|Your Phillies Marketing Department, Folks.|
I mean, sure, rooting for a winner is nice. Watching the team you back actually win it all is a great feeling, regardless of whether you then decide to move your couch onto the lawn so you can set it on fire to "celebrate" the victory. But even rooting for a team that doesn't go all the way - that just wins more than it loses - is nice. You get more good days than bad ones. More times when you got the desired result than the other guy, the guy who roots for the crappy team, did. More times when your choice of team to support seems like the right one.
There is a certain freedom that comes with rooting for a team that you know is going to be bad. From letting go of the chase after wins - for a season or two at a time anyway - and just watching as a fan for the good, the bad, and the interesting."Ha ha, your team stinks!" loses its sting if you agree that, yes, they do, and you enjoy watching them anyway.
Because there's pleasure to be had in watching the young guys trying to take advantage of their opportunity, and in watching the old guys make their last hurray. There's fun in seeing the guys who never would have gotten a shot with a good team taking the field and doing what they can to stay out there. And there is, sadly enough, fun in the wacky misadventures of guys who maybe aren't quite good enough to be out there but by God somebody has to stand by third base and bat seventh, and there they are.
If, of course, you allow yourself to enjoy aspects of fandom other than winning.
I root for what is inarguably the worst franchise in professional sports history. No team has a legacy of failure to match the Philadelphia Phillies, never mind the fact that one of the greatest pitchers in team history firmly believes the world is being run by a handful of Jews living in a luxury cave in the Swiss Alps. Said team is entering Year 3 of a decline phase at escape velocity, having mortgaged its future, cast the fruits of its farm system to the wind, drafted like they were looking for contestants on American Gladiators instead of baseball players, and other high crimes and misdemeanors against baseball. Their best prospect in ages has apparently been trained by the organization in how not to play baseball, their second-best got a concussion from a hailstorm and never really recovered, and one of their other prospects has the nickname "Hamster" because his hamstrings blow out so often. They're going to trade their best pitcher, and their second best pitcher is 36 and coming off an injury. And, well, Ryan Howard.
In short, the baseball is going to suck. Hard. And if I were fixated on maintaining the unprecedented run of success the team had from 2008-2011, I'd be furious. Or despairing. Or possibly both.
Instead, I'm in a total Lebowski space, anticipating the season without expecting anything of it. Cole Hamels will leave. Jonathan Papelbon will leave. Ryan Howard will not. Guys will come up from AAA, get shelled, and go back to Lehigh Valley. Or they won't.
Either way, it will be a season. And maybe someday the Phillies will rise again, and I can go back to the other kind of rooting, the results-oriented kind. But in the meantime, I'm happy to separate results from process, and to cheer on Domonic Brown as he is, instead of gnashing my teeth over the Domonic Brown that should have been.
It's easier to sleep that way.