Why You Should And Shouldn’t Root For The Sox/Rays

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(Editor’s note: The following is an actual email correspondence between two of our writers)

Hey James,

Can you please explain to me why people want the Rays to take the Wild Card spot from the Red Sox? The Rays can’t even fill their seats during this stretch run. Do their fans really deserve another playoff run (let alone a team)? What am I missing here?

Bryson

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Dear Red Sox Fan Bryson,

If you were not aware, the Red Sox are the new Yankees. When the Red Sox were bad, stuck in their “we haven’t won a world series in 300 years” and “everything goes against us” period, the average baseball fan couldn’t build up enough derision to dislike them. Times have changed. They’ve won a couple of series. And now, there are more Red Sox fans than ever, and plenty in any city in America. And their payroll? It’s in Yankee territory. So, the question is not why America would root for Tampa, but why they would instead for Boston.

However, if I had to come up with a reason for people rooting for Tampa, a group to which I belong, I would guess it has to with the religious undertones when the team dropped “Devil” from the nickname a few years ago and finally began to prosper. They are like the prodigal sons of the modern sports landscape.

Sincerely,

James

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Dear Stereotyper James,

That’s not fair. The Red Sox were left with little choice but to compete with the Yankees, and that unfortunately meant they had to spend some money. I mean, they were given two options: The Yankees route and the Rays route. The Rays route comprised of sucking for years, compiling early draft picks, and then cashing in. I call it Welfare Baseball. That can work for teams like Tampa Bay (and the Marlins), but Boston has fans that will come to the game year in and year out. I mean, it’s not their fault they can afford to spend with the Yankees. Even though they still spend a less than the Yankees.

All this winning surely can’t be good for the Rays. Look at the Marlins. They won it all after cashing in their welfare checks, and then when they refused to pay their players, went back into suckapalooza. So their fans stopped coming. A few years later they cashed in again, won another title, and then went back to suckapalooza. Meanwhile, good honest teams, like your A’s were stuck in mediocrity. Is that really fair? Do you really want to support such behavior?

Regarding your pseudo religious reason for cheering for the Rays, I won’t disrespect your beliefs. Even though they’re stupid.

Bryson

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Athiest Bryson,

Just because the Red Sox were “forced” to go that route does not mean I have to root for it. Would I have done the same thing if I ran the Red Sox? Obviously, but that does not mean I like it. Do I get pleasure seeing the big boys fail? Of course I do. Do I enjoy asking myself questions? The answer is: yes. I like underdogs. I root for people on welfare. When the Rays ($41 mil payroll) can compete with the Red Sox ($162 mil), I smile.

There is a larger question here: does spending bring wins and thus fans —or— does winning bring fans which then bring the revenues to spend? I don’t care enough about that question to answer it though.

But since you bring up the Marlins… there are probably worse things than being a Marlins fan. They have existed less than 20 years and have won two world series titles. Compare that to the Cubs, who do spend money and have, well…. we all know how to finish that sentence. In baseball, the draft is such an inexact science, I really don’t think tanking is rewarded, but I do think drafting well is rewarded, which is why some small-market teams are perennially bad (Royals, Pirates) others are up and down (Rays, Marlins) and some are usually pretty decent (A’s, Twins). Am I bothered by teams like the Marlins? No. However, I do feel bad for people living in Pittsburgh and Kansas City, and not just for the baseball they have to watch.

— James

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Dear Hater-of-all-things-Middle-America Littlejohn,

I would argue that being a Marlins fan is the worst of all. Where are you, “Marlins Fans”? Go to the game, prove you’re a fan. See, that’s the big issue for me. I don’t just root for teams, I root for fans. Certain teams have better fans, and those fans often influence which team I feel deserves to win. For example, I started rooting for the Sox in 1999 when I first learned that they had such devoted fans despite their inability to overcome the “curse.” Plus, I couldn’t stand the Yankees and their fans.

Which brings us back to the Rays. Their fans stink. They have this team which, by your standards, is super rad, and yet they continue to leave them unsupported. How ridiculous are they? I remember when the Braves started to have a hard time filling seats for big/playoff games. But that was after they had gone to the playoffs for like ten straight years (losing agonizingly every time but once). What is the Rays fans’ excuse?

Conclusion: Don’t root for the Rays. Unless they go all the way and change their name to Jesus Fish. Then all bets are off. Go Sox.

Heart,

Bryson

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Bryson,

I believe you are confusing the size of the fan base with the quality. Every team in every sport, whether large or small-market, has fair-weather fans. If every person who professed to be a Yankees fan went to one game every three seasons, the Yankees would still sell-out all their games. With the Rays, it is not so. If every Rays fan went to three games every year, they still wouldn’t sell out. The Rays fans could be nine times more into their team than Yankees fans, and it would still not appear to be the case. So, basically, you dislike the team because there are a large number of people in that region that are apparently uninterested in baseball? If that’s what makes sense to you…

— James

PS — if fan quality is what matters, switch your NBA allegiances from the Jazz (whose idiotic fan base is only surpassed by Lakers) and start rooting for the Warriors or Knicks, who have a long history of atrocious performance and fantastic attendance.

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James,

Do you mind explaining the “quality” that Rays fans supposedly possess? People in Florida like baseball less than people elsewhere? I doubt people there like the game less than people in, say Seattle, or Denver. And what’s more qualitative than at least showing up for big games? Sure, maybe an April game against the Blue Jays won’t sell out, but September games against the Sox and Yankees? Really? Besides, an inability to sell tickets is a pretty good reason to believe that maybe you shouldn’t have a team …

And leave the Jazz out of this. Also, WHERE’S THE FOUL?!?! ARE YOU BLIND?!?!

Bryson

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Bryson,

The quality is self-evident. Rays play in a bad stadium, have no history and in their first ten seasons, their BEST record was 70-91. The quality is in the 15,000 fans they still averaged during said period. But I don’t think the Rays have better fans or even average fans, they don’t… and the lack of quantity is equally self-evident; my point was they, as all teams, have some good fans and some bad fans and that I could care less — I don’t root for teams based on the fans.
In fact, let’s face it…. most fans are annoying… so maybe I prefer a team with fewer fans, and thus fewer annoying fans. Long live the Expos! Long live the Expos! Long live the Expos!

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Brought to you by the Gmail inboxes of Bryson Kearl and James Littlejohn

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