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Airing my dirty laundry

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I am a bundle of nervous energy. I have already jumped on the treadmill ... and jumped off. I have buzzed around the house doing chores that can wait until January 2004. Today is Sunday ... the day of Game 7.

Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling is the type of player you root for no matter where he plays.
And I feel like I am cheating on my husband.

My native New Yorker loves the Yankees. His devotion to them was the basis for my column "Do You Take This Man ... And His Favorite Teams?" As I explained then, one of my rules regarding marrying someone with different sports allegiances is that it's easier to cheer for your significant other's teams when a player on that team used to be on your team.

But I'm from Philadelphia, and former Phillie Curt Schilling is one of my favorite players.

This young marriage is in uncharted territory.

I can tell he thinks nothing's wrong. He is anxious about the game, bummed the Jets are on at the same time, but utterly clueless to my indiscretion. I should be supporting him and his team, but I'm not sure who I want to win. He hasn't even asked if I am cheering for the Yankees. I guess he just assumes so. Would he do this to me? What if former Knick Patrick Ewing's quest for a ring had taken him to the Lakers last spring? Would I have been the only person in this house rooting for the Sixers?

Oh, I shouldn't be so sensitive. Truth is, I don't really cheer for the Yankees. I just don't cheer against them. He knows that!

What to do? For some reason, I recall Jerry Seinfeld's take on rooting: We cheer for laundry.

In this day of free agents, salary caps and trades, I generally agree with Seinfeld. But there are exceptions, players who transcend team logos.

Schilling's an exception, in my opinion. I cheer for him regardless of his logo. I realize opinions vary. I call my three brothers, and we are split 2-2 on Schilling.

I don't have one big reason for cutting Schill so much slack. It's a bunch of little ones. I understood Schilling's frustration with a club that was going nowhere and pushing a youth plan. Schilling was too often the lone reason to watch the Phillies. Although the team stunk, he never tanked a start. He never gave up the ball without a fight. (Still doesn't. Counting the postseason, he threw more than 300 innings this year.) Why do you think he goes into each start determined to pitch a complete game? Because, in Philly, if he wanted to win, he had to finish what he started.

Chris McKendry
Chris McKendry can't root for the Yankees, but she won't cheer against her husband's favorite team.
He still keeps a home in the Philadelphia suburbs. He actually likes the place and the people, just like me. His outspokenness doesn't bother me either. Yes, his public rants against small market ownership got to be a bit much prior to his trade on July 26, 2000. But I liked how he took J.D. Drew to task. And I cheered like hell when he struck out Drew during the Diamondbacks-Cardinals series. Schilling also has a great appreciation for the history of the game. His child's name is Gehrig! (Of course, it helps that the guys we got back for him -- Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa and Travis Lee -- have been superb additions.)

So this is how I rationalize my unfaithfulness: I'm pulling for a player; my husband's cheering for laundry.

That theory takes a beating in the very first inning when Paul O'Neill's first at-bat brings out the usual "Come on, Pawlie." Even fans without New York accents sport one when cheering for Paul O'Neill. You don't do that for any guy in a uniform. New Yorkers chanting O'Neill's name during the top of the ninth in Game 5 -- with the Yankees losing -- was an unexpectedly touching tribute to a player for nine years of blue-collar effort.

Now Game 7 is cruising along. Schilling is having an easier time of it. Roger Clemens' pitch count creeps past 50 by the third inning. During the fourth inning, it's tense and oddly quiet in our house, considering the occasion. Then the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" commercial comes on. Mark McGwire is so tone deaf, we laugh -- and relax.

Through six innings, Schilling's faced the minimum and the Diamondbacks are up 1-0. In the top of the seventh, the Yankees tie it. Not just any Yankee, but Tino Martinez, who singles in Derek Jeter. This gets us talking about the core Yankees who are likely done after this game: Martinez, O'Neill, Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius and maybe even Orlando Hernandez. Not exactly stuffed shirts.

I think about the huge poster our cousin took with us to Game 3 of the Series, the one that praised Brosius, hardly the egomaniacal matinee idol type. I feel so guilty. This isn't a laundry team. These players and fans have been together for a long time ... all good times, true ... but a long time, nonetheless. After all, the Yankees have been in the World Series for as long as the Diamondbacks have been in existence.

I start to think about the Diamondbacks being world champs. I'm suddenly sick of the white pom-poms. The scene reminds me too much of the 1997 Marlins. The franchise is too young and, it has been reported, too in debt. The uniforms are too bright, and there's too much of that "aw-shucks" Craig Counsell for my taste. I don't think baseball needs another Florida. That championship wasn't good for anybody.

I'm on the fence. Maybe Schilling pitching well but the Yankees winning is a good compromise.

In the top of the eighth, Alfonso Soriano puts Schilling on the losing end of a 2-1 game. After two more batters, Bob Brenley takes the ball. Schilling curses. Mariano Rivera's coming in for the bottom half of the inning and the ninth. It's over.

What will be will be. That's my philosophy now.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mark Grace gets a hit. I imagine Cubs fans are happy. I wonder if there's a Grace fan married to a Yankees fan anywhere? How about a Randy Johnson fan or a forgiving Mariners fan married to a Yankees fan?

Scott Brosius
Scott Brosius isn't just a uniform you cheer for.
We're both standing at this point and walking ever closer to the TV. (Other people do this during tense games, right?)

Then, Rivera commits a throwing error. I hear him yell, "Jeter, get up!"

What is happening? Tony Womack ties it. Bases loaded ... and Luis Gonzalez singles home Jay Bell.

I'm so stunned. I blurt out, "I'm glad Schilling has a ring."

He says, "We have to get Giambi. We didn't get a hit!"

But what about Tino?

Call the tailor, fresh laundry is on the way.

I suddenly don't feel so guilty.

SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry is a regular columnist for Page 2.

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