Root, Root, Root Against the Home Team
I ran across a post on Will Carroll's blog at all-baseball that's had me in a philosophical quandary the last few days. The post (by scottlong, not Carroll) is from the 6th, and it starts like this, "Winning the 2004 election might not be the best thing [for the Democrats] in the long run." The gist is this: if Bush wins a second term, he'll screw the country up so much that everyone will realize that Democrats are right and right wingers will be revealed for the villains they actually are.
Now, whether or not this is true, it's had me wondering: is it ever right to hope your team loses? I'm considering this from a strictly moral standpoint because I regard baseball fan-dom in the same moral realm as other important things, like politics. In both, there are things (teams or principles) to which a person must remain true. In short, I believe in the Braves the same way I believe in freedom of speech. Sound extreme? You just aren't a good enough baseball fan, but that's another post.
So, is it morally right to hope my team loses? Off the top of my head I can think of a couple of reasons one might hope for a losing game or even season. First, at this time of year with the postseason matchups hinging on won-loss records I could understand hoping for a loss to get a more favorable first round matchup. For example, I think the braves would rather face the Dodgers than the Cubs in the first round, so when the Braves faced the Giants (the Cubs' competition in the wildcard) a loss would better their postseason options. That's pragmatic, and I can understand the logic, but I'm still not sure I could bring myself to hope for failure for my club, even for a game.
So, what about a season? This is actually something I've considered before, and I'll use my Braves again as an example. People are always talking about how indifferent the fans of the Braves are (I guess they're talking about the other fans). Well, I've often thought that a losing season or two might snap Atlanta fans out of this. Victory is so much sweeter after defeat, as Braves fans who remember the 80s know, and as Cubs and Red Sox fans fantasize about.
And I'm sure there are other reasons, but that's not the point. The question hasn't been answered, is it right to root against your team (in politics, baseball or whatever)? And here's my answer: no. The point of baseball is winning, that's why fans cheer and players hustle. Hoping for failure even in one game or one at bat just isn't right. And I think it's wrong in the world of politics too. People have strong opinions about politics and policy because they think they're right. Have a strong opinion about the war in Iraq? I bet it's because you care about things improving, about doing the right thing whatever you think that is. Hoping (as scottlong does) that your side loses is tantamount to hoping that the wrong thing happens. Here's another quote: "I expect the economy to continue to falter and the war in Iraq will become more of a quagmire. The American people will wake up to what right-wingers have done to it." So are we hoping for people to lose their jobs? Are we hoping for quagmire? This is like saying that Vietnam was great because it motivated political activism, or that another terrorist attack would vindicate the president's war in Iraq.
Hoping for failure just rubs me the wrong way, even though I must admit to it myself. In the last presidential election, faced with Bush, Gore and Nader, I chose to write in for a different candidate. Why? I knew that my write-in wouldn't win, so essentially I was hoping for failure. And thinking back, I know why: I didn't want any responsibility for the winner. I wanted to be able to complain about whoever was elected.
I wanted to lose because I was afraid of winning.