I suppose it could be worse. I could be a Red Sox fan. But I switched allegiance from the Sox to the Yankees more than 50 years ago, as Ted Williams stepped out of his cleats for the last time.
So it’s been the Yanks ever since, through thick and thin.
And thin it is, with the Yankees down three games to love versus the Detroit Tigers, with Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter out for the season with injuries and with the remainder of the Yanks’ long-of-tooth lineup showing their advanced age.
Remember: The finger that just typed this letter “L” is attached to the hand that shook the hand of Mickey Mantle in 1956, when the immortal Mick took five minutes during a rain delay to chat with yours truly and a schoolmate whose aunt worked for a sponsor of Yankee telecasts. Which is to say: When you’ve been touched by The Mick, you remain a Yankee fan for life.
But I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps I’ve become a fair weather fan. You know, the sort of fan who curses Alex Rodriguez and his ancestors when he fans with the bases loaded yet another time. Or one who switches channels in frustration when Nick Swisher or the umpire or the weatherman do something unacceptable.
There’s no doubt about it: We have been spoiled by the Yankees. When a team prevails year after year, decade after decade, you begin to take success for granted. And when that success is in jeopardy, as it is now, one tends to take it personally.
Which is why I wish to invoke, herewith, The Pete Sampras Precedent. Longtime faithful readers of this column may recall The Precedent, wherein I called for the tennis great’s retirement after he suffered a first-round loss to a relatively unknown player in a tournament here on Long Island in the weeks leading up to the 2002 U.S. Open. Two weeks later, he won the Open for the fifth time, in direct contradiction to the friendly counsel I had offered.
So, without further ado, I call on Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman to hang up their spikes, just as Ted Williams did.
If this time-tested ploy works, the Yankees will come roaring back and the American League Championship Series will go to seven games.
And if it doesn’t work, there’s always next year.
Believe it or not, dear reader, I used to be a registered Republican. (Go ahead, take your time picking yourself up off the carpet.)
It was when I worked as press secretary to U.S. Senator Richard S. Schweiker (R-PA) back in the ’70s, in an age when there was such a thing as a moderate Republican. (Schweiker’s pro-labor, pro-environment and anti-war positions were counterbalanced by his pro-school prayer, anti-gun control and anti-abortion positions.)
After he retired from the Senate, Schweiker was succeeded by another moderate Republican, Arlen Specter, who died this week at the age of 82, marking the passage of truly endangered species.
Regrettably, there doesn’t seem to be any room for moderates in today’s Grand Old Party. It has slowly but surely moved to the right — and some might argue the far right — since the days of such Republican moderates as Schweiker and Specter and Mathias and Javits. And don’t forget that even conservative godfather Ronald Reagan attempted to bridge philosophical differences within the party when he tapped Schweiker to be his vice presidential running mate in 1976.
Today, Republicans in the Senate seem to expend most of their energy attempting to thwart and discredit our Democratic president. And in the process the party of Abraham Lincoln has become something else entirely.