This month in Major League Baseball, there are several interleague series’ which fit in quite well with a discussion I was having with another author here on GuysNation.  It came to my attention that Liz Drabick, one of the Women We Love here at GuysNation due in part to her work on 1067 The Fan (a sports-talk radio station here in Washington D.C.), doesn’t buy into either the “Subway Series” and “Battle of the Beltway” concepts as a rivalry starter.

Although this could be much better written were it not done in a conversational manner, I think she and I both made some interesting points.

Think about this as you look back at the series from last weekend between the Mets and the Yankees, or as you watch the Cubs / White Sox battle it out in Chicago this weekend or the Washington Nationals travel a half hour north up I-95 to go battle the Baltimore Orioles.

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According to Twitter, you don’t think the phrases “Subway Series” and “Battle of the Beltway” should be used anymore. I tend to disagree.  Care to elaborate in more than 160 characters?

They’re useless, ineffective, alliterative cliches tossed out by

a) espn when they’re trying to trumpet a ballgame that’s airing exclusively on the worldwide leader a la Sunday Night Baseball and/or

2) any garden variety sports anchor who’s manufacturing a contrived rivalry that doesn’t exist so much as geography puts them near each other and they have nothing else to say i.e. Redskins vs. Ravens or Nats vs. O’s.

Certainly the “rivalry” between the Nats & O’s or Met’s & Yankees or Ravens & Redskins isn’t anywhere near as big as Red Sox / Yankees or Redskins / Dallas or Michigan / Ohio State, but I know a few New Yorkers who were excited when the Mets and the Yankees faced off in
the World Series, just like a Jets vs Giants Super Bowl would be a big deal to the tri-state area.

Those people growing up in that area had to decide whether to be a fan of the Mets or the Yankees, and depending on who they encountered, they probably caught some flack for
their team of choice. It’s not like some kid in Iowa deciding he wants to be a Yankees fan and thinking it’s cool that the Yankees’ cross-town neighbor is going up against them in the World Series.

It’s all about allegiances.

In the 1992 NCAA Tournament Finals when the Duke Blue Devils beat the Michigan Wolverine team I was cheering for, I caught a ton of flack about it from my neighbor across the street because I had backed the wrong horse. How bad would it be up in New York for a kid who decides he likes the Mets when his friends – Yankees fans – get to celebrate a World Series win?

To a lesser extent, there was a choice to make when the Nationals came to town.  Prior to that, the only pro-baseball I was going to get was to make the trek all the way up to Camden Yards to watch the Orioles. It’s an easy choice for me to make to back the Nationals, but when they play each other in an interleague game, the outcome serves to validate whether or not I made the right decision in no longer having the Orioles as “my team”. At the end of the day they’re not fighting each other for a playoff spot. They could both make it to the post season, and even both make it to the World Series (however unlikely that might seem right now), and a game in mid May might not seem to matter, but it does hold a bit of weight with those of us who try to pick a team for whom we’re going to loyally root for.

I don’t buy any sort of “they’re nearby therefore I hate them” mentality. The O’s and Nats have been coexisting quite nicely with no one stealing from anyone else’s ticket sales or tv ratings. Same can be said of the Ravens and Redskins.

I agree that you choose to be a fan of teams you can associate with and geography/tradition are a huge part of that. But mostly I think fandom comes from rooting for something as opposed to against it.

I don’t think you adopt a predilection for pinstripes because you dislike Mr. Met. I think you choose (or inherit) your fandom and most other teams fall by the wayside of indifference. You like the Redskins? Congratulations, you hate the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants. How much time do you spend thinking about the Ravens? I’m guessing none.

The Nats/O’s we-beat-them-so-I-choose-the-right-allegiance makes perfect sense to me but isn’t that just the same as if you were almost an abitrary Padres fan. From a broader perspective, this is a ratings killer because it tailors to a much smaller audience. This applies to any regular series but mostly to playoffs and championships because you want as many eyeballs as possible.

Most recent I can remember is when the Halo’s, Dodgers could’ve (and it’s a pretty reaching “could’ve”) been on a crash course to meeting in the World Series and Fox probably had to put their executives on anti-depressants.

You certainly have a point about the ratings taking a hit if there was a cross-town series. I’m not sure what the numbers were like back in 2000 when the Yankees devoured the Mets in 5 games, but New York is something of a different animal. A Nationals vs Orioles World Series would be a huge blow to the ratings, no doubt about it. But what I’m really talking about is just fan loyalty.

Kids in Chicago right now on the playgrounds are talking smack to one another because one of them is a White Sox fan and the other is a Cubs fan. The same in New York about Mets fans and Yankees fans. There are certainly a lot fewer kids in Montgomery County, Maryland right now talking about Redskins vs Ravens or Orioles vs Nationals, but when you start considering two teams with histories like Mets, Yankees, White Sox, Cubs, Jets, Giants and the like, you have generations of people who remember growing up, being teased and ridiculed for their choice of fandom, passing onto their kids not only their choice of team to root for, but also the choice of team to root against – in this case a cross-town rival (especially in the case where a person moves hundreds of miles away and the kid has no other reason that they should care about, say, The Yankees).

This might be something you’d have to experience to fully understand, but there’s definitely some anti-Terrapin / anti-Duke sentiment inside of me due to my friend from across the street growing up who over-hyped those teams and called me out for being a Michigan Wolverines fan, and I have a few fans who went through the same sort of situation regarding the Mets and the Jets.

The sentimentality’s a great aspect but mostly I encounter apathy for pseudo-crosstown rivals. Your point’s well taken in that rooting against a team because of someone else’s loathesome rooting can make it so but I think that can be outgrown. A great seed, to be sure, but at one point the nanny-nanny-boo-boo takes a backseat to more of an appreciation/admiration of and for your team.

When the Redskins and Ravens meet annually for an exhibition game it’s mostly met with apathy. Granted, because it’s a preseason meeting could be the cause for the indifference… But these two teams have never met in a meaningful game. Outside of the division and not even within the same conference ain’t helping.

The bigger issue with Redskins, Ravens and Nats, Orioles is that they’re not even the same city which reiterates a point you touched on earlier. You cited the histories (which admittedly the Ravens, and new look Nats lack) of a handful of teams that share the same city and to that point, I’ll concede that an actual rivalry may exist there. But strictly locally there’s no ire, no passion, no investment for when the two teams get together.

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I’ll let Liz have the last word, but I’ll be very interested to hear what you all think about proximity being enough to constitute a viable rivalry.

If we get 10 or more comments on this article, I’ll have a random drawing where one of the individuals will win a shirt from the GuysNation store.