I had an epiphany that changed my life.
I'd like to tell you about it, so that maybe it can change yours.
It came suddenly and unexpectedly when Bernie Williams swung late at an Arthur Rhodes pitch during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. As you know, the Yankees were trailing 1-0, and the Mariners were five outs away from tying the series at two games apiece. Williams sent the ball into the right field corner. For a moment, it looked like it might be another one of those cheap-o homers that the Yankees always seem to hit, but the ball sailed foul.
As a die-hard Red Sox fan, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought to myself, "Not this time, you sons-o- ...!"
But before I got to the "b" word, I was hit by a white flash of light. It felt like a bolt of electricity had shot through me. I'm sure I was unconscious for several minutes, but time had apparently stood still during my epiphany, because somehow I awoke in time for the next pitch. As Rhodes prepared to deliver the ball, I heard myself say, "C'mon, Bernie! Straighten it out! Tie this thing up!"
Oh, my God. I'd become a Yankees fan!
That's it. That's the epiphany. It suddenly dawned on me that I'd been missing out on a life of happiness, excitement and the kind of confidence that borders on arrogance, or more accurately, the kind of arrogance that borders on the insufferable.
I've always said I don't have a problem with the Yankees. Through my lifetime, they've usually had an amusing (even likeable) cast of characters -- Reggie, Goose, Thurman, Donnie Baseball. And how can you not like these current Yankees? They're so sickeningly sweet they could play their games at the foot of Walton Mountain while the Osmond Family hands out fruit baskets in the bleachers.
No, I've never had a problem with the Yankees per se ... it's the Yankees fans that have always driven me crazy! Every Yankees fan should have a bumper sticker that sums up their attitude: "My team is better than your team, therefore I am better than you!"
Now, I'm one of them. The team that sold its soul to the devil a hundred years ago is now my favorite team. I've come over to the dark side, and I've never been happier.
As a Red Sox fan, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Williams was going to hit a home run. Sometimes I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a Yankee is about to reach on a bloop single, an error, or the ever-popular swinging strike three wild pitch with a catcher's throwing error tossed in just for giggles (Game 5 of the AL division series against the A's, third inning, Bernie again. I knew it.).
A Red Sox fan's powers to predict the future is rather narrow in its scope. It only works in Red Sox and Yankees games, but it remains eerily accurate. That's why after Williams hit the deep foul ball, every true Red Sox fan knew that the ensuing home run was a fait accompli. The foul ball was simply a precursor -- a warning shot. It was like Paul Revere leaving the light in the North Church Tower to let everyone know the British were coming. Williams was alerting Yankee fans everywhere that it was time to start paying attention.
|Bernie Williams, right, keeps bringing fans over to the dark side.|
Red Sox fans saw the light as well. They all had that ache in the pit of their stomach. They began to shake, rattle and sweat profusely. They knew the end was near for the Mariners in much the same way they know when Derek Lowe is about to blow a save. Years of training as a Red Sox fan has prepared each and every one of them for moments just like those few seconds before Williams homered. Still, they hope against hope. Their fear and loathing are joined together in one excruciating moment of tremendous dread. "Ha-ha!" I say to Red Sox fans. That's not me. Not anymore! Not after my epiphany! I simply sat back, completely relaxed for the first time in my life, and waited. Like the person who finally accepts death, and reaches a level of serenity, comfort and acceptance, I had inner peace. I had peace of mind. I was one with the world, because I was now a Yankees fan, and the world would never again let me down.
Crack! And there it was. "Yes!" I screamed. "That's what I'm talking about!"
The 3-2 fastball sailed deep and gloriously into that good night, and the fine people of Seattle were about to feel an unwanted kinship with New Englanders. I'm not sure Seattle fans knew it at the time. But they'll learn. Perhaps they were deluded by the memory of the Mariners coming back to beat the Yankees in 1995. Perhaps they didn't even know that Alfonso Soriano, who had exactly two home runs since mid-August, was a mortal lock to hit the walk-off homer. Maybe they even called Soriano "an unlikely hero." Foolish Seattleites! They are novices in the world of Yankee-delivered pain. There is nothing "unlikely" about my new team, and every man in pinstripes is a hero waiting to happen.This is why I love them so much! And as far as I'm concerned, I always have.
