This year's Yankees-Phillies World Series has generated much awkwardness for transplanted New York Mets fans living in Philadelphia, such as myself. Long the objects of Yankees fans' gloating and Phillies fans' scorn, we have suddenly become recipients of their sympathies -- with an explicit agenda, of course.
Indeed, the champagne from the Yankees' American League championship was still spritzing when a family friend e-mailed me from New York. "Where do your loyalties lie? Rooting for your hometown team" -- the Yankees -- "or for the arch enemy?" -- the Phillies. "Do the right thing," he urged.
Meanwhile, Phillies fans had been working on me for nearly a week. "If it's the Yankees and the Phillies in the Series, who are you going for?" a friend asked. At that moment, it was a painful prospect -- but not yet a brutal reality. "The Angels," I said, taking the Fifth. "Or, maybe the umpires."
* * *
Well, with a most undesirable World Series match-up now upon us Mets fans, I've had to make some difficult decisions. In this vein, it's important to be clear about two things.
First, I am rooting for the Phillies -- and hard -- because they are the far lesser of the two evils. After all, the Phillies are merely the Mets' divisional rivals, which is to say that the only reason for Mets fans to hate the Phillies is an administrative (and somewhat geographic) coincidence.
By contrast, the Yankees are the Mets' cultural rivals. Whereas the Mets have long embodied an admirable, tough-luck struggle for glory, the Yankees project an obnoxious we-should-always-win-the-World-Series sense of entitlement. The Mets-Yankees divide is one between the little guy who toils for triumph and the executive who buys it -- between the dreamer who longs for victory and the brat who no longer appreciates it. In short, Mets fans are diametrically opposed to baseball's Goliath. We cannot root for the Yankees any more than Christians can cheer on Satan.
Second, this Phillies-Yankees World Series isn't the worst match-up to ever confront Mets fans -- the 1999 Yankees-Braves World Series was much, much worse. In that series, Mets fans had to choose between the much-hated Yankees and a divisional rival that had just defeated the Mets in the National League Championship Series. And the Mets lost that championship series in a most gut-wrenching fashion: two nights after winning Game 5 on Robin Ventura's fifteenth-inning "grand single," the Mets blew two late-inning leads in Game 6 and finally fell when Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run in the bottom of the eleventh inning. I am quite convinced that nothing will ever match that kind of sports-induced pain (though Carlos Beltran's Game 7, ninth-inning strikeout in the 2006 NLCS came awfully close).
Still, I rooted for the Braves.
* * *
So, for the next week or so, I will be donning a Phillies cap -- proudly. I will suddenly develop a love for the "High Hopes" song; convince myself that the Phillie Phanatic is more adorable than annoying; and start referring to some of my least favorite players by their first names, as if I know them personally ("Chase is soooo clutch!"). Indeed, I will endure the shocked -- shocked! -- e-mails from my Yankees-loving friends back in New York, uniting with a rival's fans against a greater common enemy.
But be forewarned, Phillies fans: this love affair will be short-lived. As soon as Shane (please, God!) catches the Series' final out, I intend to reaffirm my vows to the orange-and-blue. There will be no parades in my near future, or officially licensed championship gear in my closet.
Still, we'll have occasional reunions, such as when the Yankees and Phillies meet in regular-season interleague play. Which is to say, yes, we'll always have 2009.