Often busting out quips, like: “The future ain’t what it used to be,” or, “No one goes there nowadays. It’s too crowded,” Yogi Berra was a beloved catcher for the Yankees, and also a smoker, known to indulge in cigarettes, cigars, the occasional pipe, and many believe, the occasional puff of marijuana. (The rumor fueled in no small way by the aforementioned Yogi-isms.) In the world of cigar enthusiasts, the “Yogi Berra rule” teaches us all how to hold a cigar, and provides the best reason to remove the cigar band.
As history reports, during the 1957 World Series, Berra sat behind the plate catching for the Yankees when Hank Aaron came up to bat. Always the continual talker, Berra informed Aaron that he was holding the bat wrong. The trademark was facing in the direction of the plate rather than towards Aaron. After ignoring the taunt, hitting a homer, and circling the bases, Aaron reportedly told Berra, “I came here to hit, not to read.”
How does that anecdote relate to cigar bands? The fact of the matter is that we all have a tendency to read labels. So, for all cigar smokers, there is an unconscious impulse to hold the cigars with the band up so that they, and everyone else, can see the front of the band. This can become a problem if the cigar starts to burn at an angle.
When this happens, you should turn the side that is burning slower towards the bottom. With this method, each puff sends more air through the cigar, igniting the unburned tobacco at the end. The ash on top then cools. If the band is stuck in the wrong position, you risk looking foolish by smoking with the back of the band on top. You could opt to rotate the band, increasing the chance of damaging the wrapper. Or, as Yogi Berra would prefer, go ahead and remove the band altogether. This eliminates any potential difficulty, allowing you to enjoy your cigar as intended.
Actually, there’s no right or wrong way to smoke a cigar. It’s a simple fact that holding the band upright at all times leads to an uneven burn, while intentional rotation creates an even burn. In this case, Berra’s rule is all about practicality.
And, if we go a bit beyond Berra’s rule and look into overall band etiquette, it’s a mix of preference and practicality. As a general rule of thumb, you’re smoking the cigar to enjoy the taste and smell of tobacco, rather than paper and ink. So, it’s inadvisable to actually smoke the label!
But, if you try to remove the band straightaway, the hardened glue is more than likely to tear the wrapper of the cigar, leading to improper burning and a less enjoyable experience.
Perhaps the best approach is to light the cigar and allow it to do the work for you. As you smoke the cigar, the warmth from the burn denatures the glue, making it softer and more pliable. This allows you to peel the band away from the wrapper and either discard it or keep it as a memento of your cigar conquests.
If you opt to handle your cigar band like this, just keep the Yogi Berra rule in mind. Watch that you resist the temptation to read, and you keep it rotating for an even, enjoyable smoke.