Tuesday, October 14, 2003

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The difference between Red Sox conservatives and Cubs conservatives?

In my previous post, one commentor posed the following question:

Drezner, I would think that as a gung-ho supporter of the free-market system, you would naturally be a Yankees fan. The best rise to the top, right?

Well, to tell the truth, I became a Red Sox fan because, even as an eight-year old, I believed in balancing behavior. Everyone else in my family pulled for the Yankees, so I started instictively pulling for the Red Sox. The rest is history. Painful and gut-wrenching history.

I generally don't think there's any correlation between political persuasion and favored sports teams. However, George Will thinks otherwise.

The Chicago Tribune has an amusing story about the Emil Verban Society, a DC-based organization of Cubs fans whose namesake epitomizes the dilemma of the Cub fan: In 2,911 career at-bats, Emil Verbanhad only one home run.

Buried in the story is this little nugget from George Will:

Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist raised in Champaign, Ill., said he, too, will be in the stands, supporting the team that shaped his political philosophy.

"All my friends grew up happy and liberal as Cardinals fans," he said. "I became bitter and conservative because life was not fun as a Cubs fan. But now it is." (emphasis added)

Will all due respect to George Will, I'm a conservative but I derived a different philosophy rooting for the Red Sox. While life can indeed be nasty, brutish, and short, the worst sin is to respond to the cruelties of existence by giving up hope. The spectre of defeat is ever present and must be acknowledged. However, the optimism that comes with the prospect of next season is never extinguished for the true Red Sox fan. And only by nurturing such optimism can one truly appreciate the joy that comes from the occasional triumph.

On the other hand, maybe baseball has nothing to do with politics -- the most optimistic conservative of them all was also a Cubs fan and proud member of the Emil Verban society.

UPDATE: Well, David Brooks disagrees with me as well:

For example, while most people in the Southwest seek pleasure and avoid stress, we in the Northeast do not have that orientation. The place in their culture that is occupied by the concept "happiness" is occupied in our culture by the concept "cursing at each other."

So when you go to a game at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park you will see lawyers, waiters and skinheads sending off enough testosterone vapors to menace the ozone layer. If a Martian came down and landed in the stands of a Yankees-Red Sox game, he would get the impression that human beings are 90 percent men and 10 percent women in tight T-shirts, and that we reproduce by loathing in groups.

It's interesting, for example, to turn and watch Yankee and Red Sox fans as they watch a game. As the game goes on, they almost never display pleasure, contentment or joy. Instead, during the game they experience long periods of contempt interrupted by short bursts of vindication.

To which I say, what the f#$% does Brooks know? If he ain't going to declare which team he's rooting for, I have no use for him on this subject except to admire his prose style from a bemused distance.

UPDATE: Reader A.M. e-mails an interesting point -- that even if there is little correlation between political and sports affiliations in the United States, there is a strong correlation in other parts of the globe:

In Rome for instance, conservatives (often from outside Rome) have and still do tend to support Lazio, while their left-wing (often Communist) counterparts support AS Roma. The same divide certainly used to be the case in Milan where AC Milan drew support from the left (ironically they are now owned by Signor Berlusconi) and Internazionale from the right. Today this divide is, I think, less apparent in Milan than it is in Rome....

In Barcelona being an Espanyol (the second team in the city) supporter was, particularly in the past, to repudiate Catalan culture and identity - much of which was, particularly under Franco but still is, rooted in the extraordinary institution that is Barcelona football club....

In Scotland the two great Glasgow teams, whose rivalry is still riven by sectarianism, used to be seperated by politics as well as religion. In the days when the Conservatives could count on working class support, Rangers fans voted for the Tories (largely for God, King and Ulster) whereas Celtic's catholic support, much of it of Irish descent, has always tended to support the Labour party. The collapse of Toryism in Scotland has rendered many of these differences irrelevent but it's still the case that my middle-class Tory friends tend to be Rangers supporters.

In Argentina the great football rivalry in Buenos Aires is between the working-class Boca Juniors and the middle-class, even patrician River Plate (if memory serves River are one of the few football clubs in the world to also run a University).

posted by Dan on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM



My sympathies and condolences. You must be from Connecticut. So am I. Fate has cruelly made a Red Sox fan of me as well. I got the affliction at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore while watching the Orioles handily whip the smaller and less talented Red Sox. Don Buddin was their shortstop then. Underdog rooters are particularly susceptible to the Red Sox fever. I think it must be a mental defect that causes a person to pick the most hopeless cause, out of all the other causes. To invite such pain.

