Tuesday, October 21, 2008

State of shock

It still hasn't sunk in. The Tampa Bay Rays are going to the World Series. I can honestly say that I never dreamed I'd see this happen and now that it is, I am having difficulty grasping that it's true. It's kind of like seeing a flying dog; you can look right at it and recognize it for what it is, but if you never thought you would see it, you might still have trouble accepting it as reality when you see it.
That's not to say that as a fan I lacked faith and hope that some day, my faith would be rewarded. Quite the contrary. I'm the kind of fan who believes that every single time your team loses, it should come as something of a surprise and it should hurt at least a little bit. It's just that the Rays have hurt me a great deal over the years.
As a fan of the Buccaneers and the Lightning, two franchises that were once the very rock bottom worst in their sports can possibly be that eventually won championships, you'd think I'd be used to this by now. But this really is different. For one thing, the turnaround time of one single year is much, much more rapid than the ascent of the Bucs and Bolts. For another, while those two teams were allowed to toil away in relative anonymity (especially the Lightning), the Rays were the perennial punching bags of two of baseball's most renowned teams, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. When the Bucs were bad, people were aware of it but when the Rays were bad, David Letterman was using them as monologue material.
That all changed this year. And it changed so suddenly that a team that optimists thought might win half their games at the start of the game was being called a potential failure if they somehow failed to win the American League pennant at the end. The milestones have been passing so fast and furiously, I haven't even had time to savor them. Maybe doing so will grant me the perspective necessary to accept this new reality...

  • The Rays finished with a winning percentage above .500 for the first time in their history.

  • They finished ahead of the Yankees and their legions of obnoxious, smug, self-entitled, know-it-all fans.

  • They finished ahead of the Red Sox and their legions of fans who cashed in the karma they earned by not winning a championship in 86 years to turn themselves into exactly what they say they hate the most: obnoxious, smug, self-entitled, know-it-alls.

  • They beat the White Sox in the playoffs, saving the nation from having to observe the antics of AJ Pierzynski, baseball's worst human.

  • They beat the Red Sox to win the pennant (see bullet point above the last one).

  • They now have a chance to beat the Phillies (something Tampa Bay teams have become quite good at lately, as illustrated here), resulting in no "victory celebrations" in Philadelphia, thereby minimizing the amount of Philadelphia police cars that would be set on fire.

Nope, it still isn't setting in. I think I need something even more shocking to put it all in context. Maybe a photo of the Rays with something REALLY crazy...like say, a black guy running for president...

Thanks, K!

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