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Tip your cap to the fairer Sox

If you believe that rooting for the underdog is an American trait.

If you believe that trying hard, having faith and never giving up are in the DNA of the nation.

If you believe that baseball is still the national pastime, that competition runs deep in the American grain and that guts and gumption are enough to overcome money, clout and fame.

If you believe the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team was more than just a fluke, then you gotta love the fact the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in seven games to earn a spot in this year's World Series.

After trailing three games to none in the best-of-seven series, the Red Sox rallied to win the next four games and eventually the pennant. It was the first time such a thing had even happened.

It was, Ring Lardner might say, the stuff of little boys' daydreams.

In the musical "Damn Yankees," the lowly Washington Senators overcome impossible odds to beat the boys in pinstripes. And in the Red Sox' win this year, the show tune applies: "You gotta have heart." The only thing missing was a wily devil to tempt Boston's working-class heroes with the likes of Lola. Given the bedeviling nature of this year's post-season play, however, a Lola may yet appear.

As for the Yankees, being grand for so many years has unwittingly earned them the image of elitist snobs. And in a culture that tends to see people as the embodiment of a single trait, the Yankees get to wear the label "villain." Baseball fans dump their anger on the Yankees, who embody their ire toward corporate America, their distaste for privilege. In American popular culture, the Yankees represent all those top-lofty foes knocked out by Rocky Balboa, Biff in "Back to the Future" and Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life." They didn't ask for the role. They were typecast. But once on their pedestal, it was just a matter of time before an upstart knocked them off.

This year, the Red Sox obliged.

Years ago, a Boston wag wrote that the Red Sox should move to Manila and be renamed "The Manila Folders." But this year the BoSox turned the tables. The Yankees folded. "The Choke's on Us!" blared a New York newspaper headline.

This year, the Yankees, like the Mudville Nine, watched as Mighty Casey struck out.

In the Thayer poem, Casey's sin was pride. He took those first two strikes thinking he could hammer the third.

He got hammered instead.

Hoping elitists get their comeuppance? Add it to the list of American virtues.