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2004-09-16 - 2:12 p.m.

Watching the game at the bar has become a tradition, especially to those of us in this land who do not have a cable box linked continually to the YES network. The bar’s owner now insists that should a game be on, the channel should shift immediately to it, Simpsons be damned. There are tears and much gnashing of teeth and an occasional lone rose tossed beside a small bust of Homer, but eventually the channels slowly descend to ESPN as the few males seated at the bar begin tittering about batting order and earned run average.

When the playoffs hit last year, I was glued to the bar stool, trying to find a way to make it in someway entertaining for the decidedly non-sporty bartender, even informing her of a slow inning or commercial break so we could check in on The Joe Schmo Show, only to get enraptured there, and run back to the game during its commercial break.

My grandfather’s Yankee loving blood may have taken hold, or it may well be that, well, they’re the ones on TV. I’m in New York after all, and the Mets aren’t exactly laying the smack down as of late. Whatever the reason, I’m a little defensive about the Bombers these days, and will often rattle off a few stats should some try to deride the team.

Still, sitting equidistant between the taps and the television – you don’t want to get trapped behind the taps, and you don’t want to view the game from an uncomfortable angle – I listened as a pair of just-happened-in’s railed against the Evil Empire.

“They’re, like, the highest paid team in baseball, and they’re not really doing anything spectacular. I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Everything in me wanted to start railing off on the fact that they are the American League leaders, that they’ve hit more home runs than any team in the league and have been playing tight defense, not to mention, they’re the fucking Yankees, one of the most storied sports organizations on the face of the planet, but I said nothing. Nothing at all. Mostly because the philistine sitting beside me waiting for a gin and tonic was a woman.

As the harangue continued, each line more dismissive than the last, I twitched and turned to her for a moment, then slowly turned back to my drink. Her friend eagerly listening on, and probably enjoying the increasing fits of the little blond boy down the way, kept grinning wider and wider, not offering her sympathies when we caught eyes, just looking on with expectant wonder, like you would watching an escalating fight at a kegger in high school.

I know with all certainty that had those words sprung from a mouth attached to a body with a penis, I would have thrown out some kind of retort, so long as said male wasn’t enormously large or carrying a gun, so stewing in my new found impotence, I couldn’t help but wonder why I wouldn’t shoot back to someone with a shoulder length bob.

Maybe the image of me scolding her supposed ignorance seemed too condescending, or pedantic. Big brother showing little sis the ways of the world.

I could try and convince myself that I simply wanted nothing to do with these two infidels and chose to keep my mouth shut so as not to embark on a fruitless discussion that would only leave us both feeling slightly persniciddy. But truth be told, I usually enjoy these kinds of debates, and even with a Boston fan I feel fairly Kofi Anan like in maintaining a level of civility and compromise while we both deride each other’s chosen team. Add to this the fact that they were both fairly cute, and I tend to enjoy outspoken women even on subjects as banal as sporting events, and that theory crumbles as well.

If I accidentally catch eyes with a guy on the street or at a bar, I give the requisite head nod, and go about my way. If my pupils fall on eyeliner, I clam and turn away, as quickly but subtlety as humanly possible. (Read: Dart and swing my head with wild abandon from object of sudden notice with such fervor as to result in whiplash.)

Maybe, really, the reason I didn’t speak up was because, I wanted her to catch sight of my rather loud cringing, or that I liked that her friend saw exactly what was going on without needed to say anything. There may lie, somewhere in a dark and maligned part of my heart a lingering affection for this terrible game of cat and mouse we seem to keep playing out there.

A few months ago, I walked down onto a subway platform. As I turned the corner, I looked up to see a tall, punky girl looking back at me; black hair with pink streaks, purple blouse and black skirt all asunder. The eye hockey started up immediately, with both of us looking away, and then both slowly coming back, then flicking away again. By the third meeting, I was just about walking past her. As our eyes met for the third time, we both smiled, and no part of it felt false or accommodating. It just felt nice.

I thought about turning around and saying something, but it just felt too nice as it was.

Maybe I don’t want to lose that.

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