This is the truth, so help me. I called a sports columnist for the Minneapolis newspaper Monday and suggested we do a “dueling columns” thing on who would win this American League playoff — the Tigers or the Twins? And he said, well, it was a good idea, but he planned to pick the Tigers.

Hey. I can get people here to do that. So I called a columnist with the St. Paul newspaper. I figure, you know, Twin Cities, two chances. And he says, “Yeah, great idea.” He picks the Tigers. In five games.

Nice local support, guys.

Now, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good, healthy debate. And this playoff series, which begins tonight, is a perfect topic for debate. If only I had a debate partner. Someone to take the other side. Someone with great insight, sweeping perspective, a healthy sense of impartiality. . . .

I will debate myself.

“So,” I say, “you pick the Twins.”

“Yes,” I answer, “that’s right.”

“HAHAHAHOHOOHOHO!”

End of debate.

Wait,” I say. “Let’s talk reasonable.”

“All right,” I answer. “I’m all ears. “

“OK,” I say. “The Twins have that fabulous home record, the best in baseball.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHOHOHO!”

“Stop that.”

“Sorry. But as far as I know, a stadium never won a baseball game. And besides, the Tigers have been to the Metrodome six times this season, and have won four times. You’ll have to do better than that.”

“Viola.”

“Yes. I used to play one. In fourth grade. And then this kid, Ricky Olson, started teasing me, and I stuck the bow up his nose and . . . “

“Frank Viola. The pitcher. The lefty.”

“Oh, him.”

“Well?”

“Well, what? He hasn’t beaten the Tigers this season. Jimmy Key is a lefty, too. With a better record. And the Tigers beat him Sunday.”

“They did?”

“Don’t you remember? I was there. Which means you were, too.”

“Oh, right.”

“Now, then. Can I throw a few numbers at myself?”

“Certainly.”

“11-2, 7-1, 8-0.”

“And they are . . . ?

“The scores from the last time the Tigers and Twins played in Detroit. The Tigers won all three.”

“I see,” I say.

“I know,” I say back. Let’s be honest, you and me — er, me and me,” I say. “Joe Niekro? The fun went out of him when the emery board left his pocket. Kent Hrbek? Hey. You saw what happens to guys who leave letters out of their names. Remember Jimy Williams? And, ho. Wait a minute. Saturday’s pitcher. Les Straker? Is that a ball player, or a band leader in the ’40s? Les Straker and His All-Star Brass. I have one of their records. Les Straker? Oh, please. That’s too much.”

“Well OK,” I say. “How about the city itself? Perhaps there is a reason Minneapolis deserves the pennant more than Detroit.”

“Anything is possible.”

“Well?” I ask. “What do I think of the city?”

“Ehh,” I say.

“Ehh?”

“So much for that angle.”

“Is there anything I can say to convince me the Twins will win this thing?”.

“No. Quiet, now. Let me tell me this: These are the Detroit Tigers, who hold destiny in a closet somewhere with its hands bound and gagged. No way they should have been here at the start of the season. But this is not the start. This is the finish. And the finish shows the Tigers are the hottest team going. If they lose one to the Twins, which is possible, their strength is that they bear down and come back swinging. If the Twins lose one to the Tigers, which is probable, the odds are they will lose the next one, too.

“The Tigers pitch better. Catch better. And remember better. What they remember is how it feels to win a playoff game — something the Twins have yet to do. Let’s face it. Minnesota won their division by finishing eight games above .500. Maybe that’s why the columnists in their cities are so unsupportive. Maybe they are just being . . . realistic.”

“You know, I must say, you make a very convincing case,” I say.

“Thank you,” I say.

“You’re welcome,” I say.

“Tigers in five, then?”

“I would say so.”

“Me, too.”

“I must say, you are an excellent debate partner. Reasonable. Clear-thinking. And intelligent.”

“Thank you,” I say.

“You’re welcome,” I say.

“By the way, where did you get that shirt?”

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