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Friday, April 16, 2004

Real Fans at Yankee Stadium? (Colorful Language: including the F-Bomb, a reference to the Irish, and Rugby Shenanigans)

If Yankees fans exhibited the same psychologically questionable practices as the denizens of Chicago or Boston, would you then allow them the pleasure of knowing that you consider them true fans? It’s funny, that in a city that still mourns the loss of their beloved Dodgers, some would say that no one could really be said to love the Yankees. The way some people make it sound, New Yorkers just want their victory parade and fuck the rest. Since Yankees fans are judged so harshly, let me offer you an anecdote:

I lived in the Bronx for two years. Have you ever been to the Bronx? Did you ever go down to Yankee stadium for a game? Let me tell you, back when they allowed alcohol sales out in the bleachers, Yankees baseball was not a game suitable for children. These men, I can’t remember seeing any women in the bleachers, were representative of the great working class that makes New York City run. The bleachers was the one place that the descendents of shanty Irish, the Puerto Ricans with their low slung cars and Spanish language rap, and every working class Italian could meet on a common ground. These were people who worked with their hands, doing the shit-work that allowed Wall Street types to go about their day keeping tax revenues high.

Those people loved their game. I would wager that those working stiffs were the same kind of men who sit in the bleachers for the Cubs and the Sox. They leaned into every pitch, they sweated out full counts, and they cursed when something went wrong. These working stiffs probably only went to one game a month and watched a lot of baseball on old t.v.’s in hot walk-up apartment. They read the back page of the Daily News first, and they muttered if someone wasn’t performing adequately.

One day, sitting directly behind the White Sox’s bull pen: “Hey, you, shithead. Yeah, you, number 19. In the video game, you suck!”
A few seconds later. “Hey, number 21, what are you fucking laughing at, you’re not even in the video game, you fucker!”

When I was at Fordham, I tried to learn how to play rugby. It turns out that coupled with a distinct fear of death, my lack of appreciable athletic talent prohibited my gaining a good hold on the game. In any case, I met many local New York chaps. Charming fellows one and all. (Interesting note: I’m fairly certain that it was ESPN’s Tony Reali who was the Tony on the team, but don’t quote me.) I don’t think any were from Manhattan. They came from exotic locals like Far Rockaway and Ozone Park. I felt like an anthropologist: Forget that I actually came from west of the Hudson, some of these young men had never actually been west of the Hudson. We were having a party, doing some team bonding, getting wasted. Typical fraternity types stuff, except that we were actually supposed to play rugby the next day. The Yanks were on. They were watching every pitch, commenting, showing what I assumed to be prodigious amounts of knowledge about the game, the way it was played, and the way it ought to be played. They asked me what team I rooted for. “I don’t really like baseball that much, never really thought about it,” was my reply. You would have thought I was a bug in the soup. They just couldn’t believe it. Baseball was something they were born and raised watching, revering, and following. They couldn’t imagine their world without baseball, specifically the Yanks.

My point: these people were real fans of Yankee baseball by any definition. They loved being a dynasty and I don’t think their love was any less for the overwhelming success of their beloved.

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