Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Don't Think I Hate The Yankees Anymore

A commenter on the Roger Clemens post, expecting to duck as he announced it, mentioned he is a Yankee fan. Traditionally, that is supposed to be a declaration of rivalry nigh on to enmity. It mildly surprised me that I felt no welling of annoyance. On reflection, I have felt no welling of annoyance over Yankee fans for some time.

Growing up, Yankee fans were the only other baseball fans you might run into around here. We would meet them at summer camp - guys from Connecticut who seemingly had betrayed New England by being New York centered in their affections. A fair number from NY and NJ would come up to lake vacation or ski in NH as well. We would see their bumper stickers and hats. The team histories contributed to the rivalry, but kids are only dimly aware of such things. Being educated in the tribal lore of Red Sox Nation came later. We rooted for our team because it was ours. We never met any Orioles of Phillies fans. All our focus was on New York.

Going to college in the south, I went prepared to express tolerance for all sorts of cultural diversity: Braves fans, Dodgers fans, Pirates fans, and even (swallow) Yankee fans. But with that last category it was forced politeness.

Things are different now. We have teams from all over the country to be annoyed with, and I think that waters it down. There is more national broadcast, and people have moved to and from here in great numbers. I have a son dating a Yankee fan, and one can hardly blame her: her father got a spring training look with them as a pitcher in the 80's. Baseball is a tradition-based sport, and I think there will always be some residual preference for Yankee-bashing, but it's not what it was.

For me, the high-water mark for Yankee hatred was 1978. Tom Boswell declared that one-game playoff between the Sox and the Yanks as the greatest game in baseball history, not only for its internal drama, but for what it meant in the context of its season, the history of the two teams, and the history of baseball. If Peter Gammons is correct in his Beyond The Sixth Game, baseball changed because of free agency in the late 70's and has been a different sport since (though the game itself remains the same). For Red Sox fans that is certainly true, as the legend of the just-missing Boston teams took off in those years. Then in the early 80's we let Carlton Fisk get away, there was a strike shortened season - you could make an argument that the 1978 game was the last game of Old Baseball. The moving, broadcasting, and free agency brought in New Baseball.

I knew something had changed forever in the 1990's when I felt sorry for Bucky Bleeping Dent because Steinbrenner was being such a jerk, and I wasn't the only Boston fan who said that. For us to have sympathy for Dent, to root for his side in a dispute? The world had moved. There have been spikes in Yankee hatred in RSN, when Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs went there, or in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. But it's not the same, and I'm not sure I miss the old days that much.


Anonymous said...

His official middle initial is "F", as in Bucky F. Dent.

BTW, I was at that game, sitting along the first base line in the grandstands, roughly as far back as the roof support pillars. I still have no idea how Fred Lynn's shot in the eighth failed to get past Lou Piniella. He never saw the thing.

And no, I don't hate the Yankees nearly as much as I used to. They have much more likeable players now, as compared to reprobates like Mickey Rivers, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage. There is still the Steinbrenner factor, though.

You may want to check out this quiz on the game.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the quiz wasn't all that, don't bother.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Lou G.D. Pinella?

The worst part was that he successfully deked the baserunner into thinking he was catching it on the fly, so he hung back to tag up. An easy run otherwise.

Ben Wyman said...

I agree, even though I wasn't there. Free agency changed a lot, but more recently ESPN and the internet made rooting for a non-local team a real possibility. Once you're faced with hating not a fan base but actual individual fans, it's harder to humanely do so.

I think in recent years as the game has gone more national, more people lump us in with the Yankees as one of those extreme-spending teams, which makes us defensive. We don't like getting called Yankees, but it makes us angry at fans who aren't Yankees, too.

It's also harder to hate these Yankees teams, full of clean-cut guys whose only real flaw is that they went to the team that offered the biggest contract. I'm glad Clemens is back so that there's a player on that team who legitimately deserves our scorn. I was even starting to feel a little sorry for A-Rod.

Anonymous said...

I took the quiz. There was a wrong answer in it, but since I was not a registered user, it wouldn't let me complain.

I was also at the game, sitting about 15 rows back of home plate. I thought sure Yaz was going to get it done in the bottom of the ninth.

One thing I have always thought didn't get enough attention was that the home field advantage sunk the Sox. Jackson and Dent hit home runs. Neither would have been a homer in Yankee stadium. Fred Lynn hit a ball to the corner in right field that Pinella caught. It would have been a homer in Yankee stadium. Yaz homer would have been a homer either place.

There is no liking the Yankees. What, are we going to feel sorry for them because they haven't won a world championship in the 21st century. Please!!!!!! 26 world championships? That's one every 4 years! They should have won only 1 every 20 years! Let them have a drought of, oh, 50 years, and then I might feel bad for them. No, make that 86 years.

As for the 1978 playoff being the last of the "old baseball", let us remember that Goose Gossage was pitching for the pinstripes because Steinbrenner had signed him as a free agent in the offseason. They already had Sparky Lyle, for crying out loud. Too bad the Red Sox didn't have a reliever like Lyle . . . never mind.

Bucky Dent . . . Aaron Boone . . . no, I can't give it up. I am a Yankee hater for life.

Anonymous said...

Full disclosure: I'm a Boston Red Sox fan... so my question is this: What are "The Yankees?"