She is no cheap date, but money alone won't win her—just look at the two teams in this year's World Series, which begins tonight in San Francisco. The Giants barely crack the top ten Major League payrolls. The Rangers, a lowly 26th in team salary, spent less than a third of the Yankees this year. But the Bombers are at home—along with the Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies, and the rest of baseball's big spenders.
And she doesn't make life easy, even for her most loyal fans. Take the case of this year's fall classic—how can you decide who to root for? There are plenty of reasons to root for either team. The Giants boast the biggest collection of oddballs and cranks since the "idiot" Red Sox. The team of misfits—in black and orange for the holiday—could only have borne fruit under San Francisco's supremely indulgent care. Where else could "Let's get weird!" be a battle cry? In what other city would a guy nicknamed The Freak not even be the freakiest guy on the team?
The Rangers, for your Oscar consideration, present Josh Hamilton, who went from number one draft pick to alcoholic drug addict to ALCS MVP in the course of 11 years. This dynamic athlete, wearing his scars on his sleeves, offers a real-world story of salvation with the emotional resonance that no dramatized life could hope to match. Perhaps millions of Americans, sadly, will see this World Series from inside the living hell of addiction. Some, if only by accident, will hear Hamilton's story of redemption for the first time. If even one person finds Josh an inspiration, if even one soul can use Hamilton's strength to find new strength of their own and fight back to freedom, the whole world becomes a better place.
Kind of hard to root against him, isn't it?
But human interest can only take a fan so far. Unless you live in Dallas or San Francisco—in which case, incidentally, now might be good time to quit reading—you probably don't give a flying fig about Brian Wilson's beard or the Claws and Antlers. You will probably express mild interest when you hear that a contractual quirk guarantees Bengie Molina—a catcher who was traded from San Francisco to Texas this summer—is a World Series ring no matter who wins. And then flip the channel.
But the real problem with this World Series, especially for casual fans, is not finding someone to root for. The problem is deciding whom to root against. Without arrogant Yankee fans or pretentious Red Sox nation to root against, without any East Coast teams at all in the Fall Classic, just who is the rest of the country supposed to be booing?
Hating the Giants was so easy when Barry Bonds was there. But now? Well, it's still simple. They play in an incredibly provincial city—a city perpetually basking in its own glory, with citizens who not only openly express total contempt the rest of the country, they act genuinely surprised if anyone bothers to disagree. Blinded by fog, numbed by cold, San Franciscans seem simply unable to comprehend that other American cities, places like Chicago and Atlanta for instance, not only have paved roads and indoor plumbing, but even art galleries, restaurants, movie theaters and pretty buildings—just like "The City." This is a people so convinced of their own importance they felt the need to articulate a foreign policy—passing a 2008 ballot initiative declaring it "City policy" to cut off all funding for the Iraqi War. Tax dollars well-spent, San Francisco. Mission accomplished.