I like to think I was gracious after the Red Sox' defeat at the hands of the Rays. In fact, I decided just after the end of that series to actually root for the Tampa upstarts, who'd demonstrated so much tenacity this season, and who were undeniably the better team in the pennant showdown, and who now represent the American League. Intellectually, I think it's good for baseball to have a team like this challenging on the national stage--without much of a payroll, without historical baggage, with young players and new fans getting into the game.
I thought all that, and then I watched the World Series game last night (missed the first one with other committments). I watched the Rays pitch their way to dominance, watched the Phillies stand frozen in frustration at called strike threes with men on base. I watched Tampa get out to a two-run, three-run, four-run lead in the early innings.
And suddenly it reminded me of the All-Star Games I've watched where the AL team I'm supposed to be rooting for has featured Yankees (which would be, um, all of them). Prominent Yankees I dislike, such as Alex Rodriguez. And the way A-Rod stealing a base or getting a hit would prompt an automatic curse from me, straight from the gut, because the mind telling me I should be rooting for him as member of the AL team for one day is no match for the heart forcing these emotional responses out before I could even think about them.
And so last night, involuntarily, I found myself yelling "Shit!" when another Phillies hitter would strike out with men on base. I found myself grousing about the spastic pitching mechanics of Dan Wheeler. If I never have to see David Price again, it will be too soon.
In part I think it's force of habit--I grew accustomed to rooting against the Rays. But another part of it is...well...that the Phillies are a team with history and a fanbase more than a decade old, and are playing for a city that hasn't seen a championship for its professional teams in 25 years.
Does my mind think that emotional evaluation is necessarily fair? Nope. But the heart roots how it wants.