WASHINGTON -- David Brooks of The New York Times wonders whether, as a lifelong Mets fan, he is morally permitted to jump ship and pledge allegiance to the new team of his (relatively) new hometown, the Washington Nationals (nee Montreal Expos).
It's a charming dilemma, but it raises a more fundamental question: What is with this rooting business in the first place?
It is one thing to root for your son's Little League team. After all, he is your kid, and you paid for his glove -- and uniform, helmet, bat, and, when he turns 9, cup. You have a stake in him, and by extension his team.
But what possible stake do grown men have in the fortunes of 25 perfect strangers, vagabond mercenaries paid obscene sums to play a game for half the year?
The whole thing is completely irrational. For me, this is no mere abstract question. I have been a baseball fan most of my life. I could excuse the early years, the Mantle-Maris era, as mere childish hero worship. But what excuse do I have now? Why should I care about these tobacco-spitting, crotch-adjusting multimillionaires who have never heard of me and would not care if I was dispatched to my maker by an exploding scoreboard?
Why? I have no idea. True, my interest cooled for a decade when, at age 15, I discovered girls. But then one day, living in Boston and almost totally indifferent to the game, life took a fatal turn. I tuned in to the 1975 World Series and happened upon the single greatest game ever played. By the time Game 6 was over, I was hooked. Again.
Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning home run dance was just the icing. I was hooked by the improbable glory of what came before: Dewey Evans' spectacular catch off Joe Morgan in the top of the 11th, George Foster nailing Denny Doyle at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, and the most improbable home run I'd ever seen: Bernie Carbo's 3-run pinch tater -- after a couple of flailing swings -- to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, two strikes and hopelessness in the air.
That did it. For the next 10 years, I was a fan again -- straining at nights to catch West Coast late games on a Sony transistor, checking box scores first thing in the morning.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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