You see, the epiphany not only changed my future, but my past as well. All pre-epiphany events have been altered in my memory.
I was absolutely giddy when the Yankees fell behind two games to none to the Athletics. The Yankees weren't getting the breaks they usually do. Oakland base hits were making chalk fly instead of falling two inches on the wrong side of the foul line. The Yankees Dynasty had met its match!
But then my Red Sox radar started kicking in. It zeroed in on the probability that Mike Mussina could and would outpitch Barry Zito in Game 3. Then, the A's would make the mistake of starting Corey Lidle against Orlando Hernandez in Game 4. The A's were doomed, and they had no way of knowing it! Certainly, there would be a Game 5 in New York, and there would be only two possible results. Either the Yankees would win, or the A's would lose.
It was the latter. I watched in agony as Scott Brosius hit a ball so slowly it wouldn't have ripped through a streamer with a perforated edge. But Eric Chavez couldn't come up with it. Later, David Justice hit a 315-foot homer. The A's make three errors, accounting for two unearned runs, and the Yankees were well on their way toward improving the most amazing record in all of sport. They are now 153-and-1 in the postseason when leading after eight innings. First of all, 154 postseason games! Think about that! And it's not just 154 postseason games. Those are just the games in which they've had the lead after eight innings! The "pre-epiphany me" would have hurled, but I'm thinking about it right now, and I know it's exactly why the Yankees are my favorite team.
|Alfonso Soriano simply took his turn as the Yanks' hero-of-the-moment in Game 4 of the ALCS.|
my favorite player is Derek Jeter. I was watching
Regis Philbin the other morning, and he told the
story of how he once snuck up on Jeter and kissed
him on the cheek. Now, not only am I a huge
Yankee fan, but even more than ever, I'm wishing
Regis' lips were my own. I always had respect for
Jeter ... now I flat out love
And my favorite player is Derek Jeter. I was watching Regis Philbin the other morning, and he told the story of how he once snuck up on Jeter and kissed him on the cheek. Now, not only am I a huge Yankee fan, but even more than ever, I'm wishing Regis' lips were my own. I always had respect for Jeter ... now I flat out love him. That backhanded flip to get Jeremy Giambi was the greatest play ever. Of course, I didn't feel that way at the time, and a size-10-foot hole in my bedroom wall is testament to that, but my post-epiphany memory of that play makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Friends tell me I also experienced immeasurable suffering in 1978, but now I remember it as one of the happiest times in my life. The birth of my three boys are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the list of big days in my life. It used to be that Pedro Martinez humiliating Roger Clemens 13-1 in the postseason was No. 4. And it was an extremely close No. 4. No offense to my kids. Someday they would have understood, but now, with my epiphany, they'll be raised as Yankees fans. They'll grow up to be happier, more well-adjusted and less paranoid men with lower blood pressure. They'll have all their hair, and they'll poke fun at their grandparents who have stubbornly stayed the course. I'm sure my kids will thank me for this one day.
Now, there are some Red Sox fans who are rooting for the Yankees this year, and only this year, because of Sept. 11. For them, as for many others, the Yankees have become a sentimental favorite. This is not to be mistaken for an epiphany, because those Red Sox fans have merely called a temporary truce at a time of national crisis. They see the beauty, and the healing power, and the incredible sense of pride that a New York champion would give America, and they've been able to surrender their animosity and jealousy toward a 26-time winner. Good for them! But they will battle indigestion and heartburn again next year every time they see Jose Offerman sprint out to his second base position. (The rest of the world thinks he's jogging, but Sox fans know it's an all-out sprint).
But I am not a temporary Yankees fan. I'm in it for the long haul. I love this team so much I want to marry it -- for better or even better, for richer and even richer, in tight hammy and in health, until death do us part and they carve a Yankees logo into my grave stone.
However, if my becoming a Yankee fan, in any way, helps the Yankees lose to the Diamondbacks, I'm OK with that.
Bob Halloran is an anchorman for ESPNEWS.