You fool yourself into thinking each time they get close, that you won't care so much this time. Foolishness. The agony of 1978's Bucky Dent home run, was easily eclipsed by game 6, 1986. I helplessly implored Rich Gedman to ask for the inside heat and get that World Series ending strike three. I watched in despair as he refused to budge from the outside corner. I sat stunned as Mets batters just stuck out the bat and turned successive strike threes into a game tying rally. And finally, Bill Buckner.

What emotional trauma awaits us this year? Perhaps we think we are now immune. Not so. Our optimism will return. We'll believe again.

posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Let's go Mets!

posted by: BSC on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Ahhh, the radio or TV is on as background noise w/the WS on, Cubs win it, Ronnie has his last moments of lucidity and enjoyment and then passes on happy w/a smile on his face. "And a possible, "They did it!" as his last words.

Should it be that easy for the rest of us.

posted by: Sandy P. on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Question #2: Why is it that the Cubs have become such lovable bums, while nobody even notices that the White Sox have gone almost as long without a title?

posted by: JP on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Re: White Sox. You're not going back to the series because, in order--
Ed Cicotte
Joe Jackson
Chic Gandil
Claude "Lefty" Williams
Fred McMullin,
Charles "Swede" Risberg
Oscar "Happy" Felsch
and of course
Buck Weaver--not to mention Charlie Comiskey.

Ya did have Disco Destruction Night in the '70s. Be happy.

posted by: David Moynihan on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

As a one-time White Sox fan, I have to say-- Go Marlins!

posted by: Raoul Ortega on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Finally! The baseball floodgates open wide!

Dan, I'm with you on Will and Brooks--these are the arguments of people who've spent too much time on the set of "Meet the Press" and not enough in the (oops, nonexistent DC area) ballpark. Will is a scold who probably stood by the Cubs because it gave him an excuse to be gloomy. Brooks, I dunno, generally I like him but he's not big on the grassroots culture that nurtures baseball mania--too much time in Montgomery County Starbucks with the other bobos.

Who knows why people choose "their" teams? My kid likes the Cubs because he was born in the shadow of Wrigley (though he moved just shy of his first birthday). What does he know? "Sammy Sosa" feels like poetry on the tongue. That's enough for a six year old. Then this summer my sister gives him a kid's "Sports Illustrated" subscription and in the first issue there's a poster of Matsui. Boom, he's a Yankee fan and I'm tearing my hair out. Serves me right for not buying him that Nomar shirt earlier.

To my mind, there's zero correlation between baseball and politics. Zero. Except, maybe, for the fact that when I was a screaming liberal you would never have caught me at a ballpark and now that I'm more of a moderate (or as my friends would put it, fascist)I'm thinking about mortgaging the house to buy tickets to a Cubs-Red Sox world series. I guess that means I have at least as much testosterone coursing through my veins right now as David Brooks. Bring him on!

But if we must bring politics into the sacred grove of baseball, let's do it right. I propose a draft Wakefield for President movement; his motto "Better a Knuckleballer than a Knucklehead in the White House." Who's with me?

posted by: Kelli on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

BTW, it has been raining heavily here in Chicago. It is God, nature, Karma,fate, etc., mconspiring to make sure the Cubs do not win the pennant.

And if it is a Cus/Sox World Series, and they go to 7 games, you will find me in hiding a church, as it is obvious that the end is nigh

posted by: BSC on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

George Will is a congenital liar--there are no liberals in Central Illinois and hence his entire claim is false. I know, I'm the last the last to leave...and I'm Cub fan.

(all meant in jest for the satire impaired)

posted by: ArchPundit on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

1. Did the NYT's op-editors insist that Brooks talk about testosterone? Must be in the stylebook or something.

2. Speaking as a lifelong conservative, Yankee-hating Mets fan, equating Yankee financial dominance with the results of a free market is a serious error. Sports is supposed to be about starting out even, and running the risk of failure. Yankee fandom eschews both. One thing I will say, though, is that when I went to a McCain rally in 2000, I saw lots of Mets hats and few Yankees; I guess Mets fans were more drawn to the thrill of the doomed insurgency.

posted by: Crank on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

I'm with those who say there is no correlation between sports and politics. How else can you explain the conservative Cincinnati Reds organization's popularity and success during the Cold War?

I'm a lifelong Reds fan who briefly began to root for the Yankees in the mid-70s until I witnessed the orgy of self-congratulation Yankees fans bestowed upon themselves following the 1977 World Series. (I was 14 at the times and I had never seen the Yankees be any good before -- little did I know how obnoxious the fans were.)

After all, there was not this kind of cheering when they were the 1972-74 Oakland A's, was there? That's when I realized Yankees and Yankee fans are black-hearted, mercenary frauds who ruin God's blessed game with their meretricious antics punctuated only by outright cheating. Do the names Arnold Johnson and Jeffrey Maier ring any bells?

Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the Babylonians in the Bible. The angle is less political (left v. right) than existential (evil v. good).

