Fraternizing with the Enemy

Like a lot of local sports fans, I found myself in the curious position of rooting for the New York Yankees this past weekend.Yes, as an Orioles fan it served the team's best interests for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox in all three games of their recently completed series at Fenway Park. Unfortunately the almost anonymous version of this year's Bronx Bombers came away with just one victory while the Orioles swept the Rangers in Texas, meaning that we picked up only one game on the Red Sox over the weekend.I watched Friday night's game from a bar stool at the Mt. Royal Tavern after escaping from the storm that washed out the end of the first night of Artscape. While seated at the bar I was joined by my upstairs neighbor Damien, who has lived in the same Bolton Hill apartment building as I have for as long as I've been there. Damien is a Yankees fan and we find ourselves in these situations quite frequently.In fact, we often go to Orioles-Yankees games together or watch them on TV. One of us always goes home happy, the other not so much. We were together at the great game last September 6, the first of four games between the Birds and Yanks. We went to the first two games of the American League Division Series together here in Baltimore and Game Three at Yankee Stadium (pictured), which was one of the toughest days in my life as a baseball fan. I'll never forget the long cattle-car walk to the subway after Raul Ibanez hit a pair of solo home runs in the ninth and 12th innings to seal our doom. Although me and my girlfriend, in full Orioles regalia, enduring abuse heaped upon us by Yankees fans at a snail's crawl all the way to the subway platform, it probably would have been worse if Damien wasn't there.And so it felt odd when I said, "Tonight I'm rooting for the Yankees with you," to Damien on Friday night. We both laughingly acknowledged that this was indeed a rare first in our relationship. Damien immediately posted: "Charlie Vascellaro is rooting for the Yanks with me tonight" on his Facebook page.Our mutual friend Dimtcho commented: "No he is not!"I replied: "Yes because they are playing Boston; the new enemy."Damien added: "Ace (Dimtcho's nickname) it's not too late to come to the other side."Dimtcho addressed me: "Charlie the Yankees are the eternal enemy, remember evil, dark side."Being an eastern European immigrant and relatively new to the game, Dimtcho perhaps did not fully understand the mathematics of a pennant race. Over the next two days I attempted at length to explain how and why we needed the Yankees to win and for Boston and Tampa to lose. I tried to convey that this was an enviable position for us Orioles fans to be in as far as the Yankees were concerned. They were behind us and we didn't have to worry about them winning for the time being, in fact they would actually be doing us a favor.As I mentioned, this is strange and alien territory for current Orioles fans to be in. This whole hot streak that the Orioles are on began with the team playing the "spoilers" role at the end of the 2011 season, eliminating the Red Sox from playoff contention on the final day of the season; it was the most meaningful game the Orioles had played all year.And so now the shoe is on the other foot. Of course it feels funny rooting for the Yankees, but it just goes to show how far this Orioles team has come. This year's Yankees appear far less threatening than recent vintages and it's actually quite fun and relaxing to cheer them on in a loveable-losers' way as they help us achieve our goal. Looking ahead to this weekend I see where the Yankees have a three-game set at home in New York against the Rays. I hope the Yankees can win two or three of those games and Damien and I can both go home happy.

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