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Your team has been eliminated. Now what do you do?

Oct 12, 2010, 9:37 AM EDT

Deciding who to root for once your team has been eliminated is a lot tougher than you might think.

This is not just a question I’m asking myself this morning, it’s a question all sports fans ask themselves at some point. When your team is knocked out of the playoffs, do you search for a new, temporary rooting interest? Do you simply watch objectively for pure entertainment? Do you disengage completely?

I am capable of watching baseball for pure entertainment. I do it most
of the regular season in fact. I’ve never picked a side in a Yankees-Red
Sox game, for example, and never will. I root for good baseball in
those games. I rarely get it, but I still root for it.

Orioles-Jays? Brewers-Astros? I’m able to mine the tiniest bit of
minutiae from almost anything baseball-related, but for any one game —
especially a game with low stakes — it’s usually a bit too much for me
to pick a side. This used to happen to me in the playoffs too, but since
I’ve been writing about baseball it’s been hard for me to go the
Switzerland route for a seven game series. Eventually I start pulling
for someone. But who do you root for?

I’ve done the carpetbagger fan thing before.  In some ways it’s the most natural thing there is. Your team has been sent home, but you’re still watching the games. Events on the field spark something deep and primal within you, and you find yourself rooting for one of the teams that are still alive. Maybe you like Brian Wilson’s beard. Maybe you really want to see Cliff Lee or Evan Longoria stick it to the Yankees. Maybe you don’t want the North Korean World Cup team to be sent to slave labor camps upon their return home.  The point is, you latch onto something on the spur of the moment and ride it for a while.

Or you can go the calculated route. I’m less prone to doing this — I tend to decide who I’m rooting for after I turn the game on — but I’m seriously considering it for the NLCS at the moment. What makes me more angry: the fact that the Giants eliminated the Braves or the fact that the Phillies beat them out for the division title and embarrassed them in two September series? At the same time, what appeals to me more: the fact that Tim Lincecum, my favorite non-Brave is pitching for the Giants or that Charlie Manuel, my favorite non-Bobby Cox manager is in charge of the Phillies?  I haven’t quite figured this out yet.

The last option — total disengagement — is impossible for me because I’m paid to write about baseball, but it’s something some people do. “My team’s gone? Screw it: I’m spending my October evenings catching up on my knitting or else I’m going to go crazy with rage!”  I can’t relate personally to this sort of thing — see last night’s rough-and-tumble Bobby Cox thread for some reasons why — but I sort of understand it.  But only sort of.  If you’re one of those people who is a big enough baseball fan to read this blog but one who nonetheless won’t be watching the rest of the playoffs, please, enlighten the rest of us as to your thought process. Do you simply not care anymore once your rooting interest is gone, or is it too painful to watch the game being played without them?

Anyway. The Rays and Rangers play tonight. I think I’m going to root for the Rangers. My distaste for Jeff Francoeur is outweighed by my admiration of Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and a handful of other Rangers (and really, if I get loopy enough I could probably took myself into rooting for Frenchie in some ironic way).  The NLCS starts, I dunno, eight weeks from now, and I’m probably going to pull for the Giants. This could change, though — I don’t like Brian Wilson’s beard, after all.  The Yankees are right out no matter who they’re facing. They have been since 1996. They’ll be fine without me, I assume.

No matter how it shakes out, though, I’m rooting for three exciting seven-game series. Followed immediately by the Earth passing through a worm hole and magically transporting us to mid February when pitchers and catchers report.

Go, whoever!

  1. BC - Oct 12, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Bluto: [thrusting six-pack into Flounder’s hands] My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
    Otter: Better listen to him, Flounder, he’s pre-med.

  2. FlyEaglesFly - Oct 12, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    Do you find it ironic that you’re a Braves fan yet you root for well played games when the Braves aren’t involved?

  3. DGL - Oct 12, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    We Pirates fans have a lot of practice with this, because we usually start making these decisions in late April.
    My general rule is that if the “next round” isn’t the championship (WS, Super Bowl, whatever), you root against the team that knocked out your team, for revenge purposes. However, if the next round is the championship, or if that team gets to the championship, you root for the team that knocked out your team, so you can rationalize and say “Hey, we lost to the champions, we might be the second-best team…”

  4. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 12, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    I’ll be rooting for Cliff Lee tonight, then whoever plays the Yankers.
    I’ll also be rooting hard for the Phillies. I know they have a HUGE hurdle to climb…what with their #1 pitcher getting wild and walking that guy in game 1. Then their #3 giving up those 5 hits in game 3 in Cincy. I know he didn’t give up any runs…but still…if Shane hadn’t robbed Phillips in the first inning, that game would have been over early. And with the Phillies offense, it is not going to be a pretty sight in the NLCD. I’ll be shocked if they can even squeeze out a run or two against the Giants amazing 1-2-3 starting pitchers. I really, really hope and pray the Phillies can score some runs so they can possibly win the series, but I am so scared because their offense did not score too much against the Reds and the Giants have better pitching.

  5. dave_m - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    Unfortunately, my job involves watching and writing about all Phillies playoff games, so this October is going to be particularly painful for this Twins fan. I used to consider the Phightins my adopted team, but after a depressing Saturday night spent being heckled mercilessly in the Bronx I would prefer to escape into blind rage and forget about baseball until February.

  6. Matt S. - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    It’s hockey season now. At least this year the Braves carried me a few days into the season.

  7. Simon DelMonte - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    It’s easy for me to just root against the Yankees. Even when they play the Phils, who some fellows Mets fans hate more (since the rivalry there is on the field and not in the bars). I suppose I should be rooting for the Giants based on this idea, as well.
    But as a baseball fan, I really, really wanted to see the Rangers win Sunday so we could have CC vs Lee to go with Doc vs the Freak. And as much as the Yankee hater in me does not want CC vs Doc or the Freak, how can you say you love great pitching and not want to see that?

