Go Yankees?

Baseball as patriotism: In wake of Sept. 11 tragedy, the whole country is pulling for the most hated team.

October 27, 2001

AS THE World Series opens, baseball fans face one pressing question: In this moment of national crisis, can it really be our patriotic duty to root for the hated Yankees?

Most fans nurture a deep distaste for the Bronx Bombers. And with good reason, for the Yankees, who won their 38th American League title Monday night, often carry a smug sense of entitlement to their unparalleled success. And they seem shameless about converting their built-in, big-city advantages (unequaled resources, huge payrolls, great glamour) into triumph after triumph, then fobbing off those victories as evidence of their moral superiority (The Pride of the Yankees).

Yet much has changed since Sept. 11. Instead of embodying unearned privilege, many now see the Yankees as the on-field representatives of the spirit of a wounded nation and of the grit and determination that make New York one of the world's greatest and most vibrant cities.

On the field the Yankees have borne the heavy burden of a grieving city's hopes with great poise and professionalism. In the playoffs, as teams that won more games this season stumbled around making mistakes that should make minor-leaguers blush, the Yankees have played almost flawlessly. They've played their best under the most difficult circumstances. This time, they deserve to be right where they are.

Indeed, in a time when many of the game's standards have fallen by the wayside, the way the Yankees play stands out as a beacon of professionalism. If you can look past the pinstripes, they might in this sense even seem to resemble the Earl Weaver-era Orioles.

Heroes are those who give of themselves for a noble purpose, not men paid millions to play a game meant for children. And another Yankees championship would not heal the wounds of the thousands of New Yorkers devastated by the horrors of Sept. 11.

Still, if we can't actually root for the Yankees, they have at least earned our respect. And if they win yet another World Series, as they probably will sometime next week, maybe even us Yankee-haters can cheer just a little.

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