Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Team Loyalty

Editor's note: On the cusp of the MLB divisional series, Brendan explains how he gets to root for a team that actually has something to play for following the end of the regular season...

Please hold your boos until the end.

I am a Yankees fan. In the spring of 1986, I was just beginning to cultivate a fondness for baseball. My family had moved "upstate" that year, and most of my new friends were kind of amazed that I had so little interest in or knowledge of the sport. In my case, my sporting preferences had been passed down from a father who had me on ice skates at the age of three, and whose face turned a bright shade of red each Sunday afternoon from September through December. My father found baseball about as interesting as golf, and I suspect he signed up to coach my first soccer team in an effort to keep me away from t-ball.

As the 1986 baseball season played out (or droned on, if you were my father), the Mets became the favorite team of many of my friends. They were exciting, and they won games. And of course, we lived in New York State, if not New York City, so it was natural for them to root for a NY team. I also found it natural to cheer for a NY team, however, I became fascinated with the history of the Yankees, especially Babe Ruth. Here was a kid who had overcome extreme disadvantages to become the first, and arguably the greatest power hitter of all time. Plus, I was kind of a chunky kid, and Babe was a great big fatso.

I followed the Yankees through some ok years, and some less than ok years. During this time, George Steinbrenner began to really pour money into player salaries, hoping to buy a championship, and in some people's eyes bring glory back to the franchise. I was too young to know how Steinbrenner was changing the game of baseball, and just knew that we had players who were supposed to be good. They just didn't win enough. I didn't really care that we weren't winning, I was caught up in the history of the team. Thurman Munson. Yogi Berra. Babe. Holy Cow.

In 1993, my Dad broke down and brought me to a game. Jim Abbott threw a no hitter, and I got a foul ball from under the seat in front of us after my Dad and his friend wrestled with some other fans to open enough room for me to get to it. I still have the ticket stub (and of course the ball), although as I entered high school I became less interested in baseball with each passing year, to the point where I hardly noticed when the Yankees won the World Series in 1998.

When I moved back to NY in 2002 I began going to games again and my fondness for the Yankees, and baseball in general was rekindled. I also became painfully aware of the caricature of a Yankees fan; loud, quite possibly drunk, and with an ego the size of a monster truck. I've listened to my friends swear off visits to Yankees Stadium after being assaulted verbally (and in some cases physically) for having the gall to root for an opponent. I've watched the stadium that was home to one of my fondest childhood memories torn down, replaced by a new shiny, hulking mall-field. Kind of like a baseball Death Star.

I know it's wrong. I don't care. I still root for the Yankees, even though I'm old enough to know better, because rooting for another team would feel wrong(er.)

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