| Baseball isn't supposed to be this complicated.
See, we want to hate the New York Yankees. It's in our blood. They're owned George Steinbrenner, a classless oaf who's tried to remake his image in the manner of a war criminal building a hospital. Their legacy is one of smugness. They have the most money---and the most swagger---in professional sports. If the Yankees were a fictional character, they'd be the illegitimate son of Darth Vader and Uriah Heep.
But heaven help us, there are a few reasons to like these Yanks in the 2001 World Series:
They're Nice. The best reason of all is that most of the Yankees seem to be really good guys. Derek Jeter is such a little slice of apple pie, you could serve him at the next Osmond family reunion. Bernie Williams is a classical guitarist. Chuck Knoblauch makes chitchat with the guys who operate the scoreboard inside the Green Monster at Fenway Park. Okay, Paul O'Neill's wound up tighter than Robert Begnini after a dozen double lattes. But back in the day of Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson, a guy could feel good about rooting for a season-ending knee injury.
They're New Yorkers. Okay, now that's not usually a good thing. We, like 95% of the rest of America, root against Big Apple teams by reflex. For anyone who went to college in the northeast, this is doubly so. Listening to loud-mouthed Yankee/Met/Ranger/Islander/Knick/Giant/Jet fans gloat when their teams win and make excuses when they lose is enough to change one's genetic makeup. But this year, viewers are assaulted with reminders of the World Trade Center tragedy, and while Fox's sentimentality saturation point has been far exceeded (think of an Old Yeller and The Yearling double-feature), it would be nice for something good to come to New York City.
They're Not The Diamondbacks. Can anybody say "Florida Marlins?" In their first season, Arizona overpaid for also-rans like Jay Bell and Matt Williams so they could win 70 games instead of 50, and they've been spending out the nose on free agents ever since. (Before people bitch about the Yankees' spending, ya gotta love that home-grown Arizona talent Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, eh?) Speaking of smugness, how about that Jerry Colangelo? We remember when this franchise started, how their p.r. department made such a big deal about the fact that they hired Buck Showalter to set up every element of their organization, right down to picking uniform styles. Then Showalter (whom we think is a simpering idiot) gets fired for being "too anal?" The Diamondbacks were the least likeable team in the National League playoffs. They've got hillrod fans who wouldn't know a sacrifice bunt from decorative bunting, and who didn't sell out all the Championship Series games. This is our heroic alternative?
Yeah, as of this weekend the Yanks' chances in the Series look doomed. But we don't need to tell you they've been here before. Ten days ago, radio-monkey Jim Rome was rambling about how dead the Yankees were, how he knew all along that the A's would win, and then a few days later he was calling his shot, about how he knew New York could come back from 2-0 down against Oaktown. But as the pinstripers head back to the Bronx to try and do it all over again, we're left with a solitary question:
Should we root for them?