Every time I tell someone I am a Tampa Bay Rays fan, I feel like I’m revealing to them some deep, dark secret. Like I’m introducing myself at an AA meeting. ‘My name is Brian, and I, *hangs head in shame* am a Tampa Bay Rays fan.’ Like I already know they’re going to think just a little less of me. Here’s how it usually goes:
Person: Did you watch the (insert other sport here) game last night?
Me: Nah, baseball is the only sport I watch.
Person: Oh yeah? Who’s your team?
Me: Uh (nervous laughter) the Tampa Bay Rays?
Person: Oh, man, sorry to hear that. *Makes comment about rebuilding*
Me: Well, *Starts talking about analytics and advanced metrics as if the other person cares*
Person: Blank stare
Me: *Realizes they were just trying to be nice* Sure, rebuilding. Wait ’til next year though! *waves finger in the air*
Both parties exchange awkward laughter and walk away.
Keep riding your high horse, fans of other teams. At least we’re better than the White Sox.
But when the Rays got off to a 1-8 start, we all went back to 2011. We all remembered the magic of that season, as well as how that season got off to the same start. It felt nice to remember a better time in Rays history. A time when the baseball world has its eyes on us (for good reason). For a minute there, it felt real. When the Rays won the next two games, we joked about them ‘keeping pace,’ but were were almost not joking. Again, it was nice to cling to the fantasy that this team, a team that won only 80 games last year, could be as good as that one. We were all quick to remember that 1-8 start in ’11, but we conveniently forgot that the 2010 Rays won 96 games.
Or maybe we just chose not to remember.
Three games later, the Rays are now 3-9. The ’11 Rays didn’t lose their 9th game for another six days. Now, in my last post, I said that we should wait until May 20th to decide what kind of team this is, and I stand by it. Case and point, the Rays won their first series in Chicago this week, and look to do the same against the Phillies in a battle between the two wackiest teams in baseball.
There is still a lot to like about this team, and I do think there are better days ahead, both sooner and later. However, no matter what the result is on May 20th. let’s keep the conversation in 2018 about 2018.