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What’s the Opposite of ‘The Battle of Stalingrad’? ‘The Army-Navy Game.’

What’s the Opposite of ‘The Battle of Stalingrad’? ‘The Army-Navy Game.’


An Army-Navy game in Philadelphia (Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports)

My Impromptus today is mainly about the elections — with a sprinkling of notes on music, language, and food. Also a note on Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who passed away on Wednesday. This genial man of letters was the chief book critic of the New York Times for many years, and then chief obituary writer. He was a friend of WFB, David Pryce-Jones, and others we know. Splendid company, he was (both in print and in person).

Some mail? Yesterday, I mentioned The Bad News Bears, the 1976 movie starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal. It was a touchstone film for some of us. The movie is about baseball (Little League), and its soundtrack is, essentially, Bizet’s Carmen.

A reader writes, “I had a favorite phrase when I was coaching Little League baseball. When the boys would start missing plays and throwing the ball every which way while the other team circled the bases, I’d say, ‘Cue Carmen.’”

Perfect.

In my Impromptus on Monday, I had reason to write this: “How did ‘Jesus H. Christ’ ever come about? (‘Howard,’ perhaps? Lots of great Jewish kids had that name, once upon a time.)”

Many readers responded, many linking to Wikipedia, here. Something about “the divine monogram of Christian symbolism.” One reader wrote, “The old line I heard very many years ago was that the ‘H’ stands for ‘Hallmark,’ because God cared enough to send the very best.”

Finally, to the main purpose of this little Corner post. In that Monday Impromptus, I wrote,

A long time ago, I heard Bob Novak say something about a basketball game. (Novak was a basketball fanatic — especially college basketball.) He didn’t like either team. And he said, “That game’s like the Battle of Stalingrad for me.”

I have used that line many times. (Other people say “Iran-Iraq War.”) But what I need is a phrase with the exact opposite meaning. What do you say when you love both teams?

I did not necessarily love both teams in the recent World Series. But I loved the two pitchers on the mound for the final game (what proved to be the final game): David Price (Red Sox) and Clay Kershaw (Dodgers). These are two of my favorite pitchers and two of my favorite athletes.

Not the Battle of Stalingrad.

From readers, there were many nominations. “Bach vs. Beethoven.” “Stones vs. Beatles.” “Ice cream vs. cookies.” Several readers mentioned the Civil War: “The Battle of Gettysburg,” for example. That does not work for me, although I certainly understand why it does for others.

A few readers mentioned the War of 1812. One reader commented, “The two most liberty-loving countries in the world at the time. A terrible waste of blood and treasure.” Well said, but I still have a rooting interest, so to speak. A few readers said, “Falklands War.” Two U.S. allies. I understand — but I still have a rooting interest (not Galtieri).

“Mary vs. Martha” (!). “Kasparov vs. Deep Blue” (I was rooting for Garry!). “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” “How about Batman vs. Superman?” writes one reader. “A movie with that title came out a couple of years ago. I didn’t want to see it. My boyhood heroes, my friends, fighting each other.”

A reader writes, “This is probably for too narrow an audience, but Kirk vs. Spock in ‘Amok Time.’” He helpfully provides a Wikipedia link, here.

“Palmer vs. Nicklaus.” Yes, in retrospect, maybe — but most of us would have had a rooting interest at the time. “The Williams sisters at Wimbledon, at least from the father’s perspective.” That’s a good one.

The clear winner, at least for me? Many readers said, “The Army-Navy game,” or “Army vs. Navy.” Yes, yes. Thank you! Thank you all.





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