Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sports fans: what are we identifying with?

So, my dad is perturbed that fans root for a team, no matter who's on it. Like, if all the players from the Red Sox were to switch places with all the players from the Yankees for one game, New Yorkers would still root for the Yankees. It is an interesting question, though. As a sports fan, what are we identifying with?

I'm no psychologist, but I think there are several reasons we root for a team, no matter how different the face of it may be from one year to the next. One is that so many players are traded so often, teams are always being broken up and rebuilt, that if you root for the players, you could end up rooting for every team in the league. Logistically, that's just stupid.

I know people from my town who are diehard Green Bay Packers fans, and a girl my age who swears by the Dallas Cowboys. People like winning teams, or they like tradition, or they like the teams their fathers (or mothers) like. For me, though, it comes down to the fact that I root for the New York Yankees because I am a New Yorker. I'm not rooting for Derek Jeter to win. I'm rooting for me to win, for New York to win. When I cheer for Jorge Posada, I'm cheering for myself - he's just my representative on the field. So, the players can change and always be different, but they're all out there making sure New York and I win.

Of course, that's not to say that I don't identify with players as well. When Andy Pettitte was with the Houston Astros, I rooted for him to win his games (not too hard to do as the Astros and Yankees are in two different leagues), but having essentially grown up with someone like Derek Jeter, I think I would still root for him even if he went to another team. And for reasons I can't explain, I root for players, like Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, which makes me root for the Twins as a team, even though I have no substantial reason to identify with him.

I do have an interest identification process, though, that seems to be extremely less discerning that most other peoples. Like, I can root for any New York team, simply because they are from New York. Whenever the Buffalo Bills were in the Super Bowl, I could cheer for them, because I'm told Buffalo is technically in New York (though as a Long Islander, I have trouble considering anything north of Westchester New York - sorry! You're all just part of a different world!). I spent four years living in DC, so I feel okay supporting DC teams, which apparently extends to nearby Baltimore as well, as when the Ravens played the Giants in the Super Bowl, I figured I won no matter which team won (see how it comes back to me winning again?) It's this whole hierarchy of teams I root for. Like when my favorite team gets knocked out (like the Yankees), I have a backup (the Mets). But they got knocked out, so now I'm choosing which team I best identify with - do I feel any connection to the Dodgers because of Joe Torre being their manager and my brother living out there? Not really. Same case with the Chicago teams, since I technically went to Loyola in Chicago with tons of kids from Chicago when I studied abroad in Rome. And yet, I do identify with the Twins, because of Mauer as well as one of my best friends living outside Minneapolis. I can find reasons for identification, but apparently I can't force it.

Anyway, these are the things I think about. It's an interesting subject. But maybe I'm really misusing the word "interesting" here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Baseball postseason - still worth watching?

Well, there are no New York teams to root for. I kinda don't know what to do about that. This has never happened to me before. But I have some options, ones I usually keep in my back pocket just in case that can now come to the forefront.

Boston - I will never root for. That's my diehard Yankeeism coming through. Sorry. Plus, even though they're in by wildcard, they're still favorites and recent World Series winners and in a scenario without my team to root for, I'd rather root for the underdog.

Tampa Bay - are they really an underdog if they've been on top of the division all season long? I'd say, yes. They're just the most recent in a string of feel-good sports team stories. So I could definitely dig that.

Angels - Well, one of my favorite sports movies is Angels in the Outfield. And I used that to root for them when they won the World Series in 2002.

American League Central - we're still waiting to find out if it'll be the White Sox or the Twins. I'm gunning for the Twins. Anybody who reads this blog knows that I am a huge Joe Mauer fan and I like the Twins as a team. If they make it to the postseason, I may have to root for them to win the whole thing.

Phillies - In deference to my Mets fan friends and being a New Yorker, I cannot in good faith root for the Phillies.

Brewers - since they won the Wild Card over the Mets, that leaves them out, too.

Dodgers - Manny Ramirez, con. Joe Torre, pro. I like Joe. And my brother lives in LA, both things that could help me identify with this team.

