"The enemy of my enemy is my friend" -- ancient Chinese proverb
We know now how Yankee fans must have felt heading into the 1986 World Series. The Mets against the Red Sox? Who does a Yankee fan root for? We're now in the unenviable position of seeing the two teams many of us can't stand the most battling into November. If you're a "New York first" fan, by all means, knock yourself out and root for the Yankees. If you're a "National League first" fan, there's no other choice -- it's the Phillies for you. If you're neither, you've got a dilemma. What happens when the enemy of your enemy is your other enemy?
There's a lot to (grudgingly) admire about both teams. The Phillies were not the reason the Mets failed this season. They just went out and did what we tried to, and couldn't, do -- win games. You can't hold that against them. The Yankees weren't the reason the Mets failed, either. They did what we tried to, and couldn't, do -- bought themselves another ticket into the Big Show. Before all the "we're nothing like the Yankees" wailing starts, you have to admit that the purchase of a pennant is a matter of degrees. The Yankees threw more money at that pursuit than any other team, but the Mets threw more at it than almost every other team not named the Yankees.
As Yankee skippers go, Joe Girardi's all right, though I'm not convinced he's as good a manager as the Yankees' record indicates. Throwing Pettitte at the Angels in the late innings was a great move, so great that several sportswriters were talking about it all day on Sunday, before the game began. The Phillies could do something that hasn't been done by an NL team since the days of the Big Red Machine -- repeat as World Champions. And before the Reds of the mid-70's, you have to go back to the Giants of 1921-22 for an NL series repeat.
My rooting interest this year usually means a losing interest. After the Mets' chances were gone, I was a Tigers fan, until they choked away the AL Central. Then I jumped on the Rockies' and Twins' bandwagons for less than a week, until both those Conestogas threw a wheel. Then I figured a Joe Torre appearance in the Series would get under the skin of the Steinbrenners, and the Angels were far more preferable than their opponents. I'm batting .000 this post-season.
Ultimately, though, the team I'm rooting for, albeit unenthusiastically, is the team with less obnoxious fans. That's saying quite a lot, when given these two fan bases. One anonymous Yankee fan was quoted thusly on a network radio newscast last night: "Woooo! It's about time! Six years is too long!" There's no way the average Yankee fan can realize how condescending and pompous that attitude sounds to fans of the other 29 teams. The players on every team fight every year to get to the World Series. Yankee fans expect it every year. That sense of entitlement is why I'm a Phillies fan for the next ten days.
But really, I'm praying for a seven-game series, a lot of extra innings, cold, wind, rain, sleet, and a touch of pneumonia on both sides.