Think back to when you started watching the Rangers. Think back to the time where you began considering yourself a “fan”.
I’m not a doctor, but I can only assume the team sucked at that wrinkle in time.
Let me tell you a little story. I was 12 years old when the (at the time) Anaheim Angels won the World Series. It was 2002. Being from the densely-populated streets (suburbs) of Southern California, all of a sudden there was a transfusion of Angels’ fans inhabiting a culture which was otherwise, almost universally, filled with Dodgers’ supporters. To like the Dodgers meant you were a badass; to like the Angels meant you were a confused choir boy.
But winning makes everything cool. People like what’s cool. Being like to latch onto winning entities.
In 2002, the Texas Rangers finished 72-90, last place in the American League West. Needless to say, we weren’t exactly “cool” just yet.
In fact, it would be a great many years before the Rangers were well-liked, even amongst people living in Texas. You didn’t hear people complaining about the Rangers, because the year-after-year expectation was that the team would not be competitive, that even a .500 season would be a worthwhile success story. Defeating the Yankees actually meant something, even if the game was played in the middle of May and the team was already out of postseason contention.
I look back at those days as some of my favorites. My boyhood adrenaline would begin to kick in by the 6th inning. Each individual game held more importance than it deserved, for the apparent reality of being victorious was nothing but a mirage. And often times, those 5-1 fifth-inning leads turned into 10-8 disappointments.
And yet, it was fun to be a Rangers’ fan.
Let’s fast-forward to 2010, the year the franchise reached its first World Series. The year the fan base exponentially grew louder than any other time in the previous 50 years. It was the year being a Rangers’ fan suddenly became less cool.
From ESPN to MLB Network, the cliches drowned out our television screens. It was the Rangers, after all. It was a team with no pitching and a loaded offense. It was an organization with Michael Young as its fearless leader, heroically leading our collective charge into the postseason. It was Vladimir Guerrero proving he was still worth a damn. It was T-shirts embroidered with claws and antlers.
It was the last year of my favorite broadcaster, Josh Lewin.
Nothing has ever been the same since then.
My ex-girlfriend, who moved to Texas a few years ago, sent me a text message the night rookie Neftali Feliz crippled Rangers’ villain Alex Rodriguez with a breaking ball to clinch the pennant. I had just got done jumping and screaming in my kitchen with my mom, and was standing outside in the dark, windy October night.
It was a simple text message. It was beautiful. It read, “world fucking series.”
Yes. World. Fucking. Series.
Nothing has ever been the same since then.
We’re now in 2012. We made the World Series, and were defeated, in consecutive seasons. And although the roster was more talented last year than in the two World Series years, the team failed to advance. As Joey Matschulat of BBTiA wrote the other day in a headline, The End Of Josh Hamilton, And The Winter Of Our Discontent.
Discontent. Surely, that’s what it is. It’s the curse of success, the expectation of being the best, and the lugubrious reality of failing to meet such expectations. That’s our problem. We’re ignoring being the laughing stock of baseball for the last 20 years. We, as a unit, have failed to appreciate just how many years the Rangers being a dormant franchise has shaped us. It’s almost 2013. We’re beyond losing. We’re supposed to be above that type of shit.
And yet, it seems like we’ve all forgotten where we’ve come from.
We were supposed to sign Zack Greinke. We were supposed to sign Josh Hamilton. We were supposed to trade for Justin Upton and David Price. HEY LET’S IGNORE MONEY AND BUDGETS AND JUST SIGN EVERYBODY AND TRADE FOR EVERYBODY ELSE. We’ve been indoctrinated through the mass media that in 2012 the Rangers are the best franchise in the history of the universe, and that any deal that doesn’t materialize is a direct reflection on their hubris and arrogance. It’s another strike against them, though all we’ve known up to this point is failure and disappointment.
Reality check: The Rangers still have never done a damn thing in terms of winning championships.
We’ve come to a stage where even winning isn’t good enough. We’re instead expected to win impressively, with style. A losing season is no longer fathomable. And I’m not going to lie to you, I liked being a Rangers’ fan a lot more when the team was total garbage. Even when times were bad, it delivered me a strange sense of solace to know I still cared, that my love was true. The better the team has become, the more burned out I feel when the season transpires. Like work, like women, like baseball, the chase is always more thrilling than the reality of accomplishment. Success has turned us all into selfish, entitled assholes. And it still makes me sick.
For that reason, I’m looking forward to the 2013 season, because it aims to humble us. April and May and June and July games will again excite me; they will turn back the clock on my decrepit, washed up, jaded fan hood, and make me feel like a kid again.
Like I’m an actual Rangers fan.
You can read up on all Evan Grant and Randy Galloway and Gerry Fraley have to say. That’s your prerogative. Their job is to sell papers and rile up a fan base such that their Internet pages receive more hits. That’s cool. But it’s not like we’re that far removed from being a dime-a-dozen losing franchise. Keep yourself centered. Stay rational. We aren’t the Yankees or Red Sox and we don’t have the money the Dodgers do. We have to be smart about every move we make, every dollar we spend. When we start being careless, we will start moving in a backwards direction.
But hey, we’ve all been there, right?