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Rooting for the bad guys

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After engaging in some deep self-analysis, I am convinced that my problem is that I have a blind prejudice -- against any team that's not from the American League.


Dear reader: For your own sake, please be sure that you are seated before reading this missive any further. I am about to admit to a dastardly deed, which brings me great shame. My only defense, weak as it may be, is that I couldn't help myself. Are you ready? Okay, here goes -- I was rooting for the Houston Astros in the World Series.
The term "rooting" might be overstating things a bit. It's not like I was wearing an Astros' cap or waving one of those awful towels over my head, but I was kindly disposed toward them.
I know, I know; it's a despicable thing to have done, but I couldn't live with myself without owning up to it. The strange thing is that I don't even like the Astros and haven't since their infamous sign-stealing caper of 2017. Oh, I realize that most of the people involved with that mess are no longer with the team, but I still haven't forgiven them, and don't intend to any time soon.
I even announced to my son-in-law, who is from the Philadelphia area and is a life-long Phillies fan, that I was, for the series anyway, also rooting for the Phillies. Now I'm sure he's convinced that, in addition to my many other character flaws, I'm a contemptible liar. I can't blame him. I wish it weren't so, but I'm afraid it is.

I was, in fact, pulling for them, right up until the games started. It was then that I felt an uncontrollable urge to hope the Astros would do well. I couldn't help myself. Every fiber in my being told me that I should be in the Phillies' corner, yet there I was, the only person outside the Republic of Texas who wanted the Astros to win. For those of you who might not be familiar, the Republic of Texas is a lawless country located somewhere between the United States and Mexico. I shouldn't say that Texas is "lawless." They do have laws there. It's just that I don't agree with some of them.
After engaging in some deep self-analysis, I am convinced that my problem is that I have a blind prejudice -- against any team that's not from the American League. I'm an American-League guy, and have been for as long as I can remember. I guess it must be because my favorite team, the Red Sox, is an American-League team. It makes no difference how likable the National Leaguers might be, or how I might know, deep in my heart, I should be rooting for them. I feel an irresistible tug to pull for the American League in the World Series. I have spent my entire life with the attitude that any day during the baseball season that the New York Yankees lose a game is a good day. Then the season ends and I find myself rooting for the Evil Empire to win the World Series.
The first victims that I can remember of this warped way of thinking were these same Philadelphia Phillies, or at least the ancestors of the 2022 National League champs. They were the "Whiz Kids" of 1950. They somehow managed to break the stranglehold that the Dodgers of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese held on National League pennants in those days and won it from them that year. Those Phillies were all young, hence the label, "Whiz Kids." Led by fleet-of-foot Richie Ashburn, 23, in center field and the steady Robin Roberts, also just 23, on the mound (they both ended up in the Hall of Fame), they captured the heart of America, but not mine. The only graybeard among them was relief pitcher Jim Konstanty, who was the ripe old age of 33 and won the MVP that season. They were matched against the Big Bad Yankees. Joe DiMaggio was still with them then and he had already been on seven World Series winners (he'd make it nine before he was through) and that was more than enough. But when the Bullies from the Bronx wiped out the Phillies in a four-game sweep, I was glad -- though even then I was at least smart enough to keep quiet about it.
Back in 1948, I did root for a National League team in the Series, but the team was the Braves and it would be two more years before they would do the unthinkable -- pull up stakes and forsake Boston for Milwaukee. Even then, I did not root for the Braves nearly as hard as I would have for the Red Sox if their manager, Joe McCarthy, didn't come up with the bright idea (delusion?) of starting Denny Galehouse instead of a rested and ready Mel Parnell in a playoff game against the Cleveland Indians. The Red Sox, and Galehouse, got shellacked, eight to three, and Boston lost the only chance it ever had for a City Series. It was the last game that Galehouse would ever start in the major leagues. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has escaped!
I did, I am proud to say, finally learn to root against the Yankees in the World Series. In the 2009 Series, I cheered for -- wait for it -- the Phillies. Alas, they got beat anyway, four games to two. So maybe it doesn't make any difference who I root for.

- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.

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