Which loser should you root for?

Which loser should you root for?

Which loser should you root for?

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The stadium scene.
Oct. 10 2003 3:59 PM

Red Sox or Cubs?

Only one may be relieved of its misery. But which one?

Dear Casual Baseball Fan,

I don't like you. Casual is for slacks.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

It is time for you to pick a postseason team, throw your love behind that team, and live and die with its every pitch … to the point that you get sharp, clenching chest pains when Scott Williamson walks the first two batters in the ninth inning of a one-run game, and you yell, "Damn it!" at a decibel level much higher than you'd intended, and your girlfriend starts getting scared, and now she's looking at you like she's an 8-year-old whose parents are fighting.

Yeah, that's where you want to be.

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So, you're ready to go there. You've climbed off the casual fence. Now, assuming my Boston Red Sox make the World Series (reverse double unjinx rejinx unjinx mojo activated), and face the Chicago Cubs, which team does the unaffiliated fan decide to root for? The lovable losers? Or the heart-ripping, operatic, bitter-bile-of-history losers?

Allow me to make the case for my Sox.

The media cliché holds that Cubs fans show up at Wrigley for a nice day at the park and a few beers and don't really care if the Cubs win or lose. (Thus, management rakes in cash without any pressure to improve the team.) I don't buy this. I'm sure true Cubs fans detest this image, and like any real fans care desperately about wins and losses.

Meanwhile, the media cliché holds that Red Sox fans are a crew of quivering Calvinists; believe that we are under the spell of a powerful curse; and emit so much negative energy that we somehow infect our team with incurable choking fits. I cannot stand this image. It makes me want to punch Tim McCarver in the kidneys, which I had already wanted to do, but when I hear the words "the Curse of the Bambino" suddenly want to do it even more. There is no curse. None. Sox fans are just a little gun-shy because we've been … hurt. I'm part of the growing Sox fan movement that asserts no belief in the curse and is sick of hearing about it. We're like a campus group reclaiming its victimhood. You can't define our victimhood! It's ours!

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So I say neither is a "better" group of fans and thus more deserving. But let's look at who would get more joy out of winning it all.

Cubs fans, I feel your pain. But if you win, it will be an unexpected delight. A little slice of wonderfulness dropped onto your plate from out of the blue. I admit this is by no means a fair comparison, but I would equate it with my feelings after the Patriots won the Super Bowl. (I know, when you heard "Patriots" you started singing "The Super Bowl Shuffle." Great defense you had, the Danimal or whatever. That was 1985. You're living in the past. Pay attention to my point.) The Pats were another team of lovable losers, incompetent and uncrowned over their 42-year history (I mean, at least you've won before—granted, 95 years ago). And then suddenly we were champs.

Was it fun? Yes. Did I get blind drunk and join a mob celebration in the streets of Boston, pausing at one point to urinate on a random stoop? Yes. Did my girlfriend run into a Store 24, buy a multipack of toilet paper, then hand it out so rioters could light it on fire and throw it in the air? Of course. Did she subsequently try to climb a street pole, only to have policemen swat at her legs with billy clubs and drag her to the ground? Sure did.

But was it a soul-fulfilling, life-altering feeling of relief, as it would be if the Sox had won the Series? No. And like the Patriots, the Cubs lack enough pathos and drama in their history to justify those feelings.

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Still not convinced? Let's flip it around and look at how each fan would feel if his team lost.

If the Cubs lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, no doubt Cubs fans would feel awful. At last, got to the gates of heaven and they crashed shut. That's rough. But how would I feel if the Red Sox lost to the Cubs?

I have previously suggested that I feel toward the Yankees as I would toward someone who'd shot and killed my dog. Given this, what would it feel like if the Cubs beat us in the big one? It would feel as though some pleasant, absent-minded guy had accidentally run over my dog in the street and not really noticed, and then clumsily reversed back over the dog as it yelped in its death throes. Then he started whooping and guzzling beer with friends, while still standing over the dog corpse. And all the while he still seems like a really nice guy who was hard to blame or dislike.

Please don't be that guy. Please.