I have finally been forced to confront my greatest baseball-related fear. My two most hated rivals are facing off in the World Series.
There is no avenue of escape. There is no more avoiding the inevitable. One by one, challengers to these two teams were dismantled and dispatched. Both teams rolled through the playoffs, marching inexorably closer to my nightmare scenario.
It was clear for a while that this might happen, so I, like many other Mets fans, have had time to process it. To weigh very carefully where our rooting interest will lie -- and make no mistake, Mets fans will be watching.
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees will be facing off to determine this year's champion. After much deliberation, I have decided to root for the Yankees.
Man, that is hard to say.
I think that Matt Cerrone over at metsblog.com has an interesting take on the Mets fan's choice. He said that to him, "in the end, for Mets fans, the choice is personal, and basically comes down to your typical relationship with Yankee fans." And that, to a certain extent, is true(1).
But I think he buries the TRUE reason for his and my choice in the next line. He explains that although Yankee fans "boast of their success and laugh at our failure... typically, one has nothing to do with the other." Exactly.
Sure, we share the city with the Yankees. And sure, when the Yankees stomp the Mets, we hear about it ALL DAY LONG. And yes, we have to read the newspapers, and listen to talk radio, and all of that. But in the end, the Yankees have NOTHING to do with the Mets. The Phillies, however, do.
The Phillies are our natural rival. The Phillies and Mets play 17 times a year, and the Phillies want to beat our brains in. The Phillies won OUR division and took OUR playoff spot. The Phillies dominate us, they eat our lunch, they own us at the moment.
The Yankees, aside from a coincidence on geography, are irrelevant. I'm a Mets FAN. I'm a nobody-hater. And that's why I have to root for the Yankees.
Matt Cerrone eventually draws a distinction between Yankees and Phillies fans, saying that Yankees fans are not "arrogant," while "under no circumstance will a Phillies fan ever take pity on the Mets." I don't think that is necessary.
The Yankees are like that annoying brother that bothers us and we share a house with and that we want to strangle sometimes. But the Phillies are like a criminal prowling our streets. The Phillies wish to harm us -- and they should -- because it's US or THEM. Only one can win.
So on Wednesday, I'm going to be rooting for the Yankees. In a way, I think it might even feel good. But there is only one way to find out -- and when the first pitch is thrown, I'll see if I can actually root for the pinstripes.
(1) For years I have tried to explain to people the cyclical nature of the relationship between Mets and Yankees fans in New York. Outsiders never understand, and even those of us who have been in New York all these years sometimes fail to grasp why their feelings toward the other team changes so drastically.
For me, it has always been that the MORE success the Yankees have, the more unbearable and unsufferable their fans become. That might be because with more success, fair-weather fans and jocks and idiots will come out of the woodwork and say things like "COUNT DA RINGZZZ" and other such nonsense. This, as opposed to when the Yankees hit some difficulties (well, relatively speaking) and the casual idiot fan loses interest. Only then, do respectable fans remain.
That has been my experience. Through my formative years, I had no particular issue with the Yankees or their fans. When they won in 1996, it was not a disaster. However, I was in high school in Manhattan for their three-peat in 1998, 1999, and 2000, culminating with a win over, of course, the Mets. During that three year stretch, and the years following it, Yankee fans seemed to be the most obnoxious, arrogant, stupid fans on the planet. I was really awakening in my baseball consciousness at that point, and I thought I hated the Yankees more than any entity on the planet.
But then something weird happened. They lost the World Series for the second time in three years in 2003. In 2004, they suffered the worst choke in the history of baseball, losing to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. And things changed.
There seemed to be less Yankee fans roaming the streets in September and October. The ones I encountered started becoming... dare I say, almost human. By the time 2006 came along, Yankee fans almost seemed like Mets fans. The Yankees were still an unstoppable beast in the American League, winning 95 games or more almost every season -- but the people following that team were beginning to act like baseball fans again, instead of entitled pr*cks.
I imagine that it will be like that again someday, when the Yankees rattle off a few years of dominance again in the playoffs. Perhaps roles will be reversed some time, and Mets fans will be flush with victory and become overbearing and insufferable.
But right now, I respect the Yankees. I respect their fans. And I always, in good times and in bad, love and respect the people who I know who are Yankee fans but do not fall victim to what I discussed above. In fact, the majority of my close friends who follow baseball are very reasonable, normal, intelligent baseball people and also Yankee fans.