Monday, October 21, 2013

The Oligopoly Continues

It would be funny if it weren't so predictable. I've been predicting a Cardinals-Red Sox World Series for a while now, and whaddaya know? I was absolutely correct. The 2005 Chicago White Sox will remain the last non-media favorite to win the World Series for yet another year.

My streak of the team I root for in the World Series losing is going to continue as well, since I'm rooting for both teams to lose. Technically, if I could decide who wins, I'd pick the Red Sox because they've won it less recently, but I still loathe them, so that wouldn't really count as a victory. Rooting against someone less is not the same as rooting for someone.

I quit following the NBA and the NFL because I felt that they were essentially media-favorite oligopolies. I tend to hate media favorite teams, since they get shoved down your throat more than others, and I don't like feeling as though someone's telling me who I'm supposed to support. Even a lot of casual fans buy into it, and decide that certain teams aren't interesting because "they have no history," or they just aren't glamorous enough for them.

I mean, look at the NBA. Which teams ever win championships? Heat (a city with famous beaches that's attractive to stars), Lakers (the NBA's glamor team), Celtics (the team with the hallowed history), Bulls (big city Chicago), Spurs (the perfect team to counter the league's "bad boy" reputation), Pistons (big market for blacks, the same demographic that dominates the league). Maybe once in a while some big-market oddballs like the Rockets and Mavericks overcome the odds, but it's pretty predictable otherwise. I'd venture to say that the 76ers and Knicks would also be members of the NBA's oligopoly circle, and the league wouldn't have a problem with either of those teams winning a title. Maybe the Clippers and Nets too, if they had the right players. Bottom line is, after I realized that new and interesting teams pretty much never won, I decided to stop following the NBA, and I've never regretted it.

What about the NFL? Once again, it's very oligopolistic. I once decided there were five teams I hated: the Patriots (the model franchise that does everything right), Steelers (the standard-bearers of old-school football), Giants (New York, baby!), Cowboys (America's Team!) and Packers (the team with the hallowed history). There were also some teams I had a second-tier hatred for, namely the 49ers (the team that used to be the NFL's model of perfection) and the Jets (I still hate New York, although the Jets are more like the NFL's biggest pity party). Basically, they were the teams the media were most likely to love, and with that love usually came previous success that they didn't need more of. Somehow, like magic, one of those teams won the Super Bowl nearly every year.

OK, OK, I know you're going to dispute that, and rightly so. What about the Ravens last year? Or the Saints in 2009? Or the Colts in 2006? Or the Buccaneers, Rams, Broncos...yes, yes. I get it. Really, I feel like the oligopoly is a recent development. After the Patriots won their second, that's when it really began. I was happy for the Colts when they won it, but because I was rooting for the Bears, it was hard to enjoy it too much. The Saints and Ravens won it after I stopped following the NFL (due to loss of interest rather than conscious choice), and in between, some of the teams I loathe won it. Maybe we could say that every three years or so the NFL ends up with a decent champion, but I don't like the game enough to endure those two years in between.

But there was always baseball. Baseball wasn't like those other sports. The big dogs could spend a ton of money and get all the hype, but in the postseason it was anybody's game. If you liked underdogs, baseball gave you a chance!

At least, that's how it used to be. As I outlined here, there's now a media-favorite oligopoly in baseball too, perhaps as a punishment for me getting to see the White Sox win it (hey, it coincides with it, who knows?). Which teams are members of the oligopoly? Allow me to list them:

Yankees (baseball's "hallowed history" team)
Red Sox (another obvious one)
Cardinals (the media looooooooves to talk about what a model organization they are)
Phillies (the City of Brotherly Love is right in the shadow of New York)
Giants (they have a history in New York, and a rivalry with another member of the oligopoly...)
Dodgers (the glamor team)
Braves (I'm not totally sure of this one, but I'm pretty sure they're a member)
Mets (New York gives instant marketability)

The Cubs are also a media favorite, but I'm starting to wonder if for narrative purposes, they'll ever be able to win the World Series. The story of the Cubs' inability to win the World Series has become such a big part of baseball lore that it's almost hard to imagine baseball without it.

So am I saying that any team outside of this select group will never win the World Series? Well...I like to be optimistic and hope that this whole oligopoly thing is just a period baseball is going through, and that it will end soon. Like next year soon. Until it does though, I'm going to be skeptical of any team outside this group's chances. It's just my way of cushioning the blow of disappointment. Eight years of this crap has taken its toll on me.

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