The phrase “Flags Fly Forever” is currently dominant in the sports vernacular. It’s the idea that championships matter over everything else, and that teams should do every possible thing in their power to accomplish that goal.
It’s the driving force behind The Process over in Philadelphia 76er Land, and it’s why the Houston Astros were able to wave off three years of ugly losses with one year of glorious winning (at least just the one year, so far).
The thought is that, at the end of the season, one team goes home happy, and 29 others go home depressed, calling their season a failure.
I’m not so sure it’s that simple, though.
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There’s a scene in Talladega Nights in which the main character, Ricky Bobby, finally reunites with his father. Ricky Bobby has spent his whole life embodying what his father had told him back at an elementary school Career Day: If you ain’t first, you’re last.
Which leads to the following exchange:
“You came in, you said, if you ain’t first, you’re last.”
“Oh hell Ricky, I was high when I said that. That doesn’t make any sense at all. You could be second. You could be third. Fourth. Hell, you could even be fifth.”
It kind of feels like all baseball fans are Ricky Bobby, and I’m Gary Cole, here to tell you I was high that day I told you “If you ain’t first you’re last.”
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There was an interesting exchange recently between noted Red Sox fan Michael Schur and noted Cubs fan Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) on a recent episode of the always-excellent PosCast podcast. The two were bantering about what it has been like to cheer for teams who had historically been “cursed” but were now teams that had both won titles in recent years. Neither man seemed comfortable. Certainly neither was in a state of bliss. Because I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s not actually the title that is the best moment when rooting for a franchise, it’s the lead up to said title.
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If everything goes according to plan, and the Rays get a few breaks along the way, there’s a decent chance the Tampa Bay Rays may be in possession of a World Series title within the next 5-10 years. They have some of the best young talent in the game right now (Blake Snell, Willy Adames, Jake Bauers), they have a consensus top-three farm system, and said elite farm system is headlined by a prospect drawing Vlad Jr. comparisons seemingly every other day (Wander Franco).
Winning a title is by no means a guarantee, especially when the team is on as tight a budget as the Rays, and they play in a division as perennially stacked as the AL East.
That being said, I don’t think it would shock anyone reading this website if the Rays were finally able to break through for their first championship in franchise history some time within the next decade.
And that would (will?) be a glorious moment. But it would be (will be?!) followed immediately by a feeling of “What’s next?” “Can we repeat?” “Are we going to have the cap space to return all these guys?” That’s because winning brings responsibility, and responsibility is no fun.
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You know what IS fun?
- Hitting walk off homers with celebrations that make you, as a fan, pretty sure you somehow consumed an illegal drug or some sort, and you just wanna keep chasing that feeling.
Ji-Man Choi might have the walk-off celebration of the year. pic.twitter.com/0ak899as8t— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) September 11, 2018
- Having players who love each other so dearly, so innocently, so naively, that their girlfriends are just a touch jealous.
- Tossing the name Joey Wendle into a Rookie of the Year conversation just to watch Yankee fans turn purple faster than Violet Beauregarde.
The 2018 Rays are as fun as fandom gets. Hopefully this team wins more games in 2019 than they do this season. Hopefully they one day can bring a title back to St. Pete. But even if they do, it will never get more fun than this right now.
So cherish this moment, Rays fans. Savor every last drop.