(this is a post for the BVOF Blogging Championship)
I recently spent a week touring the major sports' Halls of Fame. It was a glorious journey, and one that was fraught with learning, rejoicing, and appreciation of the four major sports and their heroes. The trip was also an opportunity for me to revel in the memorabilia pertaining to my favourite teams. In Toronto, I sought everything an anything Red Wings-related. In Canton, I made sure to snap a picture of every Vikings jersey on display. In Springfield, I ensured that I spent a long time soaking up the Tar Heels' display.
In Cooperstown, though, I was left at an impasse. I very quickly realized that I had no favourite baseball team. The only team that I could have ever called my favourite, the Montreal Expos, skipped town years ago. The only teams that I liked were true bandwagon jobs. For a game that I enjoy watching so much, my lack of a rooting interest is seemingly abominable.
The empty space in my sports life got me thinking, though. I slowly and painstakingly came up with an eight-step formula of sorts to determine who my favourite team should be. Below is my thought process... along with the winner of my not-at-all-awaited competition, which I vow to keep as my favourite team for the future.
With a nod to Bill Simmons and his piece on his new favourite EPL team, here I go...
1) No Yankees or Red Sox
This is the most crucial tenet of my exploration. There are two huge reasons that I can't root for either team.
The first is that I would be immediately labelled as the b word... bandwagon fan. The Yankees and Red Sox are easily the two most popular baseball teams in the world. The Sox are popular due to their recent success and their recent branding of their fans as a Nation. You cannot go anywhere on a baseball website without reading Red Sox, Red Sox, Red Sox. They are very quickly turning into today's Evil Empire...
...which leaves the team known as the Evil Empire. I can see Yankees fans everywhere, from Yonkers to Yuma, from Harlem to Harare, from Manhattan to Montreal. Even when they miss the playoffs, people obsess over their every move. The Yankees are the top landing spot for every single free agent in the MLB. They suffocate the market.
I can't root for either team thanks to their spending practices, as well. These two encompass the free agent market like a kangaroo its joey. This year, the Yankees signed the top two free agents. Two years ago, the Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka and JD Drew to large contracts. These two have payrolls in excess of $100,000,000, and they regularly buy their way to championships. That's a no-no for me.
At the same time, though...
2) They can't be positively crappy
There are teams that are lovable losers, such as the Cubs and the Indians. Then again, there are teams that are just plain losers.
If I'm going to be a fan, it's got to be worth my while. Ask LGP how difficult it is being a Pirates fan, or... well... I can't think of any Royals fans. There's no point in latching onto a team that I know has absolutely no chance whatsoever of competing. There should be at least some highlights from your team that have happened since George Brett.
Top-feeders aren't fun, but bottom-feeders are even less so.
3) They have to have at least one Hall of Famer
Plain and simple, there needs to be some kind of history for me to reminisce about. Having a team without a Hall of Famer would be like eating a lobster roll without mayo: it just wouldn't be the same at all.
If I ever revisit the Hall of Fame, I want to be able to find Player X's plaque and pose for a picture next to it. I can't sit at the side and watch people find their idols. It's absolutely demoralizing to sift through the annals of obscurity to find your team's stars. Which brings me to my fourth point...
4) They have to have won at least one World Series
In the Baseball Hall of Fame, they were selling mugs for every World Series Champion (e.g. 1993 Blue Jays, 1908 Cubs). If I was to buy a mug, I'd rather there be one for my team. It was incredibly demoralizing to pass through the Football Hall of Fame's Super Bowl wing and click on every Packers loss instead of every Vikings win.
Like teams have to have golden players, they also need to have golden memories. Whenever you're down, you reach into the wells in your brain to remember the good times. In order to do that, there need to be good times.
5) The team needs to be scrappy
This is where I deviate from Simmons' script. In order for me to love a team, they need to endear themselves to me in terms of their play.
There is nothing more enjoyable to watch than a team that gives it their all every play in every game. Teams that leave it all out on the field will always hold a special place in my heart; teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Celtics, and Miami Dolphins gets props from me for squeezing every ounce of their talent and leaving it on the playing field.
In baseball, this is shown by sprinting for fly balls, never shying away from a slide, and running for every single hit. Quitting is an extreme negative quality.
Scrappiness can't be everything, though...
6) The team must have some kind of quirk around it
Just like the Red Wings have their octopi and the Steelers have the Terrible Towel, my team must have an object or tradition related to it that a fan can identify with.
This is an extremely underrated point. It allows the team to have a thing that truly is theirs. It lets the team have a unique symbol, which is important in baseball fandom, because it lets you latch on.
7) The team must have potential for the future
If I'm going to become a fan, it can't be of a one-hit wonder. I can't wait for playoff berths longer than fans wait for Boston albums. My team has to be one that I can see in meaningful action for a long, long time. So, basically, I've just eliminated the Pirates (sorry, Tom Gorzelanny).
8) The Canuck Factor
There's no way to escape this: my favourite team must have a Canadian player. Why? Because I'm Canadian. They can atone for their lack of a Canadian player, though, by being a Canadian team. Simple enough.
Now, for the verdict. The team that has the honour of being my favourite is...
THE MINNESOTA TWINS!
They satisfy all of my categories. They are clearly not on the Red Sox/Yankees level of international lovefest and money-grubbing. They, likewise, are very far from putrid.
They have a more than ample Hall of Famer in Kirby Puckett, and should have another in Jack Morris, the man who led them to a World Series title.
They are arguably the scrappiest team in the majors, so much so that Ozzie Guillen once dubbed them the Wild F*ckin Piranhas. They have their own unique object to rally around in the relatively unknown yet poignant Homer Hanky. They also have lots of potential for the future, thanks to their young and vastly improving roster.
As for the Canuck factor, they have the best one in the game. Step right up, Justin Morneau. They also satisfy the all-time Canuck division thanks to the legendary Corey Koskie.
The Twins are all mine forever... I hope.