Column: The Texas Rangers: A love story

Many baseball fans rooted for the Texas Rangers in the 2010 American League Championship Series not because of who they are, but rather who they were playing.

Any time a team gets a chance to take down “The Evil Empire," it's bound to garner some national support. After all, the Yankees are arguably the most hated team in professional sports. They are the proud (bordering on arrogant) owners of 27 World Series rings, and in the recent Steinbrenner era they have been known for buying championships by bullying small market teams and stealing their superstars. The ALCS played out like a real-life version of “The Sandlot," in which the likable heroes didn’t have the facilities, jerseys or cool bikes of the wealthier squad but still were light years ahead in talent (and one-liners). So, in the wake of this tremendous upset, it is no surprise the Texas Rangers have become somewhat of a national heartthrob. But when you look deeper into the Rangers as a whole, there is very little not to love.

First off, many fans are pulling for Texas purely because they’ve never been there before. The team was established in 1961, but never even won a playoff series until this season. If you’re not so keen on math, that’s 49 years of irrelevancy. In a way, they are kind of the “Bizarro Yankees.” They are humble, talented and overwhelmingly appreciative of this opportunity. And in a world of big market teams and dynasty after dynasty, it’s nice to see the little guy win one every once in a while.

In real life, just like in movies, people love to root for the underdog. Lucky for us, the Texas Rangers are stocked to the brim with them. Manager Ron Washington admitted to cocaine use up to and during the 2009 season, and after getting clean only barely managed to keep his job. Josh Hamilton was a No. 1 pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009, but he struggled with drugs and alcohol, eventually falling out of baseball entirely. He finally made it back to the big show in 2007 with Cincinnati and is now one of the most feared hitters in the game. Additionally, Anaheim thought Vladimir Guerrero was washed up when they let him leave after the 2009 season, Nelson Cruz was practically given away by Oakland and Milwaukee before finally landing in Texas and starter Colby Lewis played the past two seasons in Japan before finally signing with the Rangers. All these players were afterthoughts with other organizations, and yet all are having success with Texas in 2010. Go figure.

The most redeeming thing about this team to me though, is they seem to play the game the right way. They play like kids. This isn’t just a job to them, and you can tell that when you watch them play. They regularly do “the claw” and “the antlers” to each other after a big play, a custom in which they make goofy (and childish, in a good way) claw and antler-like hand gestures from the field to the bench. These people genuinely love playing the game and playing it with each other, and in this ultra-competitive era we see that less and less every day.

So there you go. You can love the Rangers because they beat the Yankees, but just know there’s really a lot more to it than that. Either way, I’m obviously on the bandwagon. And for die-hard Rangers fans, 49 years of waiting is long enough.

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