It’s the ultimate Brooklynite dilemma: A World Series pitting the hated New York Yankees and the hated Philadelphia Phillies.
Brooklyn, after all, is Mets country — where any baseball fan worth his Gatorade is rooting for the Amazin’s or their minor league affiliate in Coney Island, the Brooklyn Cyclones.
And before that, this borough’s identity was wrapped up in the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the prior National League team, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In all cases, the Yankees have been reviled.
So the thought of rooting for the Bronx squad in the Fall Classic is about as tough to stomach as a baserunner slowing down to watch a teammate’s home run only to get thrown out at the plate when the ball fails to clear the fence (yes, we’re talking about you, Timo Perez!).
Sometimes, we Met fans hate the Yankees even more passionately than we love the Mets. It’s a hate the stems from being forced — over the course of decades now — to endure the misery of not only rooting for a losing Mets team, but having to watch the nearly annual parades of triumphant Yankees up the so-called “Canyon of Heroes,” bathed in ticker-tape and adulation.
All that success has made Yankee fans cocky and hard-hearted. After the Mets were trounced by the Bronx Bombers in the 2000 World Series (see above note about Perez’s Game 1 performance), anyone wearing Met blue-and-orange on the street was openly hazed. Whatever happened to a pat on the back or a “Nice try, buddy. You’ll get there someday”? Yankee fans are incapable of empathy; success has bred it out of them.
But decades of Met failures have conditioned us to always know that the other shoe is going to drop, typically on us. This makes us more compassionate people, thoughtful people who are willing to see things from both sides.
Being a Met fan is also fitting in Brooklyn, which has long been cast in the shadow of its supposedly more successful sibling, Manhattan, yet actually enjoys a rich life of its own.
But at this crucial moment in baseball history, it’s important to note that the days when the Yankees were truly the Evil Empire of professional sports — with that cheater Clemens throwing a bat at Mike Piazza — have faded. For all the talk that the Yankees just buy their pennants on the free agent market, this team has plenty of home-grown talent. For every C.C. Sabathia, there’s a Robinson Cano; for every A.J. Burnett, there’s a Joba Chamberlain.
And really, it’s hard not to root for Derek Jeter, who plays an “old-school” game — just like Jerry Grote always did.
But it’s not difficult to want to see the Phillies crushed. Obviously, the Mets are incapable of doing the deed themselves, thanks to two late-season collapses and this year’s year-long debacle, so it falls on the Yankees to put the cheesesteak eaters in their place.
It may be hard to say the words, but try to repeat after us: “Let’s go, Yankees.”