Rooting for the lesser of two evils

It just doesn’t seem fair. I am a good person, I give to charity; babies and small animals love me. I am also a good baseball fan. I hold Red Sox season tickets, I keep score at games and I go to rainy April games against the Devil Rays. While friends of mine have jumped on and off the bandwagon so many times I swear they must have broken ankles, I have stood faithfully by my team, knowing that one day all my dedication will pay off.

Well, I am starting to get annoyed. Its been 82 years since the Boston Red Sox won a World Series. That’s two World Wars, 14 presidents and 22 Olympic Games. And because of this, I just can’t get myself too excited to watch two New York teams that have each devastated my team in the past duke it out in the Big Apple.

Isn’t it cruel to force a Boston fan to root for the lesser of these two evils? On the one hand, there’s the Yankees. Being from Boston there are three things that you are raised to hate – Los Angeles, the letter R, and the Yankees. On the other hand there’s the Mets. I still can’t hear the words Bill and Buckner back to back without cringing. In this Subway Series between the Yankees and the Mets, what’s a Red Sox fan to do?

My first instinct was to hop on the Seven train and root for the Mets. After all, if it weren’t for the Yankees, Boston could at least be in the playoffs. Besides, the Mets were the scrappy underdogs, and I admit that those Ya Gotta Believe signs in the stands at Shea Stadium really got to me. But before I bought my Baby Benny Beanie Baby, my Jay Payton jersey and my orange and blue foam hand to wave at the TV screen, two things happened that made me want to hop off the Seven and ride the Four train all the way to the Bronx.

The first incident happened after the Mets lost game two Sunday night and it seemed all had lost hope and conceded to the inevitability of another Yankee sweep in October. A Mets announcer, taking a momentary time-out from wallowing in the misery of the moment, pointed out that the Mets had been two games down in 1986 only to come back to win the World Series against Boston in seven games. Then, he mentioned the name. First name and last name back-to-back in the same sentence with the words World Series, game six and Red Sox lose. Well that just ticked me off.

Second, and more importantly, in a desperate attempt to avoid reading Moby Dick for a few more hours, I turned on ESPN Classic at 2 a.m. and started watching a biography on the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio. Suddenly the magic and mystery of the great ball player and his great ball club overwhelmed me.

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you? asked Paul Simon as clips of DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak flashed across the screen. Joltin’ Joe inspired a nation, his streak giving baseball fans a thin ray of hope in their world filled with hardship and depression. The Yankees inspired a nation, providing a glimpse of perfection in a truly imperfect world.

Thanks to the Red Sox and their brilliant trading strategies (ah, sarcasm), the Yankees play in the House that Ruth built, continuing his legend with every new season, creating a dynasty that has survived World Wars, presidencies and Olympiads. A dynasty started by Babe Ruth and continued by DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle – I could go on and on. Can we add Derek Jeter, Orlando Hernandez, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill to that list? Maybe, maybe not. But until Tuesday night, those names led the present Yankees to a record 14-straight World Series wins.

So now I am excited for the conclusion of the World Series and I’m excited for the Yankees. I like to justify it in these terms – it’s not so much that this Boston fan is rooting for the New York Yankees, the ultimate Red Sox enemy. Rather, I am rooting for the tradition and majesty of baseball and the New York Yankees embody those qualities. Maybe I do believe in curses. After all, it has only been 82 years and the Red Sox are still playing in the House that Ruth was sold from. Hey, call up John Harrington, there’s a good argument for a new ball park.

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