Not that I'm tendentious about the issue.

posted by: IB Bill on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

I've learned from this playoff race that Cub fans are more chilled about their history of futility, whereas BoSox fans actually think that next year might actually BE the year. Well, Drezner, lemme tell ya.........they don't call them the f**ckin' Yankees for nothin'!! See here

posted by: Dan on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Pro baseball fans, passionate? Pfffft. You want to see hate, go to a college football stadium in the SEC. New Yorkers and Bostonians wouldn't last ten minutes at an Auburn-Alabama game.

posted by: Will Collier on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

CRANK: "thrill of the doomed" left me LMAO.
but you are all wet about the money aspects of the Yankee domination. Your beloved Metsies blew a whole lotta dough to end up dead last.

posted by: TC lynch on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Try growing up in NH, as a girl who likes the Yankees and the Canadiens and for some strange reason becomes a Republican, while her dad is a staunch union democrat who likes the Sox and Bruins...

Can only be rebellion...but I havent changed my views...my dad just thinks I was born to torture him.

Yankees in 7, yanks/cubs..yanks in 5

posted by: pepper on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

as someone born and raised with sight and sound of the stadium i think i can safely say that the red sox will never defeat the yankees in a championship series because to do so would be violate the fundamental order of the universe. nothing travels faster than light, oil and water will always separate, frogs sell beer [i miss those lizards] the pope is polish, and the red sox are losers, god's in his heaven and all's right with the world.

posted by: akaky on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

"Cub fans are more chilled about their history of futility"

Chilled? "Resigned" might be a better word, and so we go forth and root for our Cubs, hoping that THIS year is the one spoken of when they say "Wait 'til next year," and unsurprised when it turns out that it isn't... again.

It was the damned goat, I tell ya... but THAT curse was transferred to the Houston Astros this year (http://www.wgnradio.com/shows/williams_john/links.htm), so maybe... just maybe...

Go Cubs!

posted by: Wonderduck on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

I'm an Angels fan who grew up in Cleveland, rooting for the Indians. It's not political, it's a matter of attitude. Those of us who like Horatio Alger endings are rooting for the Cubs and the Red Sox 'cause underdogs make better stories. The Yankees are perhaps closer to conservative values, but rooting for the Yanks is like rooting for the IRS. You win but you're sorry about it.

posted by: Ken Hahn on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Anybody who roots for a team contary to his home-town ties is a person of low character. That's rule number one. Obviously, many folks have no home stake in this one, nor any family members in one of the involved cities. They're off the hook. But anybody who is an A's fan has to be rooting against the Sox, just on principle. Somebody in North Dakota has to be rooting for the team that will make a relative in Boston or Chicago happy.

But if somebody grew up in New England and became a Padres fan, then they're just weird. I don't care what their reasons are. The Conservative/Liberal distinction, in these matters, is baloney.

(PS - I don't normally go for the "insensitivity" arguments, but... Braves fans, stop the stupid war dance, shut up, and watch the game. Your team will appreciate it, maybe they'd stay in the playoffs longer if they were less embarrassed.)

posted by: Knows Better on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

"But if somebody grew up in New England and became a Padres fan, then they're just weird."

Count me weird then. I'm an A's fan (THE A's fan?) that grew up in the Boston area. The Evil Empire may have destroyed the notion of competitive balance in baseball but the Red Sox are surely their accomplices.

posted by: jim on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Don't know about Fenway, but Wrigley is NOT taxpayer subsidized, unike the $600 million for Soldier Field and $? for Comiskey (er US Cellular). Economically, the Cubs are more conservative than most teams because they do not slop at the trough of public funds for entertainment served up by Democrats and Republicans. On the property rights level, the Cubs are fighting King Daley from declaring Wrigley a landmark prohibiting them from making changes that are not King Daley approved.

posted by: Trigger on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

RE: some of the Buckner/1986 Game#6 comments. Red Sox fans need to stop blaming Billy Buckner. Boston had already blown a 2 run, 10th inning lead before that play. The blame should be placed with the manager and Calvin Shiraldi/Bob Stanley. Anybody but the Yankees!!!

posted by: NJ Mets Fan on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

FWIW Theo Epstein is left-leaning and the Red Sox are owned in some part by the New York Times.
The Yankees imperial regime of pure evil is the perfect baseball counterpart to the hegemonist illegality of the White House. It is a tough debate as to which George has done more harm to the United States.

posted by: SamAm on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

The Cubs just had their Buckner moment, with the pop fly being muffed by the fan over the railing as Chicago led with two outs in the eighth. Now they will lose Game 7 to the Fish. It is written, so shall it be.

