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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

Commentary: Where have all the Rangers fans gone

By Casey Michel     5/15/08 7:00pm

When I first got to Texas, images of 10-gallon hats, five-pound belt buckles and 24/7 barbecuing were floating through my head. The theme song to that mental slideshow was "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone," sung by '90s-crooner Paula Cole, if only because I was in a soft-rock mood, and it had "cowboys" in the title.Of course, much has changed since then - I now know barbecues come and go as the rain pleases, and those belt buckles only really exist in the realm of Wild West dance clubs. Cole's song still comes on every once in a while, between Paul Simon and Pearl Jam, but after a couple semesters of meet-and-greet, the lyrics in my mind now say, "Where have all the Texas Rangers fans gone?"

As mythical as Sasquatch and as oxymoronic as a cuddly T-Rex, a Texas Ranger fan apparently resides solely in my imagination. Ever since swimming in the humidity to my first class, the closest I've ever come to seeing a Rangers fan is on a rare highlight on SportsCenter, although they'll only show it if the Rangers are playing some East Coast team. One thing I'll tell my grandkids is that during my time at Rice, where ice is just another form of bling, I somehow saw more Dallas Stars jerseys than Rangers uniforms.

Sure, one could make the argument that since Houston is hundreds of miles south of the Big D, there's no reasonable expectation for Rangers fans to call the Space City home. But look at it this way: From Chicago to Calgary to Cambodia, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox fans live and breathe their teams. Go to any Tampa Bay Devil Rays game, and you'll see why Carl Crawford is nagging Hank Steinbrenner for a check - everyone in the Tropicana Stadium stands is pinstriped.

And it's not as if it's a winning tradition that gathers the masses. Whenever the Seattle Mariners host the Toronto Blue Jays, the amount of ornithological-inspired jerseys always outnumbers the number of overpriced sushi stands littering the concourse. Even the Cubbies, baseball's version of the Washington Generals, manage to fill the Wrigley Field bleachers.

The Rangers are caught in this monotonous, forgettable cycle that generally haunts the Baltimore Orioles or the Cincinnati Reds - they somehow find an ingenious way to suck but are never rewarded with a draft-pick high enough to reverse their fortunes. Plus, when they finally strike gold, like they did with do-it-all shortstop Michael Young, they spoil his talents by surrounding him with aging pitchers and Milton Bradley, best known for tearing his ACL during the climax of an anti-umpire tirade. You know it's bad when AARP-eligible Nolan Ryan is the best pitcher on staff.

So if winning isn't everything, then, like real estate, is it "location, location, location?" In Texas, it's been said there are two sports: Football and spring football. Therefore, it's only natural to think that baseball would take a hit in the Lone Star State. But if you think some pigskin has detracted from the Rangers' fanbase, just look at Rice, where baseball coach Wayne Graham's talents trump all others.

Perhaps the Rangers' 2008 slogan sums it up: "You Could Use Some Baseball." I'm not sure if this comes with a picture of septuagenarian owner Tom Hicks in a nurse outfit - certainly wouldn't hurt the female fanbase - but really? Is this quasi-suggestion, said with a shrug and follow-up "or we could just watch a movie," really what their 2008 campaign will focus on?

You can't fault the Rangers for being realistic. They've have won a grand total of one playoff game since the organization arose in 1961, which happens to be the same number of times they have won more than 90 games. This type of futility has only been seen in French military history, but even the cheese-lovers had Napoleon. Who did the Rangers have?

Oh, that's right - Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez and George W. Bush. The first had Finger-gate, the second asked for $12 million extra just so he could double Kevin Garnett's contract and the third owned the lowest approval rating since Hiroshima.


I guess I can understand why there aren't a lot of Rangers fans.

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