The Trouble With Yankees Fans
Chris Orcutt - NotWriting.com
October 25, 2003
I’ve been off in a cave licking my wounds. Once again, my team, the Boston Red Sox, came this close (my fingers are half an inch apart) before they lost.
Hell on Earth
It’s not easy being a Red Sox fan in New York. I was born in Maine and went to college in Boston, yet I now live in the land of the enemy. The Valley of the Shadow of Death, you might say.
Everywhere you go, there’s some greasy-haired fat guy wearing a Yankees jacket. Stores routinely sell Yankees pennants, keychains, and Derek Jeter “bobble-heads” at checkout counters. When you ride the subway, you’re faced with fifty copies of the Daily News, where, on the back page, there’s always some smug headline like, JETERRIFIC!, ROCKET-PROPELLED GRENADE, SWINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, and my favorite, DIRTY SOX GET WASHED!
Lest I sound like some wackjob lurking outside Yankee Stadium with an axe waiting for a chance to split Clemens’s cranium in half, let me make something very clear: I don't hate the players. I honestly don't. Well, maybe Garcia, Clemens, Posada and Boone, but that's it.
Seriously, rather than the team, it’s the fans I loathe. Why? Oh, I don't know, their arrogance maybe? A sense of entitlement? Whatever it is, every year when the playoffs come around, fans here in New York start talking about the Yankees’ going to the World Series as if it's a fait accompli. (Yankees fans: fait accompli, a French expression, translates roughly to "a done deal.") And then, God forbid, if the Yankees happen to lose the playoffs or the Series, their “fans” will have the audacity to whine and mope for the next five months.
Hey, folks: Try 85 YEARS of bitter, heart-shredding defeats and disappointments. Then you can mope a little. Until then, shut the f**k up.
As a footnote to this, yesterday while doing laundry in the basement of my building, I overheard two old guys talking. Keep in mind that, as of today (Saturday, October 25, 2003), the Yankees are down 3-2 in the World Series against the Marlins.
Old Guy #1: (Coughs.) So what’s the problem?
Old Guy #2: The Yankees, they're losing, that’s the problem.
Old Guy #1: (Dropping quarters into a dryer.) I hear ya.
Old Guy #2: I wish they’d just win it already. These late nights are killing me. My angina’s been acting up.
Old Guy #1: Clemens is pitching Saturday. They’ll pull it out, they always do.
Old Guy #2: They better.
The Trouble with Yankees Fans
During playoff time, there's a collective sense in the air around New York that if the Yankees lose, it will somehow negate the proud and winning tradition the team has built for a century. I mean, how many championships does your team need to win before you realize they’re unquestionably the greatest franchise in the history of baseball? Now don't get me wrong—I'm not saying the Yankees should just lie down and let the Red Sox win for once; rather, what bothers me is the greed on the part of Yankees fans. Never will you hear one say, "Gosh, you know, such-and-such team hasn't won in a long time. It'd be nice to see another team win it for a change." You will never hear a Yankees fan utter those words, and that's the problem.
I guess it shouldn't surprise me; New Yorkers are notoriously myopic. According to lifelong New York residents (especially those who never venture beyond a fifty-mile radius of the city), New York has the best of anything there is, so why bother going anywhere else? Want a good bagel? New York’s the only place you can get one. Entertainment? Hey, you can’t beat Broadway, baby. Want a baseball team to root for? Fuhgetaboutit, the Yankees are the only team you need.
The other thing I loathe about the Bronx Bombers (one of the stupid nicknames for them) is that the team acts as a magnet for fair-weather fans. Some of these people are celebrities, like Robin Williams and Donald “The Donald” Trump (Billy Crystal is an exception), but the majority are New York folk and assorted losers around the country who, even if they’ve never been to New York, support the Yankees only because they like to support a winning team. And if the Yankees aren't winning, these people disappear faster than breakfast buffet flapjacks at a fat man’s convention. You never hear or see these people mid-season, when the Yankees are getting the crap kicked out of them. Come October, however, if the Yankees make it to the playoffs, these parasites emerge from their holes and slip on their Yankees caps. They think they’re fans, but they have no idea what it means to be a fan. (In case you think I'm the only person who believes this, here's an editorial I found after I filed this column.)
What it Means to be a Real Fan
I submit that the only two teams with fans who live up to what it really means to be a fan are the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Longtime fans of these two teams have demonstrated they have faith, and faith is what it means to be a fan. It’s easy to support your team when it has a history of winning, but it requires faith to stand behind your team when it’s consistently getting snipped at the finish line.
