NEW YORK -- There are some things I’ll probably never be able to relate to. The pain of child bearing comes to mind. What it feels like to walk on the moon is certainly hard to imagine. But how anybody could find joy in rooting for the New York Yankees truly lies beyond my levels of comprehension.
The Yankees and their bloated $200 million payroll, their $1.5 billion stadium, their $12 hot dogs (all of which occasionally lead to a World Series title or 27) to me represent everything that has gone haywire, not only in sports, but in America.
Nevertheless, I have to live in the real world and acknowledge that the team inspires millions of passionate and devoted followers. All of these folks can’t have hearts of stone, can they? There has to be some sort of compelling rationale that causes this species of fan to don the replica Yankee pinstripes and take pleasure in watching their squad pummel defenseless foes (e.g., the overmanned Tigers, who were roughed up Saturday by a score of 10-6).
In hopes of at least making an attempt to unravel the deep psychosis afflicting these Yankee faithful, I conducted some informal field research between innings at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. My subjects were situated in or near the beer lines, which may have led to a higher response rate, as well as a freer flow of information. It also occasionally put the researcher (me) in peril, especially when I asked the subjects how they could "sleep at night rooting for the Yankees?” or “look in the mirror with a Yankees hat on?”
One of my first subjects was Jonathan Howard, age 23, from Brooklyn. He attempted to use a form of Social Darwinism theory to explain his clear conscience in rooting for the Bronx Bombers. “If a Yankee can kill a Tiger, why shouldn’t he be allowed to. We’re in the jungle baby,” proudly concluded Mr. Howard with his friends, fellow Darwinists to the core, applauding in the background.
Moving on to my next subject, I was confronted with a classic diagnosis of narcissism. “When you look like me, you have to root for the best,” stated an admittedly not-too-painful-on-the-eyes Yanks fan, who, after a bit of prodding, offered her name only as “Savannah.”
“New York is a city of haters,” she continued, “and the Yankees are the one thing that gets us to stop hating on each other.” For a New York minute, I registered that as, potentially, a not completely evil explanation for Yankee adoration. I made a note of that in my research log and moved on. Thank you, Ms. Savannah.
My next scientifically conducted interview was with Matt Ernst, age 23, from “Jersey Baby!” Mr. Ernst spoke on behalf of a group of subjects that, by the time the interview was concluded, had swelled to nearly a dozen vocal respondents. Ernst used the dubious technique of turning a question back at the questioner when presented with the inherent problem of rooting for a franchise with unlimited resources.
“If you had a million dollars, buddy, are you gonna buy a Honda or a Benz?” asked Ernst. (For the record I would buy a Jeep).
Mr. Ernst then abruptly concluded the interview by asking the researcher (still me), “are you an accredited journalist, dude?”
Finally, I ran into a gang of Yankee faithful from New Jersey who, believe it or not, were high school classmates with Tiger pitcher Rick Porcello (“I used to cheat off Rick in math…dude is smart,” attested an anonymous subject in this group. “And I cheated off him in history,” cheerfully noted another classmate.).
Surely their bond, unseemly as it may be, to a player on a mid-market team, just trying to stay above .500 and maybe make the playoffs every 10 years, would cause them to see things a little differently. Perhaps, since a Tiger enabled them to graduate high school, they might display a hint of compassion, a smidgen of empathy for the little guy.
Not a chance.
“We’re winners. That’s the point of sports bro,” insightfully noted a group member, who, despite the “winners” lingo, didn’t appear to be Charlie Sheen.
“We get to party our asses off when they win…isn’t that a good enough reason to root for the Yanks?” offered up another former Porcello chum. OK, it’s hard to argue with that rock solid logic.
As I was leaving the stadium after concluding my research on this strange species, I discovered several Yankee promotional calendars on the ground near the exit gate. I had observed fans leaving the stadium throughout the day carrying multiple copies of these free giveaways. Upon closer examination, not only were the calendars themselves a nice collectors item, they each also contained a Subway gift card for a free 12 inch sub with all the fixings! Talk about the rich just getting richer and richer.
After a momentary internal conflict, I took five calendars, stuffed them in my jacket, and hurried off to catch the D train in the blustery Bronx evening. I guess if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Or at least let them buy you dinner.