Here's the Scoop: October 17, 2012

Avoid a sore subject
It’s an unfortunate part of human nature that this time of year brings out strong opinions in favor of one side against another. The rivalries displayed during heated October contests can drive a wedge between even the best of friends.

I guess that’s why the old cliché warning about not discussing religion and politics should be modified to include — baseball.

A few weeks back I wrote that I was truly enjoying the unexpected run the Baltimore Orioles were making toward qualifying for postseason play. Soon thereafter, the O’s fell a hair short of knocking off the Yankees for the division crown, but made the playoffs anyhow. Then, they eliminated the Rangers, setting up an epic best-of-five series against the feared Yankees.
As any baseball fan knows, there are Yankee fans — and Yankee haters. I’m in that last group.

Change of heart
I will admit, in writing, that I used to be a hardcore Yankee fan back in the 1970s and early ’80s. Then, they got rid of my favorite player, Graig Nettles, and the breakup stung. I started hating the Yankees like they were an ex-wife.

When I began going to Baltimore on a regular basis and visiting The Ballpark at Camden Yards, I became an Orioles fan. For the past 15 years, reasons to cheer the O’s have been scarce. Until now.
As the O’s and Yankees geared up for their big series, I was tense. I found myself doing just about anything to take my mind off the upcoming games. Splitting wood seemed like a good way to relieve some of the self-imposed baseball pressure.

So, on the day the series started, I was happily smacking chunks of wood (trying to not link the sound to bat hitting ball) and removing some baseball jitters.
Then, I spotted our friends walking up the hill. Nothing odd about that, except that they indicated they were bearing a gift. These are great people — but Yankee fans. They are even part of a limited Season Ticket plan. Hardcore.

I couldn’t imagine what kind of present they had, but I always like free stuff. As it turned out — I loved this gift — a pumpkin with the Orioles’ logo neatly carved into the side. A “Jack-O’s-Lantern,” if you will.

An artful act
One of our friends, I’ll call her Kathy, said she downloaded a stencil to artfully create the baseball-themed pumpkin. We had a good laugh over the friendly rivalry and enjoyed a cooling beverage.
When our friends were convinced that I was sufficiently relaxed, the “other part” of the gift was presented. Actually, the pumpkin was merely spun around to display the Yankee logo. It was a double-header!

I couldn’t expect this couple to change allegiances just because of our friendship, so we enjoyed this gift in good fun. Until the games started.

Every contest in the series turned out to be a nail-biter. Heading to bed after the Yankees’ clinching win in Game 5, I was shutting off the lights and noticed that candles in the Jack-O’s-Lantern on the front railing had again blown out. It happened every night of the series, except for one game.
The next day, I e-mailed our friends with the news that, with my newfound maturity, I had resisted the urge to smash the pumpkin to pieces after the Orioles’ super season fell short.

“It’s still intact,” I wrote. “But the candles blew out every night except the game when A-Rod didn’t play. It was his high-priced whiffing created a breeze all the way up here.”
I was grinning like a Jack-O’s-Lantern.
— Brian Sweeney