Monday, October 16, 2006

Dean calls me out

Dean Esmay has publicly called me out. And when Dean calls me out, that means I need to step up to the plate. And take a swing.

And stop making stupid puns, and instead predict who's going to win the Mets-Cards National League Championship Series, as Dean has requested.

Dean predicts the Mets. And last night they tied up the series, so perhaps he's right. But I have a confession to make: I haven't a clue, because I haven't followed baseball for two years.

How can that be? After all, aren't I a baseball fan? Yes indeed, I am, as you can see by this post of mine, which Dean may have recalled when he issued his challenge. I learned to love the game when my son insisted on playing it and I was forced to watch it and learn its rules and lore--the beauty of a team sport that highlights individual moments: waiting, tension, drama, and then the sudden explosion of action. The oxymoronic but satisfying fact that baseball is the most quantifiable and statistics-bound of all sports, and yet at the same time the most graceful.

The arc of the home run swing. The satisfying thwack of a wooden bat hitting the ball in just the right spot at just the right time--even though if you or I were standing in the batter's box we'd hardly even see it, but merely hear it whiz by and then pop! into the catcher's glove. The slide that kicks up the dust. The swipe of the tag. The astounding, bounding leap to catch the ball that would otherwise go into the stands.

I definitely did my time as a baseball aficionado. From the 70s onward I was that saddest of sacks, the Red Sox fan, spring and summer elation turning to fall dejection with the same regularity as the leaves' transformation from green to orange to brown to fallen.

How can that be, when I'm a native New Yorker, and the Red Sox's nemesis was always the Yankees? It's true that I grew up in New York in the Yankees' classic heyday, but they held no interest for me. I didn't like them for precisely the same reason most people rooted for them, which was that they were perennial winners. To me, that was no fun. There was no drama, no pathos.

I wanted a rags-to-riches story, not a riches-to-greater-riches to ever-more-boring-riches one. And I got it in my twenties when I moved to Boston and found the Red Sox.

It was love at first sight, and I kept my vigil till that fabled fall of 2004, when the impossible happened and the Red Sox won the World Series, handily. All of Boston--and most of New England north of that epic Yankees/Sox dividing line of Hartford--breathed a sigh (or shouted a shout) of blessed relief.

Ever since then, I haven't really followed the game. And I never really followed the National League at all (shh! don't tell Dean!)

So the Mets and the Cards don't mean a whole lot to me, I'm afraid. But I know who I'd be rooting for, if I were rooting. It would be the Mets, because they're the underdogs. And I'm a sucker for underdogs.

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