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Birkenstock Man vs. The Sprawl People

It's tough trying to figure out who to root for in this year's Very Bobo World Series.

12:00 AM, Oct 18, 2002 • By DAVID BROOKS
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NOW THAT THE Anaheim Angels have reached the World Series, baseball nuts from Washington will be able to take the perfect conservative flight, from Ronald Reagan National Airport in D.C. to John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

But who to root for? Both teams are endearing, and both managers deserve a championship. In cases like this you have to think culturally, and here, of course, it's not even close.

We're talking about a contest between the Bay Area and Orange County. The Bay Area, of course, is the land of the Birkenstock billionaires. Your perfect Bay Area denizen dresses in open-toed sandals with advanced polymer soles for extra traction during Sierra Club-sponsored day hikes amidst endangered coastal wetlands. He wakes up in the morning in his $4 million Victorian home with the renovated minimalist interior that cleverly recycles reclaimed poplar wood from a 16th-century monastery in the exposed ceiling beams. The Thai religious figures on his raw cedar mantelpiece make a statement about the need for inner peace in a world of commercial excess, and are widely admired when he holds mushroom tasting fund-raisers for Native American/Chicana Lesbian Dance troupes.

The perfect Orange County resident lives in a $4 million oceanfront McMansion in Newport Beach. His interior decorator selected his furniture for him and it's all named after Ivy League colleges, so that the sectional couch in his four-story, 4,500 square-foot great room is from Ethan Allen's Harvard line and the sleigh bed in his tray-ceilinged master bedroom suite is called the Dartmouth Bed. He drives his gold Lexus (the same color as his golf bag) inland a few miles each day to his office at DRC Technologies, which provides IT solutions to boxcar manufacturers throughout the Far East. That means he is often out of town and his wife has to work off her unused sexual energies by walking for the dead and dying. She does walk-a-thons for breast cancer, leukemia, lupus, MS, PMS, and heart disease. She's done more bike-a-thons for more tumors than anybody west of Phoenix. When she learns that a friend has the flu, she puts on her lycra exercise pants and her cross trainers and she's striding around the block raising money. You go into her walk-in closet and there stuck in the cork wall liners you see enough awareness ribbons to clothe an army of compassion. There are pink ribbons, green ones, blue ones, yellow ones, and red, white, and blue ones so it looks like a wall of flags inside the United Nations.

Now the question before the house is which sort of people deserve happiness. If the Giants win the World Series, then the Bay Area person will turn on "Marketplace," the business show for entrepreneurial anti-capitalists on NPR, and he will learn that his very own San Francisco Giants have won the baseball championships ("Marketplace" will have done a segment on how the Giants' pennant run will have improved the fortunes of a local organic pretzel manufacturer). "Chloe!" he will exult, calling to his wife, who is in her ceramics studio. "Let us open one of the Sonoma County Cabs, for the baseball team has won its league!"

If the Angels win, the Orange County man will be in the Four Seasons Kyoto shaving while listening to ESPN's "SportsCenter" over the TV audio hook-up they have in the bathroom (he went to Wharton with Dan Patrick's brother), and he will hear the Angels' victory celebrations and Peter Gammons's post-game analysis. He'll immediately call his son Chris back in Orange County and ask him if he saw the game, which he unfortunately didn't because he was doing his homework in the truck between hockey practice and his SAT tutorial, and his mother wouldn't let him use the drop-down TV they just installed in the Navigator even to watch the final two innings. Still, father and son will congratulate each other on the Halos' triumph, and they will vow to buy a David Eckstein game jersey the next time one is for sale at a school fund-raising auction to hang in the rec/media center downstairs over the mahogany bar.

Such is the diversity of life in the state of California that you can have two baseball teams with almost zero cultural overlap. I, of course, will be rooting for the Angels.

David Brooks is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.