funniest answer to the question wins a prize.)
So without further ado, I now humbly present Zisk’s guide to the roller coaster world of playoffs rooting. (Note: Detroit fans can pretty much skip to # 2.)
1) Root for your favorite team. Always. Even if you are the only one among dozens of opponents. Root for YOUR team. When I was 10, my whole 5th grade class was rooting for the Mets, while Sam Levy, a courageous Jewish kid from around the block, was gunning for Boston. He took the heat during the series and took it even more after Bill Buckner made the Error Heard Round The World. Through it all Sam still wore that Sox hat. I think he’s making a fortune now selling satellite dishes but the point is that Sam was a man. Disappointed, yes, but still, he was a lonely, embarrassed man.
1b) (That’s “One Bee” by the way, not “first base.”) If your team has won the round or pennant, and you want to bother rooting for teams in the other league (one of which will be your opponent soon) you should root for the underdog. Every single solitary person who cheers on an AL team was rooting for the Cubs over Atlanta on the NL side. The polls are probably still out but that’s pretty much a fact. It’s good to root for the underdog, because when it comes time to face your powerhouse team, you can crush them like a steam roller would a puppy.
2) Now comes the tricky part. If your team is out of the picture, this is what you should do:
- Root for the team that’s geographically closest to you. However, if you happen to live in a city that has two teams (NYC, Chicago, et al) don’t vote for the cross-town rivals! That would be too weird. If two teams are equidistant from you, root for the team that has cooler uniforms (e.g. not the Marlins).
- If geography isn’t your bag, root for the team that has a player you like. Especially if that player has never been to a World Series before (hello, Sammy Sosa). Or along similar lines, root against the team that has a player you hate on it, especially if that player has been to a World Series before (hello, Derek Jeter).
- Okay, so maybe you’re not into the love/hate thing, that’s ok. There are plenty of other strategies to choose from, including but not limited to:
- If you want a specific team to get the last pick in next year’s draft, root for them.
- Root for the team with the best-looking ballpark, it will at least be an aesthetically pleasing series.
- Root for the team with the zaniest mascot.
- Root for teams in alphabetical order (a clever way of saying “Don’t root for the Yankees” without actually saying it).
- Put the team names on slips of paper in a fish bowl. Root for the team whose name is eaten last.
- If you’ve bet money on the game, root for the team that will win you the pot. I suppose this should go without saying, but an extra line or two in this piece makes it look more authoritative.
- Use a Ouija board.
- If there’s a girl you want to hook up with, find out what team she likes, and then root for them together. Think of the celebratory sex! If she doesn’t like baseball, you’ll just have to settle for regular sex (ho hum).
- If the Series has gone to seven games and you still haven’t decided who to root for yet, you’ve got to bear down and flip a coin. AL is heads, NL is tails. Best of seven flips. You can use a Designated Flipper, but only in three or four flips, depending on whether or not you have a home field advantage (if your home is near a field, then you can have a DF for four flips).
Mark Hughson lives in Syracuse with his wife and cat. His collection of 1980s baseball cards is only slightly outnumbered but his collection of 1990s indie rock albums.