Life is like baseball. Sometimes God throws you a fat pitch, and you hit it out of the park. Sometimes he puts a little something on it, and you have to fight it off, foul it back, and wait for another more to your liking. Sometimes he uncorks a nasty spitter, and you swing and miss and look foolish.
But it could be worse.
Last night, at the World Series, God beaned me.
I could see it coming but there was nothing I could do about it. I was frozen at the plate.
To say I am a Yankee fan is to seriously understate the dimensions of the pathology that consumes me during baseball season. I grew up in The Bronx in the 1950s and 1960s, mere blocks from Yankee Stadium. Love for The Yankees defined my childhood. I saw Mantle and Maris play. One of the enduring tragedies of my life is that my love for the game began two years after my father somehow scored a pair of tickets to the fifth game of the 1956 World Series. I had been given a chance to go with him but instead chose to see "Snow White" with my mom. My dad was alone in the stands when Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.
I have followed the Yankees for forty years. Their years of greatness measurably improved the quality of my life. Their years of buffoonish ineptitude have stolen joy to a degree only a rabid sports fan could understand. Devotion to a team has been compared to devotion to a religion.
All that time God was watching, and plotting. He tests us, you know.
I have of course been watching every World Series game this year; I cheered lustily as the Yankees won games one and two.
Then came game three, last night. The beanball.
The Yankees were behind 5-1 in the early innings, and then came back in dramatic fashion to win in the bottom of the tenth. I was happy, I guess.
I mean, of course I was happy, I suppose.
I was not totally, ecstatically happy. Here is why:
Two weeks ago, I scored tickets to Game Five.
So here is what God has wrought. He has created a situation to plumb my soul. It is a dilemma of love and faith. It is Abraham and Isaac and a knife.
Whom do I root for tonight?
My self-interest is at war with my faith.
To root against The Yankees because of my own self-interest is morally indefensible. I know that and God knows that. It would be like rooting for your own child to die so you could save money on college.
I can tell myself I am rooting for the Yankees. But what happens when the game is on? What impulses will emerge, within my brain? A man can't control what is at the center of his soul. This must be how people learn they are gay.
God is watching.
I wanted to talk to a theologian, but couldn't find none on short notice. Eventually I settled for my friend Marc, on the grounds that he is 1) Jewish, and therefore ridden with angst and guilt, and 2) a Yankee fan.
Marc said I have no choice but to root for the Braves, but that I must simultaneously punish myself. In other words, root for the Braves but do penance for my disgraceful act.
"You have to do that awful "Tomahawk Chop" every time the Braves are threatening to score. You have to sing that wailing chant. You have to paint your face like an Indian. You have to open your front door so the whole neighborhood can hear you."
That was his prescription.
I can't do it. I just cannot.
Tell me what to do tonight.
Washington Post staff writer Gene Weingarten asked readers their advice on his ethical dilemma. Should the lifelong Yankees fan, who has tickets for Game 5 of the series, root for the Braves to win tonight so that he can use his tickets. By 5 p.m., Weingarten had received several hundred pieces of advice. Here is a sampling:
My advice? That's easy. Relax. Clemens is on the mound tonight . . . make sure you pack clean underwear!
-- Emily Bennett
Hope that tonight's game goes into extra innings, and is still tied after 20 or 25 innings, when the umpires decide to suspend play until tomorrow night, just before scheduled Game 5. You get to see the final inning(s) of game 4, and if the Yankees win, and there's no need for Game 5, you've still hit the jackpot.
-- Larry H. Slesinger
Save the ticket to show future generations and tell them about the year that the Yankees didn't need the fifth game. Rooting for the Braves is close to death.
-- Kristen Knox
First, watch "Gandhi" with Ben Kingsley. Then go down to Yankee Stadium, find a boy whose parents are gone, who is rooting for the Braves and take him home and raise him as your own . . . and raise him as a Braves fan.
1) Set VCR for 6 to 8 hrs so you can record game 4
2) Go out tonight, but don't go to a sports bar, or a friend's house. Go to
the nearest soup kitchen, or help a homeless person, or just walk through a shopping mall and smile at everyone. Perhaps do a week's worth of grocery shopping, but let the person with less items go ahead of you in the checkout line.
3) When you do go home (at midnight) do not tune into the game or watch the news.
Tomorrow when you get up, there will be a game 5. You will have tickets.
-- Helge Holcomb
You should definitely root for the Braves. Fortunately for you, your analogy was faulty. In your essay, you say that to root for the Yankees is similar to hoping your child will die so you can save on college tuition.
Wrong. I would suggest two more appropriate analogies to justify your apparent treachery: to root for the Yankees is like hoping your child will flunk math one term and be forced to learn the value of study so that his/her next A is all the sweeter. A child who never experiences failure will be less equipped to deal with the inevitable bump along the way, without the benefit of strengthening his character to appreciate the value of success. Or how about: a parent whose child never experiences failure cannot appreciate the value of the child's successes, and puts unsustainable pressure on the child over the long-run. Then the child suffers irreparable psychological damage, and turns into the Red Sox.
(Fair disclosure: tortured Sox fan here)
Enjoy the game.
-- Naomi Gendler Camper
You shouldn't have to carry all this burden by yourself. Send me the tickets. That way, you can root for the Yankees in Game Four, and should they lose, you'll be free of any lingering doubt that you somehow contributed to the outcome. You'll have to let go to be free. It's the only way. You'll thank me for this later.
-- M.M. Manring
Scalp the tickets to someone who doesn't follow baseball and tell them you are giving them a great deal.
-- Wendell Armstrong