The only thing as good as winning the World Series is beating New York
Is it wrong to teach your child to hate?
I actually asked myself that question a few weeks ago, pondering the programming I had instinctively, but perhaps not thoughtfully, fed into my son's brain.
I have taught my kid to hate the Yankees.
This year, I taught him to hate the White Sox, too, but that's more situational: you should hate teams that play bad defense with lummox-like power hitters who show no passion or grasp of the game's fine strategies.
Hating the Yankees, that is eternal.
It used to be said that rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel, but the Yankees have transcended even that corporate parallel: the domestic steel business has been battered by foreign competition while the Yankees buy theirs (Hideki Matsui, Jos Contraras, etc.) The Yankees are baseball's perennial overdogs, rich enough to buy their way out of trouble, New York enough to demand our attention.
When our Twins face off against New York this week, I will not be one of those Minnesota fans cowering in the corner, fretting about our 0-13 two-season record against George Steinbrenner's Borg. As a playoff team, we have a straight-up one-in-eight chance of winning the World Series -- not so good. But beating the Bronx Bombers is the only thing comparable to a World Series win. I figure we get a bonus shot at glory.
Although literary fops celebrate baseball's pastoral pleasures, one of my favorite hardball memories involves a leather throat and lots of liquor. It was 1984, a year the Yanks were in decline and the young Twins began to show the potential that would win world titles in '87 and '91. A 25-year-old with no family commitments, I hung out at the Dome a lot.
My friends and I had perfected a ballpark ritual only snickering 25-year-olds could love. We filled up our "Bar-noculars" -- yes, fake binoculars with two chambers for gin -- mixing it oh-so-craftily with the Dome's Sprite.
My pal's motto was, "gin makes you win," and it gave us a substantial shot of courage. At the first Yankee game that year, a fan, replete with "NY" cap, settled in a few seats ahead of us.
There's nothing I hate more than a local who betrays the home nine to root for the overdogs. It's weak-willed and lily-livered, one step below being a dictator's collaborator. This guy might have been a native New Yorker, but I didn't care. I bored in.
I lacked enough of a life to know the Yankees were struggling because of a bad bullpen. Fueled by juniper juice, I razzed the Yankees fan about his character, his team, everything but his mother. Being a Yankees fan -- perhaps unused to a Twins pipsqueak piping up -- he was quiet at first, then gave it back as only a New Yorker can. The Twins fans nearby shot me gray looks -- my bellowing was hardly Minnesotan -- and when the Twins fell behind, I was the perfect idiot.
But my butt was too far out there; I had to hang in. I kept up the abuse, telling him his bullpen could never hold. It didn't. The Minnesotans' looks changed from mute disapproval to surreptitious admiration. He bolted up from his seat in the 8th inning and stalked out, giving me the finger. My neighbors applauded.
Is this acceptable behavior? Yes. For I believe hating the Yankees provides the key to world peace.
Some Americans are surprised that the Iraqi people didn't greet the American military with open arms. We Yankee haters understood immediately: no one likes the fatted overlords. Hating the Yankees is to, however briefly, tap into the 90 percent of the world that can't buy its way out of trouble. If you don't understand that, you might get an $87 billion occupation bill you didn't expect.
Having prepared my son for geopolitics, we will settle on the couch and holler for crushing Yankees defeats. Go Twins!
David Brauer edits Skyway News. He was born on Long Island, but likes being a type-A person in a type-B state.