The Captains Sports Week: The Overpaid And The Underdog

While I was watching Wrestlemania last month for the first time in a decade, I remembered what I used to love so much about the WWE. Pro Wrestling spells out who the good guys and bad guys are in every match and then let’s me decide which side I chose to cheer. Most “real” sports do not give me this clear of a choice but I wish they did. So instead I’ve found myself creating these choices by designating any given sports team as either the Overpaid or the Underdog. This has made my sports watching infinitely more enjoyable as of late.

As I’ve said many times before, St. Louis sports teams only win as Underdogs. The Cardinals were Underdogs when they won the World Series in 2006 & 2011, and but lost in 2004 because Boston was the Underdog. Same with the Rams. They won the Superbowl in 1999 as Underdogs and then lost in 2002 because Boston was the Underdog. Even though the Cardinals are the defending champions they’ve managed to keep an Underdog status in 2012. Everyone outside of St. Louis discounted the Cardinals chances this year for numerous reasons: Losing Pujols & LaRussa, aging players prone to injury, the difficulty of winning the World Series back to back, etc. I for one was glad the Redbirds were labeled as Underdogs yet again. I think it gives the Cardinals a real chance to make it back to the World Series.

On the flip side, I usually love to cheer against the Overpaid. The Yankees are the perennial Overpaid team and I’ve always enjoyed cheering against them for that reason. But then again being overpaid doesn’t guarantee I will cheer against a team. The Phillies and the Heat are both good examples of Overpaid teams I like, just as the Royals and the Blackhawks are Underdog teams that I dislike. The point here being that by labeling a team Overpaid or Underdog doesn’t mean I prefer one, it just makes it easier to decide whether I’m cheering for the good guys or the bad guys.

This was the lens that I used to look at day two of #SportsWeek and it made for some interesting observations:

The twin towers of the Overpaid, the Yankees and the Red Sox, both stared out today with a .500 record and tied for last place in the AL East. They have the 1st and 3rd highest payrolls in baseball and they still suck. As Nelson would say


The Overpaid Heat beat the Underdog Pacers to win their playoff series. I’ve been cheering for the Miami since they won a Championship five days after I moved to Florida, back when they were Underdogs. But they have been clearly Overpaid ever since King James took his talents to South Beach, and I’ve cheered for them even more since. I’ve always like LeBron as a player, but I never liked the Underdog teams he played for in Cleveland. Moving to Miami made him embrace being the bad guy, and it’s been entertaining to watch. And these badguys took a 3-2 lead last nite over the loveable Underdog Pacers much to my delight.

The best story of the day was Underdog Adam Wainwright pitching a four hit shutout against the Padres. Adam has been an Underdog for a couple of years now, ever since he came in 2nd for the CY Young in 2009 when he clearly should’ve won. Losing all of 2011 to injury and missing a chance at another World Series ring was a real shame, and he started the year as tough luck Underdog trying to regain his form. It’s been mostly tough to watch Adam pitch this year, especially his awful performance on Opening Day in St. Louis. Watching him dominate a soft hitting team like the Padres was a real treat for nine innings this evening. He struck out nine batters and impressively never threw more than fifteen pitches in any inning. He made a one run lead last through seven innings before the offense gave him enough breathing room to finish out the game and let the bullpen get some needed rest. As they say around these parts, Waino was Bueno.

And finally, this year’s poster boy for the Overpaid, Albert Pujols, hit his fourth homerun of the year and the Angels won 5-0. Watching Pujols struggle and get heckled as being Overpaid has been extremely amusing this year. This transformation has turned him back into a player I enjoy watching again. When Pujols first came up with the Cardinals, he was a great Underdog. He was stuck playing right field when the Cardinals signed ultra Overpaid Tino Martinez to play first base despite winning Rookie of the Year. Pujols stayed the Underdog when he kept losing out for the MVP vote to the clearly juicing Barry Bonds. But right around the time he started winning MVP awards he started giving off the self-righteous vibe that makes it hard be an Underdog. After he won a World Series ring in 2006, he spent the next five years as the smug superstar. He wanted it to be known that he was the best, and that he was above the rest of this bullshit. His move to California was all about finally being paid the most to be the best, which has made his early struggles so interesting to watch. All the Angels fans and players had this reaction to paying someone a quarter of a billion dollars to hit under .200



Whereas the rest of the nation felt little sympathy for the Overpaid Superstar and his struggles. As my sister would say



But for me, I’m glad to see Pujols as Overpaid. I think his pompous, holier-than-thou demeanor makes Albert a great bad guy. In Pro Wrestling they call that move the heel turn, and I think it’s perfectly describes the Pujols situation. And now that he’s the bad guy, I’m ready to cheer for him again. So here’s hoping the bad man on the team of Angels keeps giving the fans something to hate.


The Captain

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