If you love baseball, there are three excellent reasons to give the index finger the third finger.
Reason No. 1: Wrong sport. Baseball isn't football, hockey or basketball. Flashing the index finger after your team scores a touchdown, goal or slam dunk basket even in the first few minutes of play feels good, a feisty cry of triumph over the foe. Screaming, "We're #1" after your team scores a run or turns a crisp double play in the bottom of the first feels downright foolish. Come to think of it, it feels pretty ridiculous any time during a baseball game.
Reason No. 2: Wrong time. Unlike college football or basketball, baseball doesn't feature a cornucopia of competing conferences, coaches' polls and computerized rankings whose contradictory conclusions open the way for various groups of frenzied fans to weekly claim preeminence. In baseball, top-dog status is earned slowly over a 162-game season and barely thought about seriously before the All Star Break.
Moreover, baseball players -- and fans who appreciate baseball history -- are notoriously superstitious. Everyone remembers how the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies lost a six and one-half game lead and the National League pennant in just seven days. Even if you're the New York Yankees, you don't want anyone chanting, "We're #1" until you are -- say, right after the final out in the World Series. It feels too much like a jinx.
Reason No. 3: Wrong team. Speaking of jinxes, is there a Cub fan alive who doesn't remember that the team hasn't won a World Series since 1908? Hasn't been to a World Series since 1945? Or last came tantalizingly close to going to a World Series in 2003, when the team collapsed in the playoffs after losing a lead with just five outs to go?
In 1969, the Cubs were in first place for 155 days before an epic collapse in mid-September where they lost 17 of 25 games gave the pennant to the surging New York Mets. So when does obviously oblivious Cubs management choose to let their sponsor hand out the, "We're #1" finger? Cubs vs. Mets! Talk about tone deaf.
And never mind the most obvious objection of all: by all appearances the 2011 Cubs are a mediocre team.
Mindful of baseball tradition and current reality, a friend and I actually flinched when they handed us our foam fingers, when we entered the park. But when enduring three hours in Wrigley during a cold, windy night in May, they did come in handy. We sat on them.
Follow Michael L. Millenson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MLMillenson