The distance between Olympic Stadium here and Yankee Stadium in New York may be fewer than 500 miles, but it seems like light years.
If the Montreal Expos meet the New York Yankees in the World Series, it will be a collision of cultural temperaments: congeniality against combativeness, enthusiasm against beleaguered satiety, and a sophisticated, yet fresh French-Canadian smile against a jaded Big Apple snarl.
This isn't just easy pop sociology. It's impossible to travel from grumpy, insulting New York to polite, provincial Montreal without thinking you are on a different planet.
Here in the $600 million Standing O, a marvelous mood has been created that mixes cosmopolitan culture, French friendliness and an enthusiasm as invigorating as cold, unpolluted Canadian air. Even American ballplayers, a cash-conscious, borderline cynical crew, get swept up in the simple, silly cheers and forget that they are supposed to have forgotten fun.
After his seven-hit victory on Friday night, Steve Rogers, two enormous ice bags on his elbow and shoulder, bubbled at a mass interview, "I wish my whole defense could be here, 'cause they were wonderful."
It's high-five time in Montreal. The bad blood of the 1979-80 Expos has been systematically drained by team President John McHale, the last drop leaving when Dick Williams joined Ron LeFlore and Ellis Valentine in exile: three guys who wouldn't trust a sunrise.
Now, it's the cheerful guys, like Gary Carter and Warren Cromartie, and the smart ones, like Rogers and Jeff Reardon, and the savvy old ones, like Woody Fryman and Bill Lee, and the funny ones, like Tommy Hutton and Rowland Office, and the young talented ones like Tim Raines and Bill Gullickson, and the just-plain-decent ones like Andre Dawson and Chris Speier, who set the tone.
"We're a real team now," said Rogers, almost in disbelief after the bitter memories of the separatist Expo clubhouses of the past.
The past two years, the Expos seemed tense, joyless and internally divided as they lost division championships on the final weekend; their city was ebullient, but the team wasn't, yet. Now, the Expos and Montreal are one in attitude. How far they seem from New York.
In the Big Apple, the Yankees are yawning over their latest intramural fist fight. Bob Lemon, the perfect seen-it-all manager, wrapped a bow around the incident when he said, "What the hell did ya expect? This is New York. Am I going to let it go? Why, sure."
It's one of the genuine appeals of the jock world that drawing room manners and delicate feelings do not exist. If you can't take an insult, or give one, if the mood arises, then you might as well get out. If you're appalled by a little punch in the mouth, what are you doing in here?
One of the reasons that professional athletes feel so deprived when they retire is that they never again can be part of a community that is so blunt, so emotionally exposed. Standard clubhouse therapy is simple, and eminently Freudian: whatever it is, get it off your chest, face it, then live with it.
Let's face it. Reggie Jackson -- charismatic, clutch and even charming as he is -- always has, and probably always will, need a periodic punch in the mouth. Anybody who says things like, "God gave me a good pitch to hit," needs all the humbling he can get. In Oakland, it was Bill North who always wanted to clean Reggie's clock and finally did. In New York, Graig Nettles figured somebody would eventually do the deed; he just didn't know it would be him.
Just a week ago in Milwaukee, Nettles, his good play overshadowed again by Jackson and Dave Winfield, pointed to a dime-sized lapel pin of a cheeseburger on his jacket and said, "We can't all be hot dogs. I guess I'm a cheeseburger in paradise."
The sharpest shame in the Nettles-Jackson punch out is that Jackson managed to steal half a headline from a deserving teammate.
Nettles had to wait a dozen seasons to show the world his glorious glove in the '78 Series. Then he had to wait another three years before he could have a postseason series where he demonstrated why he has more home runs than any American League third baseman in history (exactly 300, counting five in AL championship series ).
"It's a shame this happened, especially on such a good day for the ball club, and myself particularly," said Nettles after driving in nine runs in three games (a record) to be playoff MVP.
These days in Montreal, the Expos are winning for the joy of it, and for the satisfaction of making a name for themselves. In New York, the Yankees are winning to keep their jobs, to silence their plantation owner and to maintain their professional respect. No two moods could be more opposite.
In New York, a fan charges on the field and clips an umpire. Nettles, never shy, dives into the rolling bodies in the infield dirt. The miscreant is chucked down the Yankee dugout steps, face first, the way you'd heave an old sled down the basement steps.
In Yankee Stadium, players run off the field face down; look up and anything could hit you. Just four days ago, a baseball from the bleachers nailed Tony Armas in the back and a golf ball wizzed past Goose Gossage's hat.
In Montreal, the players run off the field, faces up, looking into the delighted adoring crowd.
The only thing that hits them is an occasional long-stemmed rose.