I say this as a fervent Red Sox fan who feels the Cubs fans' pain. In the nature vs. nurture sports debate. I'm in the nurture department. My grandfather was stationed in Rhode Island when my father was growing up, and they'd drive up to Boston to see Ted Williams at the end of his career. Thus, I was raised as a third generation Red Sox fan (even in Memphis and now Atlanta), and will do whatever it takes to end the reign of the Evil Empire. Yankees suck!

posted by: Jeff on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

I'm sick of the Red Sox fans looking for a scapegoat for the 1986 World Series. How about acknowledging that the Mets made an incredible comeback? Three straight Mets came up with two outs in that 10th inning and hit clean singles. Mookie Wilson then put together the greatest at-bat in the history of the Mets, fouling off pitch after pitch until Schiraldi finally uncorked the wild one that allowed the tying run to score.

posted by: Pat Curley on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

All the Sox need is a little more pitching and they will win it all next year.

posted by: BG on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Oh, man, Sox fans are talking about next year ALREADY?

The irony is, I now live in Florida, and I've watched the Marlins just enough that they're now my #2 team. It was SO WEIRD watching that game slip away from the Cubs... I've been on the other side of so many of those, I didn't know what to feel, I almost started to feel sympathy for the Cubs fans. Then I remembered... they didn't lose a game, they gained some folklore.

BTW, the real goats of 1986 Game 6 were Clemens, who left early with a blister, and his buddy Calvin "down the middle" Schiraldi. Billy Buck is the poster boy, but the game was already lost.

posted by: Knows Better on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

BTW, that "wait til next year" was a joke. Also, I think Bill Buckner gets a little too much grief for his play, but if he makes the easy play the game is over and the Sox win, so he is in fact responsible for not winning the game. He also was a huge reason why they got to that position so I do not think people should be so hard on him. He shares responsibility for the loss with his manager and many others.

posted by: BG on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Regarding teams, doesn't anybody have two ? I grew up 70 miles from Pittsburgh, so the Pirates were a natural. Roberto Clemente, a young Willie Stargell, Bob Veale, Steve Blass, et al.

When we were kids ('60s), my best friend and I played innumerable 1-on-1 World Series. One of us got to be the Pirates, the other guy took an AL team. In '67 the Red Sox set the hook, and we must have played 100 Pirates-Sox Series over the next couple of years.

Didn't think much about the Yankees in those innocent days (other than as them being on the receiving end of Bill Mazeroski's home run - heh).

Flash forward to '75. First semester freshman year. Red Sox against the hated Reds (arch-nemesis of the Pirates) in the Fall Classic. My first experience with in-the-flesh Yankee fans - and the Schadenfreudic bile they spewed. The hook set in '67 became a passion.

Thank goodness for the Pirates (though I'll despise Bonds and Bonilla till their dying days).

Thank goodness for the Cowboys. But that's another story.

Go Cubs. Go Sox.

Please !

PS - Never noticed a political connection, other than jerks of a political stripe tend to be jerks of a fan stripe. (See Schadenfreudic bile, above.)


posted by: Rofe on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

This is a little OT at this point, and late to boot, but re: why the White Sox are also not considered lovable losers like the Cubs -- some unsatisfactory theories follow: decades of not winning the pennant is more par for the course in the Yankees-dominated American league than the National: baby boomers, some of them, can remember the Chisox in the World Series (1959); the White Sox were not as big of losers(winning records every year from 1951 to through 1967); the White Sox were a model of brand inconsistency, changing the style and color of their unis and hats about once every 1.7 years; no long-term beloved superstar like Ernie Banks; the White Sox didn't play up their park as much as the Cubs -- besides Comiskey wasn't as unique as Wrigley, with its ivy and daytime baseball; the White Sox threatened to move to St. Petersburg; the White Sox demolished their wonderful old park for a boring new one.

posted by: Bud Norton on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]


The game was tied when Buckner made his play (the wild pitch before tied the game). So Buckner "lost" the game, he did not cost the Sox the win.

But the point is that the Sox had the Mets to 2 outs and 2 strikes TWICE.

Let's go Mets!

posted by: BSC on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

This post begins with the comment:

Drezner, I would think that as a gung-ho supporter of the free-market system, you would naturally be a Yankees fan. The best rise to the top, right?

No, no, no. Baseball is emphatically NOT a free-market system. If it were, teams would be free to relocate in order to maximize profit, and we would expect them to do so until there were no more high- or low-revenue teams. To put it more simply, there would be five teams in New York City, and none in Milwaukee.

In fact, the league does not let teams move this way, for a host of reasons.

As a result, baseball ends up with the worst features of socialism (the rules do not permit firms to tailor supply to meet demand) but none of the benefits (revenue is not shared to ensure rough equality in the ability to compete).

posted by: TedL on 10.14.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

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