Is Division Rooting Really “Flip-Floppery”?

Matthew Yglesias, Heather Hurlburt, and Christopher Beam are all deriding Giuliani as a sports flip-flopper and panderer for stating that he is rooting for the Red Sox to win the World Series. Sayeth Beam:

Giuliani’s situational Red Sox fandom makes Romney’s abortion flip-flopping look forgivable. He might as well have said he’d ask his lawyers. Let this be a lesson: Baseball is the one issue on which you can’t be moderate. Giuliani picked the wrong time to act like one.

Look, I’m loathe to defend Giuliani on anything, but there’s not actual flip-flopping here. Let’s see what Giuliani actually said:

“I will be rooting for the Red Sox because I’m an American League fan, and my tradition has been to root for the American League team, particularly if it’s a team that beats the Yankees. And in this case, you won the division and we lost. Somehow it makes me feel better if the team that was ahead of the Yankees wins the World Series, because then I feel like, well, we’re not that bad.”

I’m not much of a sports fan, but most of the sports fans that I do know tend to follow this chain of logic when rooting in championship games. And I do as well in the few sports that I care about. I am a diehard Kansas Jayhawk fan, and during March Madness, once KU is out, I tend to root for other Big 12 teams to win, especially if that team took KU out. When it comes Super Bowl time, I almost always root for the AFC team to win, due to my past geographic associations with the Patriots and my current association with the Chiefs.

Unlike some pretty bad sports gaffes by other politicians (I’m looking at you, Governor Richardson), I don’t think this falls in the realm of sports team pandering. Look, Rudy isn’t saying that he’s a Red Sox fan here. He’s saying that he’s an American League fan (as a consequence of his Yankees fandom), and so he’s rooting for the AL team (the Red Sox) to win the World Series. That’s an entirely different thing from claiming to be a Red Sox fan.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Eric says:

    Red Sox broke the 90+ year curse against the NY Yankees while Romney was Gov. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’m not much of a sports fan, but most of the sports fans that I do know tend to follow this chain of logic when rooting in championship games

    Yup, I’m one of them, too. I generally root for the NL in baseball and the NFC in football and the SEC in college sports if the Braves, Cowboys, and Tide are out of it.

  3. Tano says:

    I find this logic odd. Then again, I am caught up on one side of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Perhaps that rivalry has a different character than just regular sports fanship.

    A Yankee sports blogger said it best.
    “Rudy is dead to me now”

  4. Eric says:

    Check out this you tube video

    Rudy Loves The Red Sox

  5. DC Loser says:

    As the T-shirt says: “I root for two teams: The Yankees and whoever is playing the Red Sox.”

  6. Brian J. says:

    I experienced this conundrum last winter. I’m a Packers fan and an NFC fan first, but a Bears fan last. What to do, what to do?

    Eventually, I had to root against the Colts and Peyton Manning because I’d hoped the Superbowl victory would remain something that differentiated pretty boy from Brett Favre.

    But the freakin’ Bears let me down the one time where their victory would have meant something positive for me.

  7. DC Loser says:

    I grew up in the Bronx during the Yankee dynasty years during the 70s. Unfortunately I was a Mets fan. You folks either don’t understand or underestimate the depth of the animosity the Yankees and Red Sox fans have for the other team. The hatred borders on the intensity of a Balkan blood feud. I cannot imagine a self-respecting New York Yankee fan EVER rooting for the Red Sox. It’s just not done. Same goes for the reverse situation. That Rudy would ever think of cheering on the Red Sox is just nuts to New Yorkers. Maybe the Orioles, but never the Bosox.