The afternoon started so innocently, so tranquilly. It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day in Santa Barbara – sunny skies and 80-degree temps. (Sorry to those in cold climates, but this is why I moved here.)
I was taking my five-mile walk along Shoreline Park. The idea was to get a little exercise, a little fresh air, a little relief from working at the computer.
I was wearing my Yankees cap as usual – the one with the rhinestones.
And I was listening to my iPod.
“Poker Face” is not a memorable song, but it starts the adrenaline pumping.
I was proceeding at a nice clip, feeling pretty good about life, when I came upon them.
O.K., so they weren’t carrying weapons. They looked scary just the same. And they blocked my path so I couldn’t simply power-walk past them.
“Hey, what’s with the Yankees hat,” said the biggest one. It was not a question.
“I’m a Yankee fan,” I said, restraining myself from adding, “You have a problem with that?” I’m not stupid. I was outnumbered, plus they were huge and I only weigh 100 pounds.
“Yankees suck,” said another guy.
“Yeah, they suck,” said the first one, getting in my face for emphasis.
At first, I figured they must be Red Sox fans, since we hear the chant from them all the time. But these guys didn’t bring up ’04 – the usual refrain – so I was confused.
“Fine,” I said, determined not to be intimidated. “Which team doesn’t suck?”
“Dodgers,” the leader said. “We’re Dodgers fans. Like you’re supposed to be.”
I squelched a laugh. “Why am I supposed to be?”
“Because you live here. You’re supposed to root for the home team.”
“I grew up in New York,” I said. “The Yankees are my home team.”
“But they suck,” said a third guy. None of them had much of a vocabulary.
“Maybe you’ve forgotten, but the Yankees have won quite a few championships. Twenty-six, to be exact.”
“So? The Dodgers won the NL West last year.”
“Right.” This was silly. “Who’s your favorite player?” In the spirit of the upcoming Inauguration, I reached across the aisle and tried to be friendly.
“Manny,” said the leader.
Did I dare break the news that Manny was no longer a Dodger – at least not presently?
“He’s a free agent,” I said. “He could wind up with the Giants for all you know.”
“I like Nomar,” said another one.
These weren’t Dodgers fans. They were clueless Dodgers fans.
“He’s on the verge of announcing his retirement,” I said. “The Dodgers haven’t re-signed him.”
“Russell Martin’s on the team,” said the leader.
“He’s a good catcher,” I acknowledged.
“He’s a good catcher,” one of them mocked me in a high sing-song voice. “Too bad the Yankees suck.”
That was one “suck” too many. I lost my patience and let them all have it.
“Who sucks now?” I shouted after the last one was splayed on the ground, on top of the others, bloodied and gasping for air. “Get. Off. My. Beach.”
(Yes, the ending is total fantasy. The real ending is that I neutralized them by boring them to death with great moments in Yankees history. Eventually, they moved on to harass somebody else and I continued my walk.)