Cubs - After the Red Sox, White Sox, and Angels, the Cubs are now next in line to be overdue a World Series victory. I can get behind that. If that doesn't scream underdog, I don't know what does.

Good news for Jets fans, bad news for Mets fans

So, the Jets are even going into next week's bye week (no game) after a win against the Arizona Cardinals yesterday. I thought the game was kinda sloppy, with a lot of turnovers. But if you can pull out a win anyway, then I guess I can't really complain.

The Mets' postseason hopes came down to the last game of the season yesterday. As a sports fan, sometimes I think that's the way it should be, with all teams at the same competitive level, with the excitement of will-they-won't-they lasting until the very end. No major blowouts, being so much better than everybody else. No limping to the finish line, playing games that nobody's watching because they don't mean anything. My heart really can't take that kind of excitement, though, unless my team ends up winning. And yesterday, the Mets did not. A huge disappointment, but I think the writing had been on the wall with their utter lack of a bullpen. You can't blow leads and blow games over and over again and then expect to lock up a postseason berth and make everything all better in the final game. It doesn't work that way. The good news? Maybe last season will no longer be looked at as one of the biggest collapses in sports history. Maybe now it'll just be looked at as the Mets pulling a Mets. (Sorry, Dania!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tomorrow is another day

Well, the bumpy road that was this season for the Yankees is finally over. The Red Sox finally put them out of their misery, clinching a playoff berth last night with a win. Since the Sox would've had to lose every game for the rest of the season in order for the Yankees to make it to October, last night just made official what we've all known for weeks, if not months.

I'm strangely okay with it. I think it's because I actually wasn't all that invested in the Yankees this season. Does that make me a fairweather fan? Maybe it was a survival technique? Maybe the past few years of early October exits had prepared me well for this, my first Yankee season with no postseason.

Anyway, it reminds me of the year the Yankees lost in the playoffs to the Red Sox. What year was that, 2004? What made that particularly awful was that it was the first time ever a team had come back from a 0-3 deficit to win four games in a row to make it to the next round. Oh, and that it was the Red Sox who won, and the Yankees who lost. I was so devastated that night that I called out of work sick the next day so I could wallow in misery in my pajamas without dealing with anybody. Maybe I was a crazy person. Maybe I was a true fan. Maybe I was just being a drama queen.

No dramatics this year. It was what it was. Football is here to give me something to cheer for and for us Yankee fans, like Scarlett O'Hara always said, "Tomorrow is another day." I'll be there next spring, ready for a new beginning.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Time to say goodbye: 21 September 2008

I didn't think I'd get emotional at the final game played at Yankee Stadium, seeing as how terrible the season has been and how anticlimactic the season has become, but I did.

I'm sorry, I can't help it...I'm a girl!

I'm a sucker for sentimentality. And I'm a slave to my hormones. I probably would have cried had circus clowns come out onto the field and thrown pies in players' faces, but as it was, everything felt like it had come full circle, and I wasn't even around for the beginning - the fact that the Yankees won, Johnny Damon and Jose Molina hitting homers, one of my all-time favorite Yankees and one of the remaining members of that Yankee dream team of 1995-2000, Andy Pettitte, getting the win, the great Mariano Rivera recording the last out, and Derek Jeter, who rightfully will be remembered by future generations along with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson, etc. etc. as one of the Yankee greats, as the very last Yankee to come to bat in this stadium.

I think what put me over the edge, however, was his speech following the game, surrounded by his teammates, thanking the fans, and then all the fans being saluted by those players. They have played mediocre at best this year. They have let me down time and time again this year. But I was misty-eyed last night and I'm misty-eyed right now as I write this and I'm not ashamed to say it. I hate endings. But every ending leads to a new beginning, which is something Yankeedom needs right now. So, to new beginnings and fond memories!

