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Monday, October 13, 2008

Grohawk > Rayhawk

The Tampa Bay Rays, in their first-ever postseason bid, have embraced a new team tradition: The Rayhawk. In a show of team unity, many of the players have shaved, moussed, or otherwise acquired the iconic strip of hair down the middle of their heads most know as a Mohawk. Fans have followed suit, and there's even talk of Rayhawk bikini waxes. The Tampa Bay Area is being swept with Rayhawk madness.

Is anyone else feeling a bit of deja vu?

Rewind just about a year, on the other side of the Bay. The USF Bulls were the #2 team in the nation, and the college football world was abuzz with the Grohawk, named for QB Matt Grothe, which could be found on the heads of most Bulls, many Bulls faithful, and even Rocky, the mascot. I say this not necessarily to discredit the Rays, but let's not pretend as if it's new, or even new in recent history or new to the area.

It's October, which means I'm actually paying attention to baseball. If you read this regularly or know me personally, you know that I consider a 162 game regular season to be at least a hundred games too long. I've paid a little more attention the past year or two because one of my co-workers is a big enough Sox fan to pull it back out of me, but even at that, I'm hard-pressed to care about any single baseball game or even a single series before at least September. That said, now that we're down to the final four, things get interesting, considering I've got legitimate geographic ties to three of the four teams remaining. Let's talk about them, shall we?

Boston Red Sox: My team, forever and ever, Amen. Who knows how they ended up sticking--all of my other sports allegiances switched to Philly after I moved to Wilmington--but I expect that since I began following baseball and collecting cards at a time when I had lived in Boston more of my life than anywhere else.

Philadelphia Phillies: Having grown up in Wilmington, the Phillies were the home team, and though I never latched onto them, I still typically like to see them do well.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: I never had any particular affinity towards them, despite living in Tampa for two years while attending grad school at USF. Still, I can certainly appreciate an upstart program from the Tampa Bay area doing the damn thing.

So that said, what about matchups? It's clear that the LA Dodgers hold the least weight in all of this, both because I never lived specifically in LA and because EAST COAST WHAT!! In a perfect world, the Phillies will defeat them in the NLCS. But here's my thought for the potential matchups:

Boston vs. LA - Boston. Duh.
Tampa Bay vs. LA - Tampa Bay, although I will admit the fans and even players are getting plenty damn annoying. Still, much as I would have had Hillary gotten the Democratic nod (whoa, did I just take it political?) I'll still likely hold my nose and root for them, for the sake of history, an area to which I have ties, and EAST COAST WHAT!!
Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia - Philly. This one is particularly significant because in the minds of some I've encountered, the cities of Philly and Tampa blood rivals locked in an epic battle for superiority. Don't know where that came from--a better characterization is that Tampa Bay has kicked Philly's ass every chance it's gotten in contests that matter: the Bucs went through the Eagles in the NFC Championship en route to their Super Bowl (not to mention shat upon the Eagles in the inaugural game at Lincoln Financial Field), and the Lightning took out the Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals on their way to the Stanley Cup. This one would be crucial for the city of Philly, if for that reason alone.
Boston vs. Philadelphia - This would be a tough one--based on who I'm rooting for in each series, I want it to happen, but it could divide my very soul in two. Based on what I've said earlier, the Red Sox should be the no-brainer, and I'd agree with that. I'm a Sox fan, not a Phils fan. Why the conflict? Because not unlike the 86 years I endured (yes, I didn't come into this world until year 63, but the Sox fans here will back me up when I say you inherit it all) prior to 2004 without a Sox championship, I'm sitting on 100 consecutive seasons without a championship in ANY of the major sports in Philadelphia. So while the Phils are the only one of those teams who isn't my primary in its respective sport (actually, I think I pay little enough attention to the Flyers to have an opinion there, but when the chips are down I root for them because the jersey says Philadelphia) I still don't know if I could bring myself to root against the possibility of a championship coming to the City of Brotherly Love. Rational thought also tells me that the Sox won twice in the past 4 years anyway, not to mention a few Super Bowls in the past few years and a NBA championship this year, so it's time to let someone else play too, but that said, I don't think I could bring myself to root against my team either.

So if it comes down to it, expect me to be a namby-pamby fence-sitter, front-runner, homer, guy who wears one team's jersey and another team's hat come World Series time. If my (non-)allegiances shift, I'll keep you posted, but if the circumstance should arise, I'm likely to both be very pleased and very disappointed when it all plays out.
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