We have some VERY cool things lined up for the blog starting on Monday, so before they get rolling, I wanted to tie up a bit of a loose end in regards to my Sabathia post from earlier in the week. Being a Mets fan who dislikes the Yankees, inevitably, I’m always asked to explain this attitude by my fellow Gothamites. Red Sox/Yankees hatred is easy enough to comprehend, but why would fellow New Yorkers cheer against a team that’s so iconic of our city and its history? Is it jealousy? That’s always the first assumption, but it runs a bit deeper than that.
This is the new Monument Park (and even I have to admit, they did a great job bringing it over to the new stadium). Do me a favor: click on the photo, and look at all those legendary players. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Maris, Donny Baseball, and so on. There’s something interesting about that list of sixteen great players though (the great Mr. Robinson removed, as his number is retired across the league). Take a moment, and see if you can figure it out. I’ll still be here.
Give up? Here’s a hint: go back, and count the number of legendary Yankee pitchers. Two. In the most storied franchise’s most storied history, only two pitchers were significant enough to be granted that honor. I should also point out that Guidry was recently added in 2003, so Whitey Ford was all alone out there for a very long time.
On the surface, this seems relatively insignificant. After all, the Yankees are known for their great hitters: guys like Ruth and Mantle whose moonshots were legendary. Which, ultimately, is my point. Since Ruth, the Yankees always have been, and always will be the Broadway feature with the marquee names. Come see the stars, watch a few go over the fence, let’s hear Sinatra sing while we make our way home.
Even the most educated, intelligent Yankee fan (my fiance is a good example of this rare creature) has to admit that there are many fans of the team who don’t pay attention to the intricacies of the game (like pitching and defense), and pay money for the biggest ticket in baseball to watch sluggers hit. Period. Big lights, big city, and everyone can understand and cheer for a home run. That’s the attraction. The stadium feels more like a mausoleum than a comfortable, warm home.
By comparison, would you like to know who our most iconic figure is? Seaver is wonderful, we all love Straw, Keith and Doc, but at the end of the day, we’re a goofy team in a big city with a history of futility. And to a man, we all love this guy:
Oddly enough, Colin Cowherd went on a rant regarding this very subject a few years back, on his ESPN Radio show:
Here’s what Mr. Cowherd doesn’t get, along with the majority of Yankee fans: we don’t take our team seriously, but we do take baseball seriously. Honestly, you guys are generally the opposite. Victory and adding to the championship rings is priority #1, and the rest is entirely secondary.
And to us, that’s a joyless existence when it comes to being a baseball fan. In the video above, Cowherd talks about how serious and historic the Yankees and their broadcasts are, the pomp and grandeur of it all, and how we need to be more like them. That’s kind of the point: to us, there’s no FUN in cheering for a team that has that sort of air about them. When your expectations are that high, and anything less than a World Series Championship is regarded as a failure (go ahead, ask Mr, Torre his feelings on that one), we’ll gladly take our team in Flushing, warts and all.
Admittedly, there is a generous amount of pretension in this attitude, but it comes from the right place. We moan and complain about the Seaver trade, the years of futility in the late 70s and early 80s, the wasted opportunities for what should have been more championships following 1986, Mo Vaughn and Robbie Alomar, Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, Adam Wainwright throwing the perfect curveball that will haunt me in my nightmares forever as Beltran could do nothing but watch it fall for a strike and the pennant, and two of the most heartbreaking, soul crushing losses to end a season in sports history, in back-to-back years for extra sting. And we embrace having the worst season in baseball history back in 1962 (seriously, we were all very concerned when the Tigers got close to that 120 loss mark in 2003). We take all this punishment, and we keep coming back for more. Want to know why? Because deep down inside, we feel it makes us better than Yankees fans. We’ll roll with the punches, embrace our futility, and still support our team. No matter what.
By comparison, whenever anything goes wrong with the Yankees, you sense their fans are ready to jump off the bandwagon at any given moment. You should have seen the comments Yankee friends of mine back home were making on Facebook after the 0-2 start to the season. You’d swear the season was over, and you could tell they wanted nothing to do with baseball until the team started winning. To us, there’s no fun in that. I say it often, and I’ll repeat it here: if the Mets only win one more World Series in my lifetime and the Yankees win ten, that will be just fine with me. Because I’ll get more joy out of that one championship than the average Yankee fan would out of those ten combined. I’ll feel like we earned it. Yes, our payroll is gigantic too, but there’s no accounting for the emotional toll of our team’s failure and incompetence, historically speaking.
That’s what drives us: in the end, the suffering makes the success that much more meaningful. And it’s something Yankees fans will never experience, much less understand.
Next week: Thoughts on Tiger at the Masters, reflections on Jackie Robinson Day, and a sneak peek inside the Upper Deck building.
Yes, in case you were wondering, we have lots of cool stuff. I’m going to do my best to make you feel jealous.