Oh my God, I'm such a girl...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No more reasons to watch

Jeter got his 1,270 hit at Yankee Stadium in the first inning tonight, putting him in first place for hits at YS...congrats to him. He's a phenomenal athlete and definitely a future Hall of Famer. I can understand not putting this hit off till Sunday - that's cutting it a little close, since this record will not carry over to the new stadium, but he could've at least waited till the end of tonight's game so there was still something to look forward to.

Boo, D.J., for that! I still love you, though!

One last reason to watch

Well, for the first time in as long as I can remember, as this baseball season draws to a slow and painful close, there is little to cheer about when it comes to the Yankees.

There is, however, one last reason to keep watching.

Derek Jeter is currently tied with Lou Gehrig for the most hits at Yankee Stadium. I think he tied it up sometime last week. There are about two weeks left in the season but only a week left before the final game at Yankee Stadium. Only a week but only one hit to go. So for any Yankee or Derek Jeter fans out there, till that happens at least, there's still a bit of excitement left in watching the Yankees play. This record won't carry over to the next stadium, so Jeter will either be tied for the best or he will be the best when it comes to that. So, enjoy that, and hope that with the new stadium will come a new attitude and desire to play well and win from this team.

With the Yankees out of postseason play and the Mets coming dangerously close to validating their fans' paranoia about their ability to make it to the playoffs without another huge collapse, all I can say is that after Jeter gets his next hit, I will truly be ready for some football...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A partial sports mystery...

...and this is the question, half about baseball, that I pose to you...

If your last name is Longoria, is it a rule that your name has to start with, or be, "Eva"?

Or, perhaps, television actress Eva Longoria has a male baseball-playing alter ego who moonlights as Tampa Bay Ray Evan Longoria when not starring on Desperate Housewives.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The state of my Yankee fandom...

...is such that I totally forgot there was even a game on last night. How sad is it when this girl not only would rather play The Sims 2 on her computer, staring at a poster of the players from the 1998 World Series championship team, but that the game didn't even register on her radar? But really, that 1998 team was awesome. As is The Sims 2. And I would have been so angry if I had stayed up to watch the 10:00 game in Anaheim only to see this All-Star lineup lose 12-1 to the Angels. Is this what happens when superstar athletes are guaranteed to make millions whether they win or lose? Is my not caring just catching up to their not caring?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Serena, Brett, Tom Brady, oh my!

Congrats to Serena Williams for winning the women's U.S. Open yesterday. Women athletes don't get a lot of play, but those Williams sisters do a hell of a job representin'...

Brett Favre looked pretty good in the Jets' win yesterday over the Miami Dolphins (and it was still a little sad to see Chad Pennington in a Dolphins' jersey!). But he threw a couple of great passes, including one 50+ yard one for a touchdown, so maybe his addition to the team will be a good thing - I'm a little less nervous for them than I was. And I also mean he "looked pretty good" in that even pushing 40, he's still pretty easy on the eyes!

Tom Brady left the Patriots' game yesterday with a knee injury that could end his season. Nobody wants to see anybody get injured, and definitely not injured so badly that they have to sit out an entire season, but as a New York sports fan, if somebody had to suffer that injury, I can't think of anyone better for us than Tom Brady. For anyone unfamiliar with football heartthrobs, er, quarterbacks, Brady is the father of Bridget Moynihan's son and is currently dating Gisele Bundchen. He's also the guy the Giants beat to win the Super Bowl last year. The road to the Super Bowl will probably be easier for everyone (sans the Patriots) without him in the game, but I'd like to wish him a speedy and complete recovery anyway.

And I'd like to end this entry by saying that I have a new favorite commercial, an Oreos commercial featuring the Williams sisters and the Manning brothers, which is just hilarious. "Well, my brother and I would like to announce that it's on like Donkey Kong!" That will never get old. I'll admit up front that I love pretty much any commercial that Peyton Manning is in, they always crack me up, but Serena, Venus, and Eli do a great job too...


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Giants-Redskins season opener

Wow...Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress are on fire tonight. I think some people question Manning's ability to lead this team, but so far, this opening drive the Giants are putting together is pretty exciting and the entire team looks like, well, they look like a team. And Manning just scored a touchdown. Looks good to me.

