The real curse of the Bambino

By the time you read this, the New York Yankees will have won yet another World Series or, to the shame of their fans, will have gone home with merely one more American League pennant.

If the Bronx Bombers were victorious, legions of their rooters will have danced a few jigs and shouted a few "yahoos!" and then gone back to their lives, thinking that all is well with the world.

If they lost, Yankee fans will be bummed out. That is, after winning 101 regular-season games, coming back from losing the first playoff game against Minnesota, and then sending the Red Sox home in dramatic, extra-inning fashion, they will consider this a disappointing year.

And that, my friends, is the real Curse of the Babe.

Winning is good, of course Ė itís goal of every baseball team come January when pitchers and catchers report to spring training. But winning better than one out of every four World Series and appearing in 40 per cent of them in the last century -- as the Yankees have -- might be too much of a good thing.

If you had a son who played second-string quarterback for his high school team, would you love him less than if he were an All-American bound for Penn State on a football scholarship? You might if you were a Yankees fan. Well, that might be a stretch but you get the point.

Mind you, I am a Red Sox fan. So I canít help but think up reasons why it is better to love and have lost than to love and keep on winning. But at least I can recognize that having is not always as pleasing as wanting.

Winning it all so often has made Yankee fans more jaded than a Chinese empress.  

It doesnít even hurt anymore when fans in Yankee Stadium hold up those "1918" (the year in which the Red Sox last won the World Series) signs. I consider it a badge of honor and loyalty. Iím even going to get a "1918" lapel pin and wear it proudly.

As pleasurable as it can sometimes be, winning can also take some of the joy out of being a fan. The two teams which also have my personal devotion are the New England Patriots and the UConn menís basketball Huskies.

Sure, it was terrific when the Pats won the Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, after two previous losing appearances (one of them to my pal Shaferís beloved Green Bay Packers, about which he still abuses me). But now anything short of hoisting the trophy at the finish of the roman numeral game leaves me grumbling.

In the early days of the Big East conference it would have been a leap for UConn to be an also-ran, but every once in a while they would beat Georgetown or Syracuse and Husky fans would be glowing for days afterward.

For me, and I suspect for a lot of other UConn fans, the basketball teamís most memorable moment was not winning the NCAA championship in 1999, but Tate Georgeís last 1/10th of a second shot on March 22, 1990 against Clemson to put UConn in the Final Eight.

The joy in getting there is what itís all about.

To all my Yankee fan friends who have been sending me taunting e-mails for two weeks: I was crestfallen. I admit it. Losing to you guys is awful. Okay? But Ted Williams was way better than Joe DiMaggio and at least he never hawked coffee makers.

And someday the Red Sox will win the World Series. Maybe even in my lifetime. In the meantime, I will find solace in knowing that it wouldnít be fan heaven if my team won the World Series every year. It would be that other place.


October 25, 2003