Let's play some baseball mad libs: Dial back the clock exactly 20 years, and anywhere you see the words "Texas Rangers," insert "Atlanta Braves." Watch and tingle with deja vu:
ESPN's Jayson Stark isn't making it any easier for a Texas Rangers franchise relatively new to the pomp and circumstance of the World Series. His Thursday column positioned the ball club as not only fighting for its first world title in franchise history, but also "the heart of Texas."
That means that aside from stealing back a title from the pesky Cardinals in St. Louis either tonight or Friday, the Rangers must somehow command the attention of the nation's largest state in the lower 48, a culture that's practically self-branded themselves as the sole property of Big King Football.
These are the Texas Rangers, who Stark points out in many words have sucked to the point of invisibility:
We're talking about a franchise that took 36 seasons just to win a postseason game, if you count its 11 seasons disguised as the Washington Senators.
We're talking about a franchise that took 50 seasons -- and four trips to October -- just to win a postseason series.
We're talking about a franchise that has lost more games (4,270) since its first year of existence, in 1961, than any other team in baseball -- and would be 704 games behind the Yankees in the standings if this last half-century had been one giant season.
This is the greater Dallas community, which Stark takes a hunk of grafs to remind us is NOT New York, Boston, Chicago or St. Louis, but a sun belt market barren of hyperbolic, wailing shrills of fans chalking up their team's woes to conspiracies, curses and acts of God:
We've seen no succession of front-page stories in the newspapers about kids and parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, all weeping in unison over the end of generations of heartfelt suffering.
We've seen no outbreak of "NOW I CAN DIE IN PEACE" T-shirt shops.
And we haven't unearthed a single Texan who has stepped forward to take credit for personally ending this long title-devoid nightmare by digging up Ruben Sierra's piano from the bottom of the Rio Grande.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
It's just different. That's all. And that's fine.
("And that's fine" = the faintest praise of permission to damn you with, baseball neutral Texas!)
Finally, Braves fans can find the most similarities in Texas' nuevo riche wellspring of fans:
Remember that, for the most part -- except possibly among 12-year-olds -- there is no such thing as a "lifelong Rangers fan." Well, just to be clear here, we should probably say there's no such thing as a lot of them, anyway.
"Yeah, there are," said pitcher C.J. Wilson. "They hit me up on Facebook sometimes."
"A couple of people have told me that," said the Rangers' all-time hits leader, Michael Young. "But mostly, they tell me how much they've enjoyed this club, and the last couple of years. And I totally understand that."
Let me catch up with this logic: So when a team is horrific always, it yields no loyalty, yet when it suddenly gains sustained life and produces exciting results, young people gain interest? It's... it's like you have to play good baseball to earn and keep fans, tradition be damned.
I hope no one on the North Side is reading this. Revelatory to their very fabric of being, to say the least.