While everyone outside of New York and Philadelphia is complaining about having to choose between the Yankees and Phillies to win a World Series is like choosing between breaking your big toe with a sleghammer or having it chopped off by a bandsaw, I have a small confession to make. I’m pumped about this series.
In most World Series, I can generally find a rooting interest in one team or the other either because of players I like, ex-Pirates, or general existing biases against franchises or fan bases. The problem is, this rarely works out well. Take, for example, the 2004 World Series. Typical small-market logic dictats that I am supposed to despite the Red Sox and root for the NL team. Except the NL team the Cardinals, whom I loathe, and the Red Sox had Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez, two of my favorite non-Pirates to watch play at the time. So I said I was rooting for the Cardinals, secretly was rooting for the Red Sox, and felt kind of dirty about the whole thing.
The other potential pitfall was illustrated by last year’s series. I really, really liked last year’s Rays team for a number of reasons; they were a perfect model of small-market success, they had some very exciting young players, I saw a few of their players several times over the summer in Durham. On the flip side, as a Pittsburgher it’s not exactly easy to cheer for anything from Philadelphia. So after a season of having the Pirates stomp all over a baseball season, I then had to watch the Phillies beat the Rays for a special cherry on top. And thanks to a 1988 incident with the flu, a typical toddler-parent miscommunication, and a cough drop, I hate cherries (I am not kidding).
This year, though, it’s the Phillies and the Yankees. I can’t like either team. I can’t be happy for either of their fan bases. That means I can watch two good baseball teams play what is hopefully a great series without complications. If Ryan Howard hits a 450 foot homer, I don’t have to mope that it buried the Rays. If CC Sabathia or Cliff Lee pitches a great game, it doesn’t come at the cost of some team I’ve created a false emotional connection to. And you know what? I think Chase Utley is awesome and I don’t have to pretend that I don’t, because if he plays well this series the only team that’s hurt is the Yankees. I’ve already accepted that I won’t like the outcome of this series, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it along the way.