How can a loser ever win?

From 1967 to 1977, the New York Yankees' AAA team was in my hometown of Syracuse, a fact I find myself repeating whenever anyone asks me why I'm a Yankees fan. That happens a lot, because most of the people that I like hate the Yankees. I grew up cheering Syracuse Chiefs-turned-Yankees like Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry, guys with moustaches that reminded me of my dad's. I remained loyal, even after Syracuse hooked up with the Toronto Blue Jays, even after Thurman Munson begat Rick Cerone, then Butch Wynegar and Bob Geren. People like to say that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel. This is confusing when your ace is Lee Guetterman.

So I enjoyed 1996-2000, without guilt. My team won, my team did it with style, and my team had Jose Vizcaino and Luis Sojo. But now they have A-Rod and Johnny Damon and Randy Johnson. And after five years of watching the dismantling of a team I loved, and after my own long luckless winter, I'm going to throw in my lot with the losers. I'm wearing a Mets hat as I type this.

Call me an unfair-weather fan. Jumping on the broken bandwagon. It's not the charming '62 Mets that have been the stumbling block for me, but the championship '86 Mets, who drove drunk, snorted lines, beheaded cats, and then, through the sanctimonious Gary Carter, preached. It's nice that Jesse Orosco (he of the self-dubbed "Scum Bunch" of alcoholics) got to throw a ball to Camera Carter before Monday's opener. It gives me closure. The '86 Mets wanted to be like Oakland's "Moustache Gang" from the early 70s, but they were closer to the 2003 Boston Red Sox: didn't all that "cowboy up"-ing remind you of Wally Backman and Howard Johson?

Still, I can't resist. Willie Randolph was always my favorite Yankee, and it was his migration that allowed my own shifting allegiances. Goodbye crisp pinstripes, with high salaries, with clean shaves. Hello characters: Carlos Delgado, ex-Syracuse Chief, Irving Berlin hater, and Clemente-level humanitarian; Heath Bell, baker of ginger-bread houses; Steve Trachsel, sommelier; Paul Lo Duca, daily mom-memorializer; On Monday, the Yankees coaching staff got a front-page Times article on the coaching staff, the Mets coverage was limited to a page-seven history of Duaner Sanchez' eyewear (he tried Nikes, Oakleys, and contact lenses before settling on Kaeners, and there are six holes in his goggles for ventilation). This, weirdly, is the kind of thing I like about baseball. So I took the paper and found a bar with the game on, and over a plate of "mixed greens" (wilted iceberg lettuce) watched Aaron Heilman get shelled. As the bar's lite-FM station pushed my buttons, playing songs that reminded me of my own lousy luck (okay, more specifically, of a woman-my Delilah, my Jezebel, my very own god-damned Anna Benson), I realized I'd found a team again.

And then, just as St. Matthew promised: David Wright, Tom Glavine, and generous home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook led the Mets to victory.