Saturday, September 11, 2010

Buster Posey and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Well, here we go yet again. The NFL season is beginning, and once again I’m completely up in the air as to whom to root for. The logical choices, since I now carry a New York passport, would be either the Giants, who have strangely few fans here in the Hudson Valley, or the Jets. I understand the Jets’ veteran fullback, Tony Richardson, is a terrific guy, but Hard Knocks on HBO left me with the impression that I wouldn’t want to sit beside any of the coaching staff on a long bus ride. Of course, far, far better the exuberantly profane Rex Ryan than the Giants’ Tom Coughlin, who looks perpetually as though he just took an especially nasty-tasting medication.

I am in New York, but yet of it, not nearly. Eight years and change after leaving the Bay Area, I still find myself wanting to root for the Giants and 49ers, though I don’t think there’s a single player on either team who was there when I left. The fact that there’s no trace of Barry Bonds adds greatly to their allure, of course, and how not to love a team with a rookie star catcher called Buster Posey? Still, though, it’s the Yankees who are on every night as I eat my dinner, and I have been a big fan of their vivacious young catcher Francisco Cervelli since I saw him risk his life to snag a foul ball into the team’s dugout.

As noted here before, I would instantly switch my allegiance to any team that closed ranks behind a teammate who revealed himself to be gay, but it doesn’t appear there’s much chance of that happening while I’ve still got my marbles, so I’ll make it easier. Many teams in the largely black sports, football and basketball, have a Muslim, if only a converted one. I’d root enthusiastically for any team that collectively endorsed the A-Few-Blocks-From-Ground-Zero Mosque, as I would for any team that collectively condemned the demagoguery of the Republican politicians who oppose it, but I think the most I may be able to hope for is one whose running backs don’t point up at the sky in acknowledgment of The Creator’s intervention on their behalf when they score a touchdown. Comparably, I could never knowingly support a team I knew to have a mass prayer for victory before taking the field.

I might as well get whimsical. I would pledge my allegiance in a heartbeat to any team that, on ascertaining that victory was assured, doused its unwitting head coach from behind not with Gatorade, but with hydrochloric acid. Would it be grisly? Of course it would, but football isn’t a sport for sippers of pink tea, as Ty Cobb might have put it. The team would have to promote one of its assistant coaches to the top job after every victory, but I’m arrogant enough to think that would be a small price to pay for my allegiance.

I would become a fan of any teams whose players defied current tradition by ceasing to bump chests after a terrific play, but by exchanging firm traditional handshakes. And I would be more inclined to support a team with fewer, rather than more, fanciful given names, like Visanthe and D’Brickashaw. Such names make me sad, because I always suppose they were dreamed up by unwed teenage mothers.

I suppose in the end I will wind up rooting yet again for the first team I ever loved — the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers, whose season-opener against Vada Pinson’s Cincinnati Bengals I will watch tomorrow from kickoff to signoff.

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