Friday, February 17, 2012

Talking Baseball (and Mitt Romney)

[This post is not even remotely historical. I'm not even pretending.]

Campaigning in Michigan the other day, Mitt Romney got one of those questions that has nothing substantive to do with politics, but can have actual political consequences:

"Tigers or Red Sox?"

"Oh, Red Sox, I'm afraid," Romney answered. "I've lived in Massachusetts for how many years now? Forty years."

That really is the perfect Romney line, isn't it? If I had to script just one line that would capture everything that people who don't like Romney don't like about Romney, I think that would be it.

Let me explain. As I see it, the essence of Mitt Romney's problem connecting politically is the feeling many of us get that there is no there there, that there is nothing you can hold onto and depend upon about the guy. For any true-blue fan of any sports team, this Romney reply says exactly that.

I was born and raised in New Jersey, to parents who both grew up in New York City. We lived my entire childhood in the New York media market. My teams growing up were the New York Giants in football and the New York Mets in baseball. I got the former from my dad who has rooted for the Giants almost as long as there has been a team called the Giants.

I picked up the Mets on my own, probably influenced by the hysteria over the 1969 Miracle Mets (though I don't actually remember following them at that time). But I was a full-fledged fan in plenty of time to share the agony of Willie Mays, captured in this picture from the 1973 World Series which the Mets lost in seven games to the Oakland A's. That image of Mays, one of the greatest to ever play the game, is seared into my memory.

Willie Mays argues with umpire Augie Donatelli after teammate Bud Harrelson was thrown out at home plate in Game 2 of the 1973 World Series in Oakland, CA on October 14, 1973. Photo by Jerry Cooke/ Sports Illustrated/ Getty Images
I left New Jersey in 1985 for graduate school in Texas. Since then, I've lived in New Jersey for maybe a total of four years. I've lived in South Carolina for over ten years now. But you know what? Those are still my teams.

When a friend and colleague with season tickets to the Carolina Panthers invited me to join him at the Panthers-Giants game some years ago, I proudly wore my Giants cap to the stadium in Charlotte. I didn't become a Panthers fan. Because real fans do not abandon their allegiance to the team they grew up rooting for just because they move to someplace else. Because it's about staying loyal.

Because being a fan of that team, your team, becomes part of your identity. It's the team your dad rooted for, the team you and your dad watched together when you were a kid. When my Giants made their amazing run this year, ending with a Super Bowl victory, in my family there was series of emails after each improbable victory: my dad, my brother, my sister's son, and by extension, my nephew's infant son who was born right before the Giants began their run. (In my family, little Ryan is responsible for all of those Giant victories. And don't dare try to tell us any differently.)

Being a fan--a real fan--is a part of who you are, and you stay true to who you are. That doesn't change because you move out of state.

But Romney? He moved to Massachusetts, so he roots for the Red Sox. Of course he does.

Romney may have thought he was saying the politically brave thing, since he was in Michigan at that moment, talking to Michigan reporters, and went with the Red Sox rather than Michigan's Detroit Tigers. But then, naturally, he had to claim the Tigers, too.

"I grew up as a Tigers fan, of course, and Al Kaline was my hero." But then, you know, he moved, so ...

New state, new team. New political race, new ideology.

Really, it is just perfect. As president, I guess he'd be a Nationals fan. It would serve him right.


  1. LOVE this post little brother---I printed it out to save for Ryan. When he gets older I want him to know that his Grand Uncle Mark (who is GRAND by the way) was the first to have put his name in print--and all over the Internet to boot:-). Well done, little brother:-).

  2. Good stuff as usual Uncle Mark. Ryan isn't crazy about sharing the post with Romney but is happy about the mention nonetheless :)

  3. Thanks, Kath--but Greg has Ryan on Facebook, and I think A LOT more people see that than this blog!

    That thought gave me pause, too, Greg. But as he showed this football season, he's tough. He can take Romney!