Sports mish-mash

Quick note: In the Williams' sisters match-up at the U.S. Open, it was Serena who emerged victorious.

Last night's Yankee game made use of MLB's new instant replay to determine whether or not A-Rod had hit a home run (he did). I'm all for the umps being able to review plays to figure out the right call to make - I feel like in this season especially, there have been too many instances of bad calls being made. Sometimes it goes too quick or you don't have the right angle to make the call, but for everyone viewing at home, the replay shows it clear enough. While homeruns have been an issue this season as well, I don't know if that's the reason I would have instated the instant replay. I would love for it to be used on an any questionable call. You don't win or lose games on one bad call, and for every bad call that goes against you, you usually get one at another time that goes in your favor, but it can definitely shift the momentum of a game and thus contribute to wins or losses. Anyway, I don't really know how it fits into the flow of a baseball game, unlike in football, where timeouts get called and plays stop all the time. But I guess we'll find out.

And for all of you who have given up hope on your baseball team extending it's play into October or who have just become bored, you can now jump ship to another sport - football is starting again (doesn't it seem like just yesterday that the Giants won the Super Bowl? No, that's just me? I'm the only one who can't let go? You can blame this sucky Yankee season for that...) The NFL season kicks off tonight with the Giants versus the Redskins. I guess this means summer really is over...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Michael Phelps to host SNL premiere

Old news, I know, but you never know who may have missed it. Michael Phelps will be hosting the Saturday Night Live season premiere on September 13. Now, the funny on SNL has been spotty at best the past couple of seasons, but there are still cast members worth watching (Amy Poehler, Darrell Hammond) and they still have funny skits - I recommend watching this show on DVR because then you can skip all the lame parts (which some weeks includes everything except Weekend Update). Anyway, I think it's probably worth it to check out Phelps on the premiere. He's not an actor, nor is he a comedian, but you don't have to be either to have good timing, to be able to read the cue cards in a not-so-obvious manner, and to be a good enough sport to go all out in making fun of yourself. I've seen Academy Award winning actors fail fantastically at their hosting duties on this show, but one of my most favorite episodes and hosting jobs of the past few years was neither a comedian nor an actor but an (you guessed it!) athlete. You may have heard of him? A certain Mr. Peyton Manning? So I'm giving Phelps the benefit of the doubt. And even if he tanks (and most hosts on SNL the past few years have), I'll still love him.

Bizarro world in the land of pro baseball

As the MLB season draws to a close, I'm left wondering if fell asleep in the U.S. and woke up in Oz or some other weird world, because everything seems upside down and turned around. Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox are in first place in the American League East? Tampa Bay could come away with that honor? And the Yankees, for the first time since I started watching them, probably won't even make it to the post season?!? (Thank God, so far anyway, for the Mets!) Yankee pitching has become so decimated and unreliable that Carl Pavano - CARL PAVANO! - of all people has become someone who not only pitches well but is winning games for them?!? Can someone please explain to me how all of this is happening?

U.S. Open, putting the focus on female athletes

So, I haven't been talking about the U.S. Open, which is going on right now (and in Flushing Meadows, not too far from my home, either) because I don't watch tennis. Personally, I find it rather boring, and that's possibly because I don't understand the game. I don't know the rules and so I don't know what I'm watching. Unfortunately, I don't have the desire the learn.

But interested in a sport where female athletes shine? Tennis is one of those games. From an original female great, Billie Jean King, to Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, many others, and the current sister powerhouse combo of Venus and Serena Williams, this is a sport that happens every year (unlike the Olympics) where women are more than on top of their game. Apparently, at this current competition, the Williams sisters are on a collision course, set to meet Wednesday night in a quarterfinal matchup. As these are two of the best female athletes currently competing in sports, this should be quite a match. Exciting enough for me to watch? Probably not. It's not my cup of tea. But it might be yours.

The U.S. Open ends September 7, and can be watched on TV on CBS and USA.