Red Sox fans like me are the quintessence of faith. Unlike fans of the Yankees, who have to see their team win year after year, believers in the Sox are steadfast. We’re not going anywhere. Sure, like Job in the Bible, we have our moments of doubt, but every spring we keep coming back.
So, last Tuesday night I lived through another painful reminder that life isn’t fair. The bitch of it is, I saw the whole thing coming.
But before I tell you the story of my most recent heartbreak, let me take you back in time to a fateful day 25 years ago.
You see, unlike 99% of the population, I can pinpoint the exact day that I lost my innocence. And I'm not talking about that kind of innocence, mind you. What I'm speaking of is the day I realized life isn’t fair: Monday, October 2, 1978. Among Boston Red Sox fans this will be known forever as the day Yaz (Carl Yastremski) popped out with two men on, and the Red Sox lost a one-game playoff to the Yankees, 5-4.
That afternoon, as I sat in front of the TV tossing ball into glove, I experienced death for the first time in my life. And the team that killed my beloved Red Sox was the New York Yankees, so you can understand why I harbor a grudge.
Last Tuesday Night, When I Saw the Whole Thing Coming
My friend Tony (a Mets fan who hates the Yankees as much as I do) lives up in the Catskills and only gets one station on his TV. The night of the game there was a major storm up there, so he couldn’t catch Game Seven on radio either. Being the friend I am, I filled in, giving him the play-by-play over the phone. Since Alexas and I have unlimited long-distance with Verizon, this wasn’t a problem. It gave Tone and I an excuse to talk on the phone for four hours, and it gave me the chance to stick it to the phone company, something I enjoy doing whenever I have the chance.
Anyway, I did the play-by-play, and things looked good for my boys early on. (For the record, I want it known that at no point did I think the game was in the bag. I, and legions of other Red Sox fans, have been through too much disappointment with this team to ever consider a game over until the last out.) However, when it came to the seventh inning and Red Sox hurler Pedro Martinez was losing his stuff (he barely got out of a jam with two men on), Tony and I kept saying to each other, “Pull him, pull him, pull him.”
But they didn’t pull him. Management allowed him to stay in for another inning, and the rest is history. The Yankees went on to tie it up, which is where it stayed until the top of the 11th.
At this point, the Yankees are in the bottom of their lineup. Tony and I speculate furiously on how long the game will go. His prediction: the 14th inning. I, on the other hand, sense it isn’t going to last long.
I will never forget what I said next, and MAY GOD STRIKE ME DOWN RIGHT NOW if I’m not telling you the absolute truth here. I said roughly the following:
“You know, it’s not the heavy hitters that worry me in situations like this. It’s these bottom of the lineup guys. They’ve got nothing to lose. Nobody’s expecting them to do anything great, so they don’t feel the pressure.”
Boone steps up to the plate.
“Like take Boone here. This guy makes me nervous. He’s just the type of guy to step up and crack one out of the park. All he’s been doing for the whole ALCS is screwing up. He’s got to be thinking they’re gonna send him down.”
Wakefield, the Red Sox knuckleballer, goes into his windup. I have a flashback to Monday, October 2, 1978 with Bucky Dent at the plate.
“Watch, he’ll hit a homerun right here.”
The first pitch hangs over the plate, and Boone swats it into the left field mezzanine. Game over.
“Homerun, Tone,” I said. “Did I call it or what?”
“Yeah. All right, talk to you tomorrow.”
We hang up. Within two minutes, fireworks are booming outside. More of my favorite people: Yankees fans with explosive devices and the collective IQ of a rake handle. No doubt they bought the things special in anticipation of this moment. More idiots whoop out their windows. Cars scream by my window, horns blaring, leaving me with nothing but resentment and the Doppler effect.
By now the TV and the lights are off, but I continue to sit on the couch in the dark so I can pray. I pray for the Red Sox players, who put up a good fight and were undoubtedly crushed by their loss. I pray for the Red Sox fans, that the Creator might assuage their collective misery. But most of all I pray for the team, reaffirming that I know they’ll one day win it all, that it will happen in my lifetime, and that victory, when it finally does come, will be the sweetest thing I have ever tasted.
Someday, my friends. Someday.
Chris Orcutt is a writer in New York. His website, NotWriting.com, focuses on "stuff one writer does when he should be writing."