Occasionally I am called upon to switch my affiliation away from, objectively, the best teams in professional sports: the Sacramento Kings and the San Francisco Giants. Most often, I am asked to abandon the Kings in favor of Los Angeles’ favorite squad, the Lakers, in light of the facts that I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 11 years now, and the Kings have missed the playoffs now several years in a row. Add to this that the city of Sacramento has now repeatedly failed to get a new arena deal done, due to ownership that seems questionable at best, making their residence there anything but permanent. And then there’s the Kings’ star center, DeMarcus Cousins, who complains to the referees constantly and whose maturing process seems to be moving slower than the 405 freeway at rush hour. In response to all of this, I think the answer is still very clear: the Sacramento Kings are, objectively, the best team in basketball.
Now comes the scandal surrounding the San Francisco Giants and Melky Cabrera, who was setting the world on fire with a .346 batting average prior to his suspension and subsequent admission of the use of testosterone as a steroid. And, a report that someone known to Melky’s agent made a fake website designed to provide fake evidence to get the suspension overturned. For Giants fans, it was shocking and slightly depressing. Personally, I was kind of relieved when Barry Bonds retired a few years ago, since he was often difficult to root for with his prickly personality and inability to avoid steroid accusations. Indeed, one of the cool things about 2010 World Series triumph was that the team was filled with guys who were easy to cheer for. Did I mention that the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series? Ok, just wanted to make sure that I mentioned that they won the 2010 World Series.
Anyway, various folks, such as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson and catcher Miguel Montero, have seemed kind of angry about the whole Melky situation. Assuming that the steroids were helping Melky out, then the Giants were cheating by putting him in the lineup every day, and so victories over the Diamondbacks or any other team this year are kind of questionable now. For now, we have to assume that Giants management had no idea that Melky was doing this, since that is what they claim. Manager Bruce Bochy seems like such a cool guy that if he says he had no idea, then I’d like to believe him.
In fact, I was once put in a similar position as Bochy; the 2006 UCLA Club Tennis squad, under my direction, was disqualified halfway through the USTA National Campus Championships in Austin, Texas for having an ineligible player on its roster. Indeed, one of our girls had played in a tournament for the UCLA varsity team earlier in the year, which you’re not allowed to do. She had not told us, however, and we had no idea. But we had already marched all the way to the national quarterfinals. So the tournament director was stuck, because while he had to disqualify us, he couldn’t ask us to go back and replay those matches while we removed that player from the roster. Meanwhile, we were sad, but made the best of it by spending the following day in San Antonio, which was pretty hot even though it was only April.
Anyway, back to my story about the greatest teams in all of sports. If a team is absolutely terrible and has players with objectionable personalities that use steroids constantly, are they still worth rooting for? Well, perhaps not. Certainly the Sacramento Kings haven’t been much fun to cheer for in recent years, and I have struggled at times to gather enough interest to watch their games regularly. On the other hand, the Giants remain fun to watch, despite Tim Lincecum doing his best impression of, well, Barry Zito this year.
Are we sad about Melky? Yes, and I will be even less likely to dress up as a Melkman now as compared to before. Personally, from there I looked to team management, Melky’s (former) teammates, and even the team’s announcers for guidance on how to proceed. They seemed sad, bewildered and a little angry, but had no choice but to move on without him. It struck me as kind of like what someone might do after they found out their significant other cheated on them. In this case, you have to drop your loyalty to the individual who messed up, at least so far as he is not helping the team. But your loyalty to the team very likely remains.
Sometimes I think it’s funny that we cheer for, and care so much about, teams composed of players that we don’t know, have never met, and who run around a field or court throwing stuff around and hitting other things over fences. In the case of the Giants, they represent a city that I’ve never lived in, and pretty much only visit for the purposes of the watching the team itself. But perhaps I shouldn’t question it any more for now, and just say… Goooo GIANTS!
P.S. The Sacramento Kings are going to win the 2013 NBA championship. You watch!