  8. go dawgs...sic em - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Chris, you sir, are a tool.

  9. Simon Oliver Lockwood - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    “The Yankees are right out no matter who they’re facing. They have been since 1996.”
    You weren’t rooting for them against the Mariners were you?

  10. anna - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    I stop watching when I don’t have a rooting interest. It’s just too painful to sit there and think about what might have been. As a Phillies fan since infancy, I’ve missed alot of the post-season that way-and a lot of really good games-but I just can’t bring myself to watch when I have no one to root for. It feels mercenary and empty.

  11. Mr. Heyward - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    You put the “cock” in cocky.

  12. BC - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    NASCAR and NFL. That and Storm Stories whenever possible.

  13. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    lolz Pedro. Sorry about your boys. I was rooting hard for them.

  14. Mr. Heyward - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    I gotta say Craig, historically I’ve rooted against the team that beat the Braves in the playoffs. Usually it’s because I’m bitter. In this case I’m not bitter, the Braves season was a success. Also, the Giants are likable from my perspective plus they were all classy and stuff after winning last night considering Bobby’s departure. The Phils are the Braves divisional rival. The Phils are really good and favored. That makes the Giants underdogs and, as I opined, likable. Easy choice here for me.
    The AL, for me, has usually just been a contest to beat the Yankees and the Red Sox. I’m not as anti-Yankees this year mainly b/c I would like to see them take the Phils down. The Yankees are the true evil empire and like the Highlander, there can be only one, so I hope they play the Phillies and it’s really close but the Yankees end up with WS number 7,891. It’s not ideal but it beats paying attention to early season hockey games.

  15. matt - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    hehehe. My man Craig. I started reading this post waiting for Craig to take his what now seems daily cheap shot at Philly fans (sometimes good humored cheap shots mind you, but still cheap) as to why he couldn’t root for the Phillies. I get near the end and he doesn’t take any shots and I see it’s for one reason only. He was saving it for Frenchy!! This poor guy. Does Frenchy even know that there is a human being alive who despises him as much as Craig does? I still call on all harballtalk readers to go to Iowa on Halloween night and trick or treat at Craigs house wearing Frenchy masks. It’s the only way to stop this man’s rage….

  16. Mr. Heyward - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Tools have use in specific situations. Such as a hammer when something needs to be nailed. I’ve seen nothing useful come from that boy so I fear your comment may be taken as a compliment

  17. TigerPlanck - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    This is an easy answer. You don’t cheer for, you cheer against a team. I am a huge Braves fan being from the South, but I live in Philadelphia now. Therefore, I would rather slice one of my testicles off then hear about the Phillies from the fans up here. I also, do not want to get stuck in World Series Parade traffic again…….therefore, the enemy of my enemy is my friend……I cheer for whoever is playing the Phillies. Go Giants, then go Yankees/Rays/or Rangers! I wouldn’t mind seeing Cliff Lee come back to Philly and match Halladay pitch for pitch in two games! What KARMA!!!!!!

  18. Detroit Michael - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    I generally root for the underdog or the team that’s been away from the post-season the longest.

  19. Mr. Heyward - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    There not my boys, just a sweet ass baseball team that has been legendary for a decade and a half with the best manager in the game in his final year. The Braves season was a complete success and they went down fighting (unlike the Cubbies since ’03). I’m sad they lost but my world continues. Keep Phighting for your team and root until your heart’s content and I’ll be doing the same against them. Just try not to be a big douchenozzle about it all, okay?

  20. Mr. Heyward - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    I like your style. If you see Fiorentino on the street, poop in his shoe. Thanks in advance.

  21. Old Gator - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    Storm Stories, eh? Speak about having no rooting interest in the playoffs, I can skip NASCAR without too much fuss, but as one relict Mutts fan to one current one, we need to have a long talk about the women on The Weather Channel this offseason. There, I have a rooting interest, so to speak. Like, which one is your favorite (that’s a euphemism, of course) and why. I’m conflicted about two of them, but that’s been pretty much the case all my life – usually, you know, the right one or the left. But in this case it’s the entire organism and I’ve thrown personality into the debate just to make my life more complicated.

  22. doctorfunke - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Now that my Twins are out, I’ve disengaged slightly. Last night was spent watching a Hoarders marathon, whilst flipping back and forth to the game. Normally, my rooting interest would be for the team that eliminated my team, but that is not going to happen this year. I, for one, DO like Brian Wilson’s beard, and ever since I saw him on Best Damn….., I have been a fan. So, for me it’s the Giants and the Rays or Rangers. Plus, I really, really, really, really, really want Fiorentino to eat his words. So I guess really I’m just rooting against the Yanks and Phils.

  23. Mr. Heyward - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    They’re would be the proper usage. My apologies.

  24. Aarcraft - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    As my dad would always say, when watching two teams he didn’t care about, “I’m rooting for the game of baseball.”

  25. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 12, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    If I were not me, then the comments section would be a boring display of everyone thinking the same things. Why have that when you can have diversity? Sure, I was being sarcastic…and I was immediately personally attacked. Why? Why would someone attack me personally for posting a little sarcasm? If I came on and said “The Phillies are the 2010 World Series champs, so why bother rooting for anyone anyway?” then I would get personally attacked as well. I find it hilarious because I don’t ever attack anyone personally here, yet I am called more names than anyone around. Unless the “Pedro” moniker offends you…in which case, I am sorry. But he really did look like Cerrano in the NLDS…however, he is a beast and will get better and better. I just hope the Braves make it back without Cox next year.

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