Not long ago I began reading David Benioff's "City of Thieves
Not long ago I began reading David Benioff's "City of Thieves." The novel had come highly recommended to me by several friends, and as I had already seen�Spike Lee's excellent film "25th Hour," which is based on Benioff's first novel, I was really looking forward to reading the book. "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.
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.
I do not object to Yankees fans in principle, so long as they are homegrown, preferably natives of the Bronx or Yonkers. (Yankees fans born in Queens or Brooklyn, it goes without saying, are Iscariots.) But those of us who grew up in fiendishly inbred sports towns like Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis and even Boston cannot stomach 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. And like most Americans, I reserve my greatest antipathy for the millions of bogus Yankees fans in the pink or green or red Yankees caps one routinely runs across in London, Rome, Sydney, Stockholm and Mombasa. Or, if driving, runs over.
In the case of "City of Thieves," it seemed to me that a survivor of the heroic siege of Leningrad - an underdog par excellence - would have a moral obligation to become aDodgers�fan, and then perhaps to transform into a�Mets�fan once the Bums desert Flatbush. The man's arrival in New York would have come not long before the opening scene of�Don DeLillo's "Underworld," which has the Dodgers facing off against the�Giantsat the Polo Grounds in the 1951 pennant playoff. Even though I grew up hating both these teams, neither of them is in any way revolting. Nor are the Mets, who are merely cheesy. But it 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.
My refusal to read books...