Friday, October 15, 2010

On Being a Yankee Fan

The Fan's blog buddy, Navin (@eyebleaf), believes that being a fan of the New York Yankees is an easy thing. Yankee fans are spoiled he says. Yankee fans have it easy, he thinks. Yankee fans feel entitled he implies. Don't get the Fan wrong. Navin is the best of his generation when it comes to supporting his passion for sports and his writing profession. Love the guy. But he is dead wrong. Being a fan of the New York Yankees is one of the most conflicting passions of all. Here's why.

First, rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the Roman Empire or for America, for that fact. Most of the world hates you and is just hoping with their dying breaths that you will go belly up with a fork in your belly. If you are not a fan of the Texas Rangers or the Tampa Bay Rays, you still have a mild interest that both of those smart but cash strapped organizations win. But if you are not a fan of the New York Yankees, you hope that the Yankees are humiliated and paraded around the warning track in their scivvys.

Contrast the feelings about the Yankees to the Cubs. Cubs fans are lovable losers. They have hung in there despite disappointments year after year. Most baseball fans feel for Cubs fans. The Red Sox sure screwed this up in a big way. Before 2004, they were in the same boat as the Cubs, but they broke the curse and most of the world was happy for them. But they blew it. Their fans got bloated and obnoxious and that Red Sox Nation thing has turned them into pariahs second only to the Yankees.

But Yankee fans know there is no option but to win. If their team doesn't win, then they know there will be wholesale changes and heads will roll. Any contemplative joy in reflecting on a good season and good stories and nice surprises are trashed in their failure to win it all. If the Yankees win it all, then those nasty Romans rammed it down the world's throat just like the always do by having more resources than any other team. If they lose, then there is mockery at what all those resources brought you. There is no winning for the Yankees fan.

And there is no sympathy. Yankee fans understand that. Nevermind that the team went 0 for the 80s or had the worst team in baseball in the late sixties. It's only from 96 to now that everyone remembers. Most fans hope their teams win. Yankee fans hope their team doesn't lose.

And what if you like the Yankee players? Jeter is universally panned. His poor season in 2010 was glee to many. Nevermind that he still came in the middle of the pack for shortstops in value at his age. He just didn't put up Jeter numbers. He looked less than Jeter-like and people are happy about that. It isn't the Yankee fans' fault that the media has built him up like some kind of megalith. Fans of the Yankees didn't do that. But they bear the brunt of the consequences. Yankee fans when traveling to other parts of the country never say out loud that they love Derek Jeter despite the love and devotion felt to him. They can't.

And imagine if that is how it goes for Jeter fans, how about A-Rod fans? Now there is a guy that people hate. Try rooting for him! You can't go to a bar and say out loud, "Come on A-Rod, hit it out!" The bouncer would be breaking your head on the street corner, and that is after people throw beer in your face.

If the Phillies win, it will be accepted. If the Rangers win, people will be happy for them. If the Giants win, won't those pitchers be amazing. And how about that Buster Posey! But if the Yankees win, there will be no love, no congratulations and no credit. There will be antipathy. How good can that make a Yankee fan feel?

To be fair, Yankee fans have no choice but to fight those feelings and sometimes the defense mechanisms roll over toward smugness and arrogance. Often, those become hateful comments lashing out at Yankee haters on comment boards. That's regretful. And it doesn't help the overall perception. It all goes back to the perception people have of New Yorkers in general. If you ask someone in Kansas what the people of New York City are like and there will be a universal response. Those jerks. But, it would surprise many that a lot of people in New York are nice people. Imagine that.

The Cardinals have won a lot in the last 40 years. But people don't hate them. They may hate Tony LaRussa. But they don't hate the Cardinals. It was hard to hate Tommy Lasorda for very long because he had a charm about him (that hides a dark side). People all loved Bobby Cox despite his many years of success. But none of that applies to the Yankees. They are the hated empire. They are the bullies of the Bronx. They are megalomaniacs of baseball.

And yeah, it all goes back to Steinbrenner. His brashness, his in your face approach to owning the Yankees set the tone for Yankee haters for a generation. It doesn't matter that the TEAM of players for the Yankees (with the possible exception of A-Rod) are a classy bunch of humans that handle themselves with professionalism. Mariano Rivera never makes an Incredible Hulk pose after striking out the last guy of a game. Andy Pettitte (if you'll pardon the HGH flap) has always seemed like a class act. Jeter has the respect of his peers if not the world's baseball fans. But Steinbrenner's actions and stance colored everything. And the media's over-adulation doesn't help either.

No, being a fan of the New York Yankees isn't easy. It's a no win situation. The joy of winning is stolen by the hate thrown and the disappointment of losing is way worse because of the knowledge that there is almost universal joy at the development. This writer acknowledges that it is probably better than being a Pirates or a Royals fan. But it isn't what it's cracked up to be.


bobook said...

"Hatred is the coward's revenge for feeling intimidated." Emerson

William J. Tasker said...

Emerson! Impressive!

Josh Borenstein said...

A-Rod was a lot more well-liked before he got exposed as a cheater. I can't help hating the evil empire. Doesn't mean I don't like Jeter, though. I've always had a great deal of respect for him.