If you haven’t already, you’re going to be hearing a lot — and I do mean a lot — about “tradition” and “storied franchises” as the World Series featuring the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals kicks off tonight. And yes, it’s true that these are two of the premiere clubs in all of baseball, having won a combined 18 World Series and four of the last nine.
They’re both deep teams with strong lineups and talented pitching. But make no mistake about it, these are two aggravating franchises with even more insufferable fan bases. So if you’re a baseball fan who isn’t a supporter of either team, you’re going to need to find a way to enjoy the Fall Classic in spite of the Sox and Cards, not because of them. Here’s how:
1. Accept each team and its fans for what they are. Resistance is futile. The Red Sox aren’t going to suddenly become the “lovable losers” that they were when they ended their 86-year championship drought in 2004, no matter how many walk-off hits Big Papi smacks or how many unkempt beards they grow. The Cardinals will never stop insisting that they’re the shining example of all that remains good and pure in America’s Pastime, even if it is not now — or ever has been — true.
2. Don’t buy into the narrative that either team somehow “deserves” to win. Sure, the Cardinals might be the only viable sports franchise in St. Louis and it may actually be true that they have best fans in all of baseball. But their pious holier-than-thou act has worn so thin that using either as justification for another championship makes them just as delusional as they are polite. Boston has been through a year of impossible heartbreak, but the notion that a third World Series in 10 years would somehow heal the city and remedy April’s tragedy is patently absurd.
3. Root for every game to proceed as agonizingly as possible for each team. This doesn’t simply mean rooting for injuries (while the sentiment is understandable, it’s a bit unseemly). Instead, root for as many lead changes as possible, knowing that each fan base will be damn close to pulling its collective hair out with every momentum swing. All the better if a team’s star fails to perform as expected, whether it’s Koji Uehara blowing a leisurely save opportunity or Carlos Beltran finally realizing he’s not the postseason Babe Ruth and putting up golden sombreros in back-to-back games. (Note: It’s natural if, as a baseball fan, you have conflicted feelings about rooting against greatness — just know this is for the greater good.)
4. Take advantage of every fan-related schadenfreude opportunity. Whatever you do, don’t ever get caught in the trap of empathizing with fans of either team. These are people who have gotten to fully enjoy baseball for weeks (or in the case of Mets fans, months) longer than you. They might be agonizing at this very moment, but they didn’t have to go to the trouble of figuring out how to hate-watch the World Series just to make it palatable like you did. At the very least, their team has won a pennant — a successful season by any measure — so don’t be afraid to make light of any minor misfortune via whatever avenue you deem most convenient (Twitter, text message, unnecessarily elaborate schadenfreude dance routine).
5. Appreciate the last week of high-quality baseball. These teams are definitely hateable, but they’re all we’ve got left till pitchers and catchers report in mid-February of 2014. And they don’t bunt much — might as well make the most of it.