The Dodgers were the only team to sweep their way into a League Championship Series this year. We've earned the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, which augurs horribly not only because of the legendary jinx, but also because the last cover of a current Dodger player was Kevin Brown in 1999. And we all know how that one turned out.
And then, over on ESPN, I see this:
And now, I'm scared.
I've always been a huge proponent of exceeding lowered expectations. When expectations get too high, there's too much downside risk relative to upside reward. If one can keep expectations low, exceeding them brings a whole cornucopia of positive emotions, ranging from pleasant surprise to unbridled joy. This strategy works in managing one's career; it works in marriage; it works in life.
And here come the Dodgers, suddenly the darling of four out of five ESPN pundits to win the NLCS against Philadelphia (despite the fact that AccuScore has Philly at a decided advantage in Game 1). The Dodgers were left for dead by all by 14 of the 18 ESPN pundits once the playoffs began--and this includes being unpicked by three of the four pundits who can't even afford a mugshot.
You remember the arguments heard one week ago. The NL West was weak this year, the divisional competition stunk, the Dodgers can't hit, they play horribly on the road, the veterans are brittle and slowing and the youngsters undisciplined and spoiled, and LA fans leave too early and get there too late to care. Good luck against the Cubs, you pesky Dodgers, but don't be playing any long-playing records.
And, against those expectations, we won. We beat the Cubs. The team didn't get ahead of itself (perhaps stirred by Derek Lowe's pre-Game 3 imploring to the team to close the series out and not give Chicago a chance to believe it could win the series), the players were intense and charged, and the fans ended up happy.
Now, people are picking us to win. Against a great Phillies team, armed with solid starting pitching in Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, a strong bullpen with Brad Lidge closing, and a daunting balanced lineup of hitters with league home run champ Ryan Howard and NLDS grand slammer Shane Victorino. Oh yeah, and the Phillies have home-field advantage.
I felt a lot more comfortable when we were safely flying under the radar. This is much, much more of a nervous feeling. And I don't like it.
Don't believe the hype, Dodgers. Play like everyone's against you, and no one believes you can do it. It will be a lot easier to focus, and evoke a lot more euphoria when we win.
Let's go, Dodgers!