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The Algorithm

May 25, 2018

Lying With Exact Figures, or, Patti's Blog

Whether you are a sportsball fan or you are just trying to be social, you will sometimes find yourself watching a game without a dog in the fight.  Rather than pick a team at random, and then be called out for inconsistency, I recommend you develop your personal algorithm for where to throw your allegiance. This provides you with a much more effective way to defend your choices than simply shrugging.  Here’s what I’ve developed over time.


Cover all the Sportsball Bases

In ice hockey, this was so very easy.  In my household, without a horse in the race, you root for the northernmost team, and never for an expansion team.  Then the Vegas Golden Knights happened and that all went to hell. But what happens with Vegas stays with Vegas so I’m sticking to the algorithm with that one exception.  As a Washington Capitals fan, there is, of course, the Pittsburgh addendum. Always root against the Pens. Easy, clean, no complication.

Growing up in Cleveland, the football algorithm closely paralleled the ice hockey math above.  Without a monkey in the circus, the algorithm is north over south, east over west, always against Pittsburgh and Oakland.  (Wow, I’ve been training to root against Pittsburgh sportsball my whole life.) Never expansion teams. Then the Browns themselves technically became an expansion team and my new “home team” has a racist name, and everything is political and concussed and now I’m pissed at football in general and don’t care anymore. With the Superbowl Exception because that’s a social event and I’m nothing if not social.

I don’t follow basketball until it is time to watch LeBron in the playoffs, meaning for most of the season I don’t  have a fly in the ointment, so I’ll defer here to the “be a good sport” rules below.

NCiB listeners know that my loyalties are spread out a little in the world of baseball.  Rooting for your local team is always the right thing to do, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of a team that was previously local to you.  The Cleveland Baseball team will always be near and dear to my heart, but the Fightin’ Franconas have not been near to my house for half of my life.  I moved to our nation’s capital in the pre-Nationals years so not only did the Baltimore Orioles become my home team, but I even named my daughter after their ballpark.  Now the Nats are my guys, but I’m still mostly all in for the other two. So how does this work? Pretty easily, actually.

The National League is very clear cut. Always the Nationals. Always against the Braves. Always against the Marlins. Baseball is a wonderful world in which to hold a grudge.  I don’t mock the Marlins only because of Jeter, that’s amatuer hour. My disdain dates back twenty years to the 1997 World Series. The Braves grudge is even older. 1995 World Series. It is completely fair, and highly recommended, that you work historical grudges into your algorithm (note the words “Pittsburgh” and “Oakland” cited earlier).  

In the American League, I root separately for the Cleveland Team and the Os.  When I go to a ballpark to see my two AL teams play each other, I root for whichever team calls the ballpark I’m visiting home. My kid is all Os in that case, and when I ask her about it she just says, “You did this to me.”  When I don’t have a bear in that woods, there are two teams. Yankees and anybody but the Yankees. If I don’t have the Evil Empire to root against, it is more mercenary. Which team’s result will help my faves in the standings?  Alternatively, I can just root for individual boyfriends or for the success of my Fantasy Teams. Sometimes I just like to root for the underdog in the name of keeping everyone humble.


Be a Good Sport

When you are visiting a city and decide to take in a sportsball event even though you don’t have a rabbit in that hutch, the Be a Good Sport rules apply.  Root for the home team, people. You are a guest. If you are in fact watching your team in an away park, you can still be a good sport by rooting for your team and your players but not against the home team and players.  Make friends with the people sitting near you in either case.  The reverse is also true -- please welcome fans of the away team into your own ballpark and model that same good behavior.  These folks are in the park because they love the sport, and they are dropping cash into your local economy. If they are jerks, however, you are free to wither them with the “Who raised you?” glare.

What about watching sportsball in a friend’s home?  If they have a bat in the belfry and you don’t, throw in with your host.  You are a guest. If your team is the OTHER team, or if your host’s team is the Yankees, root for your guys nicely following the always positive, never negative in public rules.  If you really don’t care, endear yourself to one and all by being that friend that goes to the kitchen to replenish everyone’s adult beverages so they don’t miss the game, and applaud great plays no matter who makes them.

What about when your dear friend, let’s call her “Pottymouth,” invites you to her home to watch her Red Sox play your Cleveland Baseball Team?  You are the visitor going to the equivalent of her home field. Bring the avocados, wit, and charm, direct all of your yelling at the game and not each other,  and remain Best Baseball Friends Forever.


Tell us your Sportsball algorithm.  Show your work.