Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Today's Been a Long Time Comin'


Today, something will take place half-way across our continent that many people thought would never happen.

Today, even people like me, who hardly pay any attention to sports, will cheerfully acknowledge that life will never be the same. At least here in Arlington, Texas, home to the American League's Texas Rangers baseball team.

Because today - in, of all places, San Francisco - the Texas Rangers play their first WORLD SERIES game.

"So What?"

If you've never followed the Texas Rangers, you're not alone. You also probably don't have a clue as to how big this is for us here in the Dallas - Fort Worth area, where for 39 years, the Rangers have proven you don't need to be good to have a strong fan base. And that's not really a compliment for the team. Or even, sometimes, the fans. Because if you're a real strong sports fan, there have been seasons where the Rangers abysmal performance didn't give anybody any reason to support them. Yet year in and year out, through better seasons and worse, a core of optimistic baseball nuts kept hoping that this year would be better than last year. Sometimes they were right - and many times, they were wrong.

But this year, the Rangers kept winning, and our local press - which has never treated baseball as royally as it does football, even during baseball season - started putting last night's scores at the top of the sportscasts, instead of burying them at the bottom like other years. By the All-Star break, some people had even mused about the Rangers' playoff potential. When new owners Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan finally won the right in court to purchase the team, many North Texans were downright giddy.

Now, the Rangers haven't been so perennially awful that they've never before reached the playoffs. Under the celebrated leadership of Johnny Oates, the 1996, 1998 and 1999 teams played in the American League West championships, but they only won in '96. Still, that was better than nothing. And it gave the team's long-suffering fans hope that they could do better.


Well, today, someday has arrived for this team and its fans. Some people may wonder what I'm gushing about, this supposedly-recovering cynic who probably can't think of enough good things to say about the sterile business America's Game has become. And yes, the stink being raised about Cliff Lee and his being wooed by the New York Yankees for next year has put a kind of pall over this season. Particularly after Lee's wife complained about being spit at in Yankee stadium, and Lee himself pooh-pooh'ed her sensitivity. I suppose Lee and his agent figure with the hundred million or so they're expecting from New York, Lee and his wife can afford some good marriage therapy.

Win or Lose, Arlington Wins

But that's an issue for another day. Today, in what there is of "downtown" Arlington, the local dive bar and grill, J. Gilligan's, is setting up tents and chairs in their only parking lot for a watch party tonight, with a mammoth remote screen on a truck parked to one side. Employees were unloading boxes of huge, brand-new flat-screen monitors for inside the joint. And of course, beer trucks were lining up around the block.

Over at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, crisp new "World Series" banners were being unfurled over the First Base gates, and I wasn't the only person with a camera taking photos of the historic sight.

Hopefully, the history made in San Francisco tonight can be the start of a new era for our boys of summer from here in Arlington, Texas. Perhaps I'm kinda excited because Arlington has never really been in the international spotlight like this before. Maybe it's because we taxpayers helped pay for the stadium - and even bring the team to town from DC to begin with - and now we're starting to see a return on that investment. Maybe it's even because my long-time baseball favorites, the New York Yankees, were ultimately the team we beat to get into the World Series, and their $206 million payroll has been consigned to watching the Fall Classic on TV along with the rest of us.

Which just goes to prove that money can't necessarily get you into the World Series. The Yankees haven't fielded a team in years; they've fielded overpriced super-stars who insist there's an "I" in "team." On the other hand, this year's group of Rangers players have performed like a genuine team all season long. And it's paid off.

And maybe that's what I like most of all.

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