WALLA WALLA - For those of us devout in the religion of sports fandome, there are certain abiding principles that cannot be ignored.
Chief among them - the first commandment, if you will - goes something like this:
Thou shalt not show favor to thy boss' most beloved teams!
And this has nothing to do with those seven deadly sins, like lust or greed or envy. Pride, well, perhaps.
Simply stated, if the boss likes a team, you are obligated to take the other side. No questions asked.
It's an unwavering tenet that has been, for me, a guiding light going all the way back to my youth, when I dwelt in the house of my father's Yankees fervor. And since he was my boss in those days, I was morally committed to channel my devotion elsewhere. And I found sanctuary in the Braves camp.
Those were interesting times, too, in the late 1950s when the Yankees and the Braves ruled their respective leagues.
For the last year or so in my new role on the Union-Bulletin sports staff, Bret Rankin has been my direct supervisor. Thankfully, Bret takes a low profile in these matters of favoritism, so we've never found ourselves at serious loggerheads.
But for 26 years prior to my retirement from full-time employment in January of 2010, I answered directly to editor Rick Doyle. Rick took over supervision of the U-B newsroom in August of 1984, about a year after I replaced Skip Nichols as the sports editor.
And I have to confess that Rick, a former sports editor in his own right, arrived here with a certain level of baggage.
A Missouri native, Rick brought with him to the Pacific Northwest an allegiance to the St. Louis Cardinals that I had never before witnessed. And on top of that, through no explanation that I have ever heard, he was enraptured by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It's not that Rick hasn't been a good boss. He has.
We have maintained a professional yet friendly working relationship throughout the years. And we get along just fine in social settings.
Why, Rick even invites me to play golf on occasion. And just to be on the safe side, I let him win.
But in the beginning, upon learning of Rick's Cardinals-Steelers affliction, I instantly girded myself, determined not to stray from the straight and narrow path. I remained steadfast in my convictions, and I prevailed.
Temptation wasn't that great, actually, considering that I had never held any special admiration for either of his teams in the first place.
The best thing I can say about the Cardinals - other than the product advertised by those Clydesdales in the 1970s Christmas TV commercials - is that they traded Red Schoendienst to the Giants in 1956. The Giants then traded the former National League MVP to Milwaukee in 1957, where he helped lead the Braves to back-to-back World Series.
So thanks for that, "Gussie" Busch.
As for the Steelers, well, I know the history. Art Rooney, the founder; Chuck Noll, the coach; Forbes Field and the Steel Curtain defense; "Mean" Joe Greene and that goofy-acting quarterback, Terry Bradshaw.
And I also know that the Steelers have won more Super Bowl championships than any other team in NFL history, including one at the expense of my Minnesota Vikings. Rick knows this, too, of course, and that's where the trouble begins.
Over the years, Rick has used this management technique in which, when introducing a new employee around the newsroom, he likes to add a personal touch. Quite effective, I might add, and in my case it it works like this:
"This is Jim Buchan, and he's from Minnesota. And his Twins beat my Cardinals in the 1987 World Series. But my Steelers beat his Vikings in the 1975 Super Bowl."
And then he continues, although Rick's no longer speaking now, just thinking. I can read his mind, you know.
"My Steelers have won six Super Bowls, and they're the greatest franchise in NFL history. And those poor dolts, the Vikings, have never won the title. What's more, what were they doing with a dunderhead like Brad Childress as coach and a has-been like Brett Favre at quarterback? What a bunch of losers."
The Steelers, of course, are back in the Super Bowl again this year. They play the Packers Sunday in Dallas, and you can be sure that Rick will be in fine form.
A couple of Mondays ago, after the Steelers beat the Jets in the AFC championship game, Rick showed up at work all dapper wearing this spiffy Steelers' black sport coat, a Steelers' gold shirt and a Steelers' black-and-gold striped tie. He spent the entire morning in his office in the front of the newsroom - beaming.
I dread Monday morning if the Steelers win again on Sunday. Maybe I'll call in sick.
But who knows? The Packers might get lucky and win Sunday's big game.
If that happens, maybe I'll come to work Monday with this triangular-shaped chunk of cheese on my head. That'll show him, right?
A Vikings fan pretending to be a Cheesehead.
I'm coming to the conclusion that I don't stand a prayer Sunday. Perhaps this is what it means to be paying for your sins on earth.