- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Forget California. For everyone sick and tired of, well, sick and tired story lines, the question du jour has less to do with Mary Carey — now there’s a candidate with groping issues — than Harry Caray.

Namely, is it too late to recall a baseball postseason featuring both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs?

Forgive us. It’s not that we have anything against Chicago. Besides the weather. Or Boston. Besides Ben Affleck.

To the contrary, our objection stems from a basic gut reaction — which is to say, the prospect of a Red Sox-Cubs World Series is enough to make us dry heave.

In fact, we can think of at least three scenarios preferable to a Boston-Chicago clash:

1. A New York Yankees-Florida Marlins matchup;

2. Tim McCarver getting mauled at home plate by a giant white tiger, while Deion Sanders — clad in full “New American Sportsman” hunting regalia — looks on, declining to lift a finger;

3. The Redskins managing not to jump offside 15 times this week. (Oops! Wrong column!)

Don’t get us wrong. In most seasons, we would root against the feel-good Marlins and the free-spending Yankees as a matter of sheer principle. At least considering their respective ties to Jeffery Loria and Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Zen riddle of the day: Who’s the bigger opportunist?)

This year, however, we’re pulling for the pinstripers, navy and teal. Why? The alternative is too nauseating to imagine, at least given the outpouring of cliched sentiment and tedious, repetitive lore that undoubtedly would accompany a Cubs-Sox tete-a-tete.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before. Actually, don’t bother. It won’t make a difference.

The Cubs are Cursed (TM). The Sox are Cursed (TM). Supporters of both teams are uniquely Passionate (TM) and — drum roll, please — Long-Suffering (TM).

Moreover, some fans have waited Their Entire Lives (TM) for a Fleeting Taste (TM) of postseason glory, mostly because neither club has managed a season worth remembering since (and take your pick): (a) the Wilson Administration; (b) the Great War; (c) insert worn-out historical reference here.

The last time either team captured a championship? Try 1918, when — get this — Boston topped Chicago.

Ah, the delicious irony! Somebody invoke the mysterious ways of those fickle yet just baseball gods!

Is any of this new? Nope. Does it matter? Not a chance. A Boston-Chicago face-off will ensure more of the same. And then some.

Set the over-under for curse references — Bambino or goat, you make the call — in the six-figure range. Expect a rash of feature stories on Boston’s Neurotic (TM) and Chicago’s Die-Hard (TM) fans, buttressed by obligatory live television shots of said neurotic and die-hard fans getting faced at local sports bars.

Worse still, prepare to endure hyperventilating scribes and talking heads marveling over the Apocalypse-is-upon-us improbability of it all, even though the mathematical odds of the Cubs meeting the Sox are far greater than those of, say, winning the lottery. Or catching a home run ball without getting sued, for that matter.

“Excuse me, are we having fun yet?” one local baseball writer asked after Boston’s first-round victory over Oakland. “Has any sport ever dished up more ridiculous excitement in a week than the baseball playoffs — barely begun — already have?”

(To answer: Actually, yes. Pro football often generates more excitement in a single game. Better yet, the King of Leagues doesn’t have to ask, in essence, “was it good for you?” When Heidi Klum takes to the runway for a Victoria’s Secret lingerie show, does she need to inquire whether she looks attractive?)

Behind all the Boston and Chicago ballyhoo, of course, is an assumption that sports fans outside New England and the greater Chicagoland area should somehow care about two historically inept franchises. That a century of chronic mediocrity merits both our attention and our sympathy. That — to put it in the words of yet another local baseball writer — “everyone whose own team did not make it to the playoffs this season should be rooting for the Boston Red Sox to win it all.”

This, needless to say, is bollocks.

The Arizona Cardinals have stunk for decades. So have the Detroit Lions. At least a dozen other pro franchises — the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers — seem to exist solely so that good teams fallen on hard times have a reference point.

Simply put, no one pretends to care about these clubs. Except their hometown fans. Unless you’re talking Arizona. Teams like the Lions aren’t lovable losers. They won’t be lovable winners. Why should the Sox and the Cubs be any different?

Besides, there are other reasons to root against both teams. Perhaps inspired by Anaheim’s once-ubiquitous Rally Monkey, the Red Sox offer not one, not two, but three cheesy team unity gimmicks: Shaved heads, cowboy hats and “Rally Karaoke Guy.” All of which were mildly amusing — until they were mentioned in Every. Single. Playoff. Game. Meanwhile, the Cubs are managed by Dusty Baker, a man whose admittedly cute kid doesn’t make up for the fact that his stated views on race, playing ability and meteorology make him a perfect candidate to be hired and then fired by “NFL Countdown.”

Still, maybe you’re not convinced. Maybe you grew up in Wrigleyville. Maybe you went to Harvard (though, if you’re reading this, we doubt it). Maybe you’re dating Tom Warner. Or maybe you really don’t mind hearing about the Curse of the Bambino for the 7,395th time.

If that’s the case, go ahead and pull for a Boston-Chicago series. We won’t hold it against you. Much. As for us, we’ll be doing our best not to watch — possibly by flipping to a Schwarzenegger movie, probably by renting a Carey (Mary, not Harry) flick.

Oh, and in keeping with the California theme, remember this: If a vote for Ah-nuld is a vote for Hitler, then a vote for the Red Sox is a vote for Affleck. Frankly, we’re not sure which one is worse.

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