With another baseball postseason upon us, once again the nation must choose between dealing with Yankees fans or Red Sox fans. In other words, do you prefer a toothache or a headache?

(By the way, is it asking too much for the Yankees -- and the Braves, for that matter -- to maybe miss the playoffs every five or 10 years? I woke up in a dead sweat the other day from a nightmare in which Chipper Jones was being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice by Mel Stottlemyre.) I no longer root for or against baseball teams based on their players, I root for or against them based on their fans. So let's just handicap this postseason field right here and now:

Yankees and Red Sox fans. The only reason I prefer the pinstripes devotees is that they are easily identifiable: loud, obnoxious, pushy, opinionated, never wrong -- and always sitting next to you no matter what saloon you're in. At least you can spot the Derek Jeter idolatry and Jersey beer belly from five bar stools away.

Red Sox fans are trickier. They lay low, lull you into a false sense of security, then just when you are most relaxed -- bang! -- it's the woe-is-me-and-the-curse-of- the-Bambino-and-don't-get-me- started-on-Bill-Buckner-and-sure- now-we've-got-our-first- World-Series-title-since-1918- but-we're-still-20-championships- behind-the-Bronx-Bombers routine.

It takes a nickel to get a Red Sox fan started and maybe 50 bucks to shut him up.

At least New York sports fans don't pretend to be George F. Will wannabes; Red Sox fans have this literary lilt to their verse. Yankees fans shout at you, Red Sox fans talk down to you.

White Sox fans. Their best quality, plain and simple, is that they're not Cubs fans. Every other Cubs fan is either a writer, a broadcaster or a Hollywood type, and they babble on publicly about how their team hasn't won the World Series since 1908. Yes, that's a long time. We know.

Well, the White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917, which is also a long time. Plus, it's been pretty dry since then overall, including 1919, when they had the best team but the breaks didn't go their way. I credit these Chicagoans with the fact that they have enough sense and decency to absorb the pain in the privacy of their own homes.

Astros fans. If I'm not mistaken -- and, trust me, I've been mistaken, perhaps more than any other left-handed 1981 University of Maryland graduate who lists Rolling Rock as a reference on his resume -- the Astros not only never have won the World Series, they've never even made it to a World Series. Yet you never hear Houston natives such as Dennis and Randy Quaid, Kenny Rogers, Shelly Duvall, Patrick Swayze, Barbara Mandrell or Howard Hughes bellyaching about it. Thank you.

Cardinals fans. I have nothing against these people. They all live in St. Louis, and I've never been to St. Louis nor have I ever met anyone from St. Louis -- with the possible exception of Leon Spinks that one time at the laundromat -- who hasn't been extraordinarily and unnecessarily kind to me.

Braves fans. Braves fans can be divided into two categories: Those who do the tomahawk chop at Turner Field and those who don't. Those who do the tomahawk chop -- well, there's no excuse. Those who don't -- actually, I don't like them much either.

Angels fans. Those who go to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim games live in Orange County. I live in Los Angeles, and I don't go to Orange County unless it involves a court order, a lap dance or a really, really good bowling coupon.

Padres fans. They know they're backing a .500 team. So what? The weather's really nice, and with any luck, there won't be anyone from New York or Boston in the immediate seating area.

Anyway, if I ever get married again, I pray the woman roots for the Cleveland Indians.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Based on your column last winter about a possible all-Keystone State Super Bowl, I took my vacation this year in Breezewood, Pa., only to find Arby's and Long John Silver's are gone. Will this cause a change in your guidebook recommendation? (Joe Pishioneri; Rockville)

A. Breezewood without Arby's is like Bethlehem without pilgrims. I am now redirecting travelers to Barstow, Calif.

Q. I can't stand it when a guy agrees to get married during NFL season. Where are his priorities? (Ken Younes; Crofton)

A. I have started a vigilante, Guardian Angels-style intervention group, Football Before Family, that makes on-site visits for a nominal fee.

Q. In bowling, three strikes in a row is called a "turkey." Is there a term for having three ex-wives in a row? (Matthew Snowberger; Stow, Ohio)

A. Uh, I believe that might be the same term.

Q. Why would Michelle Wie turn pro at age 16? (Joe Neill; Houston)

A. Why would the Home Depot open near a bunch of new homes?

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. E-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

Celebrity partisans Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, soon to bring another woe-is-me, condescending Red Sox fan into the world.