Beatles or Rolling Stones … Red Sox or Yankees … Bruins or Canadiens … Dunkins or Starbucks.
A good part of life seems to revolve around these types of discussions. What do you like better? Blondes or brunettes?
Are you a Democrat or a Republican? Is it possible to be neither, or to embrace the best qualities of both while rejecting the worst? Would that make you a moderate? Or would it make you a wishy-washy person who can’t make up your mind?
We seem to be lurching toward a time in history where stances become much more rigid. It’s either/or. No middle.
So is it Shemp or is it Curley? Which Darren was better, Dick York or Dick Sargent?
A few years ago you could get into a pretty lively debate if you brought up the names Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the same sentence, as if they somehow belonged together. No way. You loved one and rooted for him. And you hated the other one. There was no possible way you could like and appreciate them both.
Or was there?
These days, you can go online and get yourself embroiled in a good debate over who’s the professional basketball GOAT. It is Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr? Gordie Howe or Maurice “the Rocket” Richard?
Who’s the greatest quarterback of all-time? Brady? Joe Montana? Manning?
Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera? Backstreet Boys or NSYNC?
Ben Affleck or Matt Damon? Blackberry or iPhone? PC or Mac?
There are the old standbys. Coke or Pepsi? Milky Way or Three Musketeers? Do you put Gulden’s Mustard or French’s on your franks? Cains or Hellman’s on your tuna sandwich? Heinz or Hunt’s? Well, at least Jimmy Buffett gave us a glimpse of what he thinks in “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” when he said, “I like mine with onions and tomatoes, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes.”
And speaking of which: baked or mashed? Corn on the cob or off? What about eggs? Lots of choices here. Hard-boiled or soft? Sunny side up, over easy, or over hard (I’d never heard of that until I complained one day that the eggs I’d been getting at a particular restaurant were too runny. I’d always ordered them over easy until the waitress said you can get them over hard, too. I did. Back to over easy). Or maybe you prefer them scrambled.
Whole wheat or white (I’m sure you could poll 10 doctors on that subject and 10 out of 10 would say whole wheat)? Rare or well-done? Do you want to hear it mooing or do you want to eat something as tough as the saddle that Justify wore last Saturday in the Preakness?
How about Chipotle or Qdoba? Or maybe Boloco?
These are all weighty choices, aren’t they?
Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb? Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio? Kennedy or Nixon? Lincoln or Douglas? Hamilton or Burr?
There is a story — perhaps apocryphal — that Tom Yawkey and Yankee owner Dan Topping met at Toots Shor’s in New York one night, and the two all-but agreed to swap Teddy Ballgame and Joltin’ Joe. Needless to say that when the two of them sobered up, they decided it was not such a good idea.
Boston or New York? There’s the root of all the Yankee-Red Sox issues right there. Boston has always had an inferiority complex when it comes to New York. And when the team sold Ruth to the Yankees, and the Bombers rose while the Sox feel deep in the American League basement, the war was on. It’s still on. Former Patriots coach Bill Parcells calls it “the border war.”
Bermuda or the Bahamas? Royal Caribbean or Norwegian?
Fitzgerald or Hemingway? Hawthorne or Melville? Clancy or Grisham? King or Crichton? “A Prayer for Owen Meany” or “The Tin Drum?” (You’re going to have to Google that one.)
Spielberg or Kubrick?
Mozart or Haydn? Beethoven or Brahms? The Bolshoi or The Moscow? The Met or La Scala? Albert Hall or Carnegie Hall?
Andrew Lloyd-Webber or Stephen Sondheim? Lennon or McCartney? That last one can really cause some fights. The celebrated feud between the two principles of the Beatles almost forced fans to take sides during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mainly, it was Lennon saying some of the worst things about his former songwriting partner, even if McCartney got his digs in too (listen to “Too Many People” on “Ram” if you don’t agree with this). You were either a John person or a Paul person.
And let’s not even get into Yoko Ono.
Bette Davis or Joan Crawford? Sean Connery or Roger Moore? Michael Jackson or Prince? Brian Wilson or Mike Love? Ella or Etta?
The comparisons are endless, and in a lot of cases a bit deeper than tomato and tomahto. It’s pretty easy to say that it’s possible to enjoy shows by both Lloyd Webber and Sondheim, but even though they are contemporaries that’s where the similarity ends. They go about writing differently, and there’s no way you could ever confuse the two. At the end of the day, Andrew Lloyd Webber couldn’t, in a million years, write anything as biting as Sondheim’s “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company.”
But I still like him. It is possible to find a happy medium in these discussions — just as it is to bridge these gaps on more serious issues. We just have to try harder.
Now let’s try. Ginger or Mary Ann?