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Naidu: Not my World Series

Columnist Zach Naidu explains why blueblood championships aren’t fun for the average viewer

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This is not the World Series everybody wanted.  A matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers could not feature two more vintage blue-blood franchises. The Dodgers haven’t won in three decades, but they’re still six-time World Series champions — they’re still the team that housed legends like Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson. The Red Sox are no stranger to the limelight and World Series rings either, winning five years ago, with three championships since the year 2000.

So, what did we want? More often than not, neutral fans want to see an underdog or a likable franchise triumph on the biggest stage. Picking their preferred winner gets even easier when that feel-good underdog matches up against a storied, blue-blood franchise or perennial contender whose success has become borderline annoying.

Remember the Minnesota Miracle against the New Orleans Saints? If that exact play had happened, but rather than Case Keenum completing the pass to Stefon Diggs it had been Tom Brady throwing a last-second touchdown to Rob Gronkowski for the win and a spot in the conference championship, would there have been as much pandemonium from the neutral football fan? No, because the New England Patriots always end up in the conference championship. This reality also explains why the majority of America wanted the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Patriots and Minnesota Vikings to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the most recent AFC and NFC championship games. Jacksonville was regarded as a relatively young franchise with no prior Super Bowl berth, and Minnesota had arguably the most tortured NFL fan base outside of Ohio.  Meanwhile, the Patriots had appeared in more than one third of the previous 17 Super Bowls, winning five of them, while the Eagles — though they hadn’t won a championship to that date — notoriously have one of the most callous and extreme fan bases. The reason people rooted for the Jaguars and Vikings is the same reason why the majority of people outside the Bay Area were hoping for LeBron James and the Cavaliers to pull off a miracle this past June against the juggernaut Warriors.

Unfortunately, there is no little guy to choose. Coming into the series, the Red Sox were the odds-on favorite to win, but that by no means makes the Dodgers a mismatched opponent or one to cheer for as a massive underdog. There is no perpetually success-starved fan base the neutral viewer can latch onto. All we get are two polarizing teams with loaded payrolls and top-tier talent.

Make no mistake, these were the two best teams in each of their respective leagues. As shown during the Red Sox’ 8-4 opening series win, there will continue to be exciting baseball in the remaining three plus games. There will be quality pitching, electrifying home runs and many more moments of superb baseball. Such moments simply won’t be amplified by an underlying narrative of good vs. evil, David vs. Goliath.

The Red Sox have won in the current decade while the Dodgers haven’t in 30 years and lost a heartbreaker in seven games a year ago. If you want to split hairs, the Dodgers appear to be the most deserving of the neutral fans rooting interest.

So that’s who I’ll be rooting for, I guess.

Contact Zach Naidu at znaidu ‘at’ stanford.edu