Joe Queenan is a friend of a friend. I've conversed with him on several occasions, at said friend's birthday parties. He seems an all around fine fellow, despite being a Republican. Joe once wrote that anyone under 35 who isn't a Democrat has no heart, and anyone over that age who isn't a Republican has no brain, or something to that effect. Needless to say we disagree on that point. Anyway, one matter on which we heartily agree is this: we both loathe the New York Yankees. In his essay, "Keep Your Team Out of My Book", published in last Thursday's New York Times, Joe tells of putting down David Benioff's novel, City of Theives, despite good recommendations.
“City of Thieves,” set during the Nazi siege of Leningrad, is about a Russian teenager who will be shot by Stalin’s police unless he tracks down a dozen eggs to be used in baking a wedding cake for a colonel’s daughter. Since cannibalism has already broken out in the city, eggs are clearly going to be hard to come by. So, as I opened to the first page, I was primed for a rip-roaring adventure.Joe goes on to note that (like me) he has no problem with "homegrown" Yankee fans, though he adds (again with my concurrence), "Yankees fans born in Queens or Brooklyn, it goes without saying, are Iscariots." (A particularly egregious example of the latter, in my view, though perhaps not Joe's, he being a Republican, is one Rudolph Giuliani.) What Joe, who grew up in a housing project in Philadelphia, in his words a "fiendishly inbred sports town", can't stand is "the kind of parvenu, out-of-town front-runner who becomes a 'die-hard' Yankees fan without any moral, cultural, ethnic, genetic or geographical connection with the team."
But almost immediately the whole exercise was ruined. The narrator, the young boy’s grandson, reveals on Page 2 that after the war, his grandfather came to America and became a “devout” New York Yankees fan. I found this revelation crushing. The idea that someone who had escaped the siege of Leningrad would then voluntarily join the evil empire in the Bronx struck me as repellent. So I set the book aside and donated it to my library. Maybe some Yankees fan would enjoy it. I sure as hell wouldn’t.
Returning to City of Theives, Joe writes:
[I]t is simply unconscionable that a survivor of the siege would become a Yankees fan. Stalin would have been a Yankees fan. There’s a guy who loved to gang up on the weak and defenseless. There’s a front-runner if there ever was one.