According to a recent landmark scientific study by a very impressive sounding institute of academic scholars from somewhere in Europe (or perhaps China), Royals fans are 41% better looking — on average — than Yankees fans. We are also 17% smarter, and 6% better groomed (if you don’t include dental hygiene). Those are facts, you can look it up on the internet (start with wikipedia, where I get all my information).
Most every sports fan understands the particularly sweet kind of twisted satisfaction one gets from hating certain rivals. Like all young male Kansas Citians who first came to love sports in the sixties and seventies, I grew up hating two teams above all others: the Raiders, and the Yankees. I learned the joys of hating those teams from my uncles and my brother. Rooting for them to lose was almost as much fun as cheering on our own teams to victory. And whenever the Royals administered a beating on the Yankees, the celebration was doubly sweet. Unfortunately, over the course of the last twenty five years, that blade cuts both ways.
But while my contempt for the Yankees is mostly a result of their intense rivalry with the Royals in the seventies, my disdain for the Red Sox has come about more gradually over the years. When I was a kid, I liked them a lot. Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk, Luis Tiant; they had some fantastic players and some great teams. I voted for many of them to appear in the All Star game each year. They never won it all in that era, but they were consistently good and often great from the late sixties through the eighties. Plus they had the curse of the Bambino and Buckner’s famous boot as part of their colorful history. You had to feel for those fans.
Then free agency eventually kicked into turbo-drive with its insane level of spending by the large-market lunatic likes of George Steinbrenner, handing out enough money to make a congressman blush, and the talent disparity between the rosters of small-market teams and their big city competitors began to tilt the playing field considerably in the wrong direction. By the time the late nineties rolled around, the pattern was set, and it wasn’t a good one for Royals fans. We are all but guaranteed to lose our best homegrown talent to free agency, usually just as they are entering their peak performance years. And the only free agents we ever seem to be able to afford come via the “hope” system, as in gee I “hope” he has a good year or two left before he’s completely washed up. That’s when I first began to sour on the Red Sox, along with some of the other big money teams.
Then I started to become more aware of how long games against them would last. Nomar Garciaparra alone could eat up an hour and a half in one at bat with his ridiculous rituals. Not to mention the balls our outfielders had to chase all over Fenway (the ones that didn’t fly over the big green monster, anyway) as they scored in double digits off our small salaried (most weren’t even making a paltry eight figures) pitching staffs. I also started to notice how the ESPN Sportscenter staff seemed to feel there were no sports teams worth covering outside the greater New York/Boston areas, which is one reason I stopped watching those broadcasts years ago. And then the final nail in the Red Sox hating coffin was the 2004 World Series.
Sour grapes and jealousy from a sore loser, you say, Red Sox Nation? Well, you might be right. But winning is hardly a great accomplishment when your salary is twice the average of your typical competitor, in a down year.
Judging by his inconsistent and oddly dimensioned strike zone in last night’s game, Joe West may be the worst home plate umpire in the big leagues but he was right when he said the Red Sox and Yankees are pathetic as relates to the pace of the game. Four hour baseball games are disgusting. The pace must be sped up.
A couple of years ago while living overseas, I almost ruined an otherwise nice little weekend beach getaway with some new friends over my loudmouth opinions on the Red Sox. One night at dinner, the topic of baseball came up. Our friends were from New Hampshire, and of course turned out to be big Sox fans. I tried to change the subject, but their teenage son kept going on and on. He asked me if I had watched a recent television broadcast of a Red Sox-Yanks game, and I let slip that I’d rather have my wisdom teeth pulled than watch either of those teams, unless they were playing the Royals. Being young, he couldn’t understand how anyone wouldn’t love the Sox as much as he did. So he kept pushing until I finally explained how I feel his beloved team epitomizes all that is wrong with modern baseball. A skewed payroll system with no salary cap. Ever lengthening games. Humongous (I’m sure it was just creatine), one-dimensional bombers. By the time I finished, his feelings were really hurt. And I felt like a heel. So I let him beat me in a few games of eight ball to make it up to him. He relished kicking my butt and talking trash about it afterword (typical weenie Sox fan), but it was the least I could do in return for tarnishing his boyhood idols.
I also put a damper on another otherwise great weekend (are you sensing a theme here?) with yet another group of friends because of my strongly voiced feelings about the designated hitter rule. I despise the DH, and have ever since it came into being. I prayed the Royals would make the switch to the National league when offered the chance in 1997, for that very reason. Baseball is a better game when pitchers have to face other pitchers, and there are more strategic options at play, such as the double switch. And wouldn’t you love to see Zack Greinke in the box every five days?
At any rate, last night’s Royals victory was sweeter than most for me. Maybe the Sox will experience a little emotional letdown given their recent big sweep of the Rays. A guy can hope at least, can’t he? What else do sore loser Royals fans have?