It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
Okay, so maybe it was. Maybe I had predicted this would come about every year since 2005. But still, it was always an ideal –– much like a Kobe/LeBron NBA Finals. I never entertained the possibility that it would actually come to fruition, much less that I would have to choose a side.
Well, I must have clairvoyant tendencies to some degree, because as I am penning this column my two favorite teams –– the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies –– are preparing to take the field in what promises to be a World Series to remember. Sabathia vs. Lee. A-Rod vs. Howard. Pinstripes vs. ... pinstripes?
My friend and math extraordinaire Scott Flanz attempted to explain to me how one would go about calculating the probability of these two ball clubs meeting in October. Unfortunately, I lack both the mental capacity and level of comprehension necessary to accurately convey this process here. Let’s just say I had a better chance of picking last year’s Kentucky Derby winner. Maybe then I could have used the earnings to fund a World Series trip. Sad times.
Truth be told, I should be knocking back celebratory shots right now (or popping champagne ... much classier). After all, regardless of the outcome of last night’s game, regardless of the outcome of the next seven days, at week’s end one of my teams will have won baseball’s Fall Classic.
But the fact of the matter is, I’m not shooting Patron or sipping Dom Perignon. Instead, I’m legit freaking out. How could I not be –– faced with the most daunting internal struggle ever to plague my young life?
You see, I’m a controversial figure among fellow sports fans, if only because I support two teams –– two teams that, may I point out, reside in opposing leagues. Which means, on average, they play each other in a three-game series once every two years. Three games out of 162. Every 730 days, give or take. Seriously, it’s not like I’m calling myself a Yankees and Mets fan, or claiming to straddle the White Sox-Cubs fence. Just because I haven’t journeyed to the Bronx nearly as much as I’ve braved I-95 to get to Citizens Bank Park, does not mean that I am any less of a Yankees fan. Some of the most loyal Yankee devotees I know at Cornell aren’t even from the state, yet could probably tell you more about the team than actual New Yorkers.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people refuse to listen to reason and accept the validity of my rationale.
Being a student at a public school in the Philadelphia suburbs, I was constantly mocked for liking the Yankees by my classmates, who vehemently accused me of “jumping on the bandwagon.” Now, seeing as how this was 2004, does that not seem like an arbitrary year to jump on the bandwagon, considering the Yankees a) hadn’t won a World Series since 2000 b) were coming off an October loss to the Marlins in 2003, and c) had just suffered the most embarrassing collapse in the history of sports by losing to the Red Sox in the ALCS?
The only “bandwagon” I jumped on was the A-Rod bandwagon, and as of nine months ago, I was the only one (besides Madonna) still on it.
In all honesty, I should tell them to look in the mirror now; of all the self-proclaimed Phillies fans who graduated from my high school within the past two years, 90 percent of them wouldn’t be able to name the team’s fifth starter. If polled, they would probably tell you my column moniker –– Defensive Indifference –– refers to a cocktail.
If it wasn’t the bandwagon allegation, then it was people telling me I only liked the Yankees because I thought Derek Jeter was hott. While I will be the first to admit that No. 2 is one of the most attractive men ever to put on (or take off) a uniform, if appearances were so important to me I would be wearing a Tom Brady jersey in my mugshot. In case this point hasn’t been made abundantly clear by my previous columns: I would rather be one of Gerard Butler’s targeted victims in Law Abiding Citizen, than be photographed in a Patriots jersey.
The best insult I’ve received, however, came in response to a comment I left on a friend’s (I use the term lightly. He is a Red Sox fan, after all) Facebook status: “To the person who posted above me: Anybody who has two teams clearly isn’t a legit fan.”
When I read something this absurd, all I can do is raise my eyebrow at the offending party and give my trademark “I’m quietly judging you” look. Tom Cruise would be proud.
It’s not even productive to defend myself, because anyone who would volunteer such a ludicrous statement clearly is “not worth the chair that [they’re] sitting on,” to quote Lance Armstrong. What I will say is this: You want to tell me I haven’t earned my credibility as a fan, fine, go ahead. But first, tell me what you’ve done to earn yours.
Considering the way people respond to my supporting two teams, you’d think I had committed some cardinal offense –– such as replacing “one of Gerard Butler’s targeted victims” with “one of Michael Vick’s dogs” in the Patriots quip above. Too soon? Maybe.
Nevertheless, the deluded masses do have a point when they say that I have to choose one team to back in the World Series. Therein lies my conundrum, although it’s admittedly not as problematic as the one tormenting Mets fans right now.
When both clubs squared off this past May, I cheered for the Yankees, if only because the Phillies had a commanding lead in the NL East at the time, while the Bronx Bombers were still vying with the rival BoSox for AL East supremacy.
But the stakes have changed, and circumstances must be taken into account.
If this were any other year, I would support the Phillies, hands-down. But the fact remains that the Phils won it all in 2008, while the Yanks haven’t won in nearly a decade. People hate the Yankees because they were once a dynasty that dominated baseball to an extent that no team in history had done before. Enemies of the “Evil Empire” contend that the sport loses some of its luster when one team wins all the time. In keeping with that logic, if the Phillies repeat as world champions –– something no team has done since the Yankees three-peated in 1998-2000 –– they will have the early makings of a dynasty. And no one seems to care for dynasties.
Plus, it must be said, I like the new-look Yankees; the camaraderie, the shaving-cream-pies-to-the-face after a walk-off, the fact that they appear genuinely happy to be playing baseball.
On the other hand, the Eagles, Sixers and Flyers haven’t inspired much confidence as of late, thus the Phillies may be Philadelphia’s only shot at maintaining credibility in the sporting community.
Then again, it would give me immense satisfaction to observe how my former high school acquaintances –– the real bandwagon fans who take over my newsfeed with their pseudo pro-Phillies statuses –– cope with a Philadelphia loss in the World Series. Seriously, where were you guys in 2007 when the Phillies became the first franchise in the history of professional sports to record 10,000 losses? Heck, where were you from 2002-04, when the Phillies occupied the dregs of the NL East? Maybe it’s just the elitist in me, but I can’t help but ask: what claim do you have to call yourselves Phillies fans?
However, I cannot allow a handful of misguided poseurs to detract from my devotion to this team.
But then there’s the A-Rod factor. To root against him would just be ... un-American ... especially when considering all the personal demons he’s had to overcome to finally perform at the Postseason level. It gives me hope that a certain U.S. tennis player, who happens to share the same nickname, can also find a way to come through on the big stage.
At the same time, the Phillies seem to epitomize that Michael Jordan quote, in that they “have failed over and over and over again ... and that is why [they] succeed.”
I won’t speculate on the state of George Steinbrenner’s health, but I’m thinking perhaps we should err on the side of caution and not tempt fate. Which is why 2009 would be a very convenient time for No. 27. Furthermore, there’s no question that the Yankees were the better team this season –– 103 wins kind of speaks for itself. Whether they are the best team in October, however, remains to be seen. As many sports analysts before me have pointed out, baseball’s Postseason is the most difficult to predict.
Now, this may very well come as a shock, but through this convoluted train of schizophrenic reasoning, I have, surprisingly enough, reached a decision ... and my World Series endorsement goes to the boys from South Philly. Because of Harry Kalas. Because New York still has the Giants, Jay-Z and The Times (for now). Because, when it’s all said and done, I’m a born and raised Philadelphian who bleeds red and white pinstripes.