God Bless Baseball
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – There are so many things I used to care more about. I'm not even going to tell you what they are, because you'd write and tell me I'm a bad person for not maintaining my level of caring about Third World debt, or whales, or whales in debt, or whatnot. And you'd be right. I should care more. It's just hard sometimes.

And then along comes something that reminds you what it was like to be 8 years old and feel that all things are possible, that good and bad are in meaningful engagement all the time, that heroes bestride the planet, that the quality and wisdom of management do matter, and that events outside one's own existence can be more important than anything else, including business, for a little while.

This month that feeling is back. There is one thing happening in this great and profane nation that has people boiling and cursing and screaming imprecations. Some folks are strutting around the office as if they had just discovered either love or Viagra. Others might as well have nooses draped around their necks.

The first group are Yankees fans. The others have the misfortune to love the Red Sox. This being New York, I don't know any Cubs fans. Perhaps they're down on the street, lying on heating grates and drinking Sterno. I would be.

I went to the stadium the other night when the Yankees were playing the Red Sox. I was lucky to get a ticket and didn't mind sitting in the bleachers. The place was crowded, noisy, ecstatic. Every time a Red Sox fan wandered into the section wearing a crimson cap, hundreds of jolly New Yorkers rose to their feet and chanted in unison something I can't repeat in the tasteful pages of this magazine. Two syllables, pertaining to an undignified section of human anatomy.

A little shocked, I turned to the friend I was with and said, "How long has this been going on?"

"Why do you think they don't sell beer out here?" my friend said. "At least we're not throwing batteries at their outfielders." Which is what the Boston fans had done when the Yankees were at Fenway. That generated more outrage in the media than the possibility that the public was lied to about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In Boston there had been ugly brawls on the field, including one in which 72-year-old Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer rumbled out of the dugout for a good old-fashioned fist fight. Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez seized the bullet-shaped Zimmer and hurled him to the turf. The picture was in the paper the next day, generating more expressions of indignation than the fact that Ken Lay is still walking the streets a free man.

As I sat in those bleachers without a beer and heard the shouts and imprecations around me, I was swept up by a sense of continuity. I don't get those often.

I remembered a time before memory itself...something about the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles, and there being the kind of outrage in my house usually reserved for those who ratted on their former friends to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

I remembered being a young White Sox fan, sitting with my dad and watching Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox on a little black-and-white TV in the kitchen. When I watched, they never won. I still believe, in my heart, that if I want my team to win, I can't watch the game. I also believe that if I do watch, I actually cause it to lose.

I remembered being thin and young in Boston, waving Carlton Fisk's home run fair in the 11th inning of the sixth game of the 1975 World Series. By then I was a Red Sox fan. God was in his heaven that night. Of course, the Sox lost the seventh game the next day. But that didn't matter. For a moment we had been to the top of a mountain from which we could glimpse the promised land.

I'm a Yankees fan now. The Yankees won the night I was at the stadium and a few days later tore out every Red Sox heart from Saugus to Seattle. That's all right. To be a Red Sox fan, you have to have a heart like a lizard's tail, one that grows back every time it's severed. I don't know what has to grow back if you're a Cubs fan. Honestly, I can't imagine.

By the time you read this, the World Series will probably be over. It won't have compared to the Wagnerian grandeur of the league championships, but things are still passionate around here, probably because there are so many Red Sox fans in my office. It's refreshing, being around all that bitterness, hatred, resentment, despair, and hope. And I do want the Yankees to win, if only for the memory of my father-in-law, who would have loved to be around to see it.

Some things never change. Grief. Joy. The hope that next year things will be different and better. And if we should forget those noble emotions?

Well, we'll always have Boston.