- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

NEW YORK Pledge your allegiance. So read the official World Series 2000 signs scattered along the New York subway system, exhorting locals to choose between the No. 4 train Yankees and the No. 7 train Mets in what has been billed in typically understated Gotham fashion as an apocalyptic, life-and-death, interborough showdown for the ages.
In one sense, however, the outcome of the Subway Series makes little difference. How so? Simple: No matter who wins or loses in the battle of the Big Apple, the city itself already has scored at least by its terms the greatest victory of all.
"It will give New York an opportunity to be even more arrogant," city mayor Rudolph Giuliani said last week. "We'll be able to go around and say we have the two best teams in baseball."
Indeed, the convergence of the Mets and Yankees has resulted in far more than the usual circus of partisan rooting and civic one-upsmanship common to championship sporting events across the country. Within the Big Apple, the first Subway Series in 44 years has touched off a torrential outpouring of self-love, a ballcap-donning, chest-puffing, pat-yourself-on-the-back-with-both-hands fiesta to rival the best (or worst) the recently concluded national political conventions had to offer.
Famed Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson, dubbed "Mr. October" for his postseason feats, once spoke modestly of "the greatness of me." Some two decades later, New York is reveling in the greatness of … New York.
"We're talking about the best city in the world and the two best teams in baseball performing on the best stage in America," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said recently. "It doesn't get any better than that."
Start with the fans. Long regarded as rude, hostile, even feral the sort who would prefer not to waste an expletive on John Rocker when a hurled beer bottle will do Mets and Yankees (especially Yankees) rooters have been downright warm and cuddly though the first two games of the series.
Much-anticipated bleacher brawls have yet to occur. Curse-laden chants have been kept to a minimum. Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza have shown more fight.
And in the place of all the bad blood that on any other occasion would be de riguer? A jovial, celebratory and self-congratulatory vibe best epitomized by the seemingly endless repeats of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" that blare from the Yankee Stadium sound system after each game.
Spotted around town: Novelty jerseys that read "Subway 00," with half of the letters and numbers in Yankees colors and the other half in Mets colors.
Try imagining that for the Redskins and Cowboys.
"The other parts of the country are just jealous," said Nicholas Bourke, a junior at St. John's University who was buying tickets at Shea Stadium yesterday. "I've lived in Chicago, and they wish they could do this."
Likewise, ballplayers on both teams have gotten into the act, lavishing praise on a city that is generally more likely to bury its sports icons if not trade them to Seattle than praise them.
"Every city gets excited about baseball, but in New York there's a different type of electricity, a constant buzz," said Mets shortstop and former Baltimore Oriole Mike Bordick. "The city has a lot of reasons to be proud now that they have the Mets and Yankees in the World Series, they're going to let everyone know about it. There's no comparison [between New York and Baltimore]."
Added Mets relief pitcher Turk Wendell: "If you're not a player here, you don't want to come. It can be intimidating. But once you're here, it's great. And it's exciting to be a part of special moment in time."
How special? Just ask New York Times sportswriter George Vecsey.
"It's intriguing to think that what happens this week will be remembered three quarters of a century later," he wrote. "This goes beyond the Willets Point or 161st street [subway] stations. This is for the cosmos."
It certainly has been a cosmic event for the New York media, to infinity and beyond. When the Yankees clinched the American League pennant with a Game 6 win over Seattle in the championship series thus ensuring a Yankees-Mets matchup the usually staid New York Times ran a red-ink, banner headline over its masthead proclaiming, "It's a Subway Series! Yankees Join Mets!"
Not to be outdone, the New York Post, Newsday, and Daily News all produced massive World Series special sections Saturday, with the Daily News weighing in at an eye-popping, trash-chute clogging 96 pages. Add to that an onslaught of local television coverage, which began a week ago and shows no indication of tapering off until 1) the next New York-New York championship matchup; 2) the Knicks ponder a trade; 3) a giant, radioactive Japanese lizard trashes Manhattan; 4) whichever comes first.
(Sample broadcast exchange: Anchorperson: "And here's Tony from Queens. Tony?" Mets fan-on-the-street: "Yo-yo-yo, Mets in seven! New York rules! Yankees [expletive]!")
"There's arrogance here, but it's well deserved," said Kevin Kernan, a sportswriter for the New York Post. "There's a lot of Loserville towns out there. Just look at D.C."
Sure enough, Kernan's comment illustrates the dark underside of all this Gothamic bliss: When New Yorkers aren't busy tooting their own subway train horns over the series, they're slamming everyone else.
Especially when they happen to be Yankees fans who write for the New York Times.
"The only way to justify even rooting for any team other than the Yankees is to make some profound yet sentimental point about a childhood sense of place," Times sports columnist Robert Lipsyte wrote yesterday. "Learning to drink beer and curse fate with Grandpa and his useless cronies in the bleachers at Wrigley Field? Sure. Driving from the oil patch with Dad to fight the mosquitoes at Houston's first major league park to watch the Colt 45s? Go for it.
"[Why would] you want to root for … cheap little markets like Milwaukee? Why didn't they make themselves into major metro areas when they had the chance?"
Perhaps Giuliani knows the answer. Though he is a self-proclaimed Yankees backer one who often wears a team cap in public, perhaps to deflect attention from his mistress Giuliani nevertheless proposed that the Yankees and Mets share a $1 million ticker tape victory parade through lower Manhattan regardless of who wins.
The parade, which runs 17 blocks from Battery Park to City Hall to what is nicknamed the "canyon of heroes," is usually reserved for winners only.
"Both teams are entitled to a parade," Giuliani said last week. "The losing team doesn't usually feel like it should be honored. If that's the case, we'll just have the parade and fill in the blank Yankees or Mets."
Why not? Either way, New Yorkers are sure to celebrate their hometown favorites.
Themselves.

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