Wednesday, October 21, 2009

in which you are suprised at how childish I am and how strongly I dislike the yankees

I really dislike the yankees. It is the organizing principle of my baseball life. It may in fact created the liberal framework through which I view all sports.

Now, the roots of Washington sports fans hating new york run very deep. Douglass Wallop's mid-century novel--The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant (upon which the musical Damn Yankees is based)--is all about the depths of the desire of Washington baseball fans to finally best the overlord yankees.

All of this became real for me in 1996 American League Championship Series. With the Orioles leading late in the game, Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to right field. Baltimore Orioles' (Washington had no team so our allegiances shifted 90 mi north)outfielder Tony Tarasco camped underneath it to make the catch. Unexpectedly, A 12 year old boy reached out of the outfield stands of Yankee Stadium and caught the ball.

Now this is not the most scandalous thing in the world, it happens enough that there is a rule for it. When a fan reaches into the field of play and touches a ball, it is ruled spectator interference and in this case the batter would be called out. This is actually more invasive than steve bartman who did not reach into the field of play, but simply refused to yield to Moises Alou's attempt to reach into the stands. but in any event, it is a routine call.

However, the correct call was not made. The fly ball was ruled a home run, the momentum swung to the Yankees who eventually won the game and ultimately the series. And the world rejoiced--or at least the media. Rather than heralding this as an unfortunate tragedy (that a game was decided by invasive fans and umpire error), the boy was cheered as a hero by a new york-centric media and Orioles fans were left with nothing but a bitter sense that the world was focused on New York and we were merely foils to the various forms of their glory.

The fact that this happened in 1996, I was a young teenager, still sensitive to unfairness and still developing a sense of how the wider world worked. Although I admit that it seems childish to carry such vivid memories of this, it was quite instructive that the wealthier, more important team not only received the call but had its unfair advantage whitewashed into an act of heroism and humor. Once one sees this, one looks for it everywhere.

When Michael Jordan threw Bryon Russell to the ground with his left hand in the waning seconds of the 1998 NBA finals, I did not see an act of last second heroism, but rather Jordan, the dominant, favored overdog, being rewarded for the taking advantage of his privilege and then having that unfairness papered over as an act of greatness and glory.

This is where things get murky. I am tempted to try to extrapolate this lesson into something about my political views--why I am outraged about the unlimited upside, socialized downside of wall st. (which happens to be located in new york). That I am, hopefully, sensitive to injustice masquerading as success. but that feels a little foolish if not hypocritical-especially when I could well be considered a bit of a Yankee on social grounds myself. So let's leave that part on the cutting room floor and return to the singular joys of watching the Yankees lose. There really is nothing like it.

Washington baseball fandom is difficult. One cannot root for the Angelos-era Orioles, much as one cannot really root for the Snyder-era Redskins. And the Nationals can be rooted for, but not with any real hope of victory.

and so I turn on the TV all summer and into October hoping to watch the yankees lose. I antagonized a New jersey-ite casual fan girlfriend in 2001 to take joy in Luis Gonzalez's flair to help the Diamondbacks (about whom no one can be passionate independently) best Marino Rivera and the Yanks. I stayed up late and crowded into bars full of unlikable red sox fans in 2004 to glory in the defeat of the yankees again (never bothering to watch the actual '04 world series between Sox and Cards). And so it is this year. I will watch attentively, hoping only to see them fail and try again next year with more money.


Anonymous said...

I had similar feelings while I was watching this a couple weeks ago:

8yearoldsdude said...

yeah, what got me thinking about this again was watching the calls last night. they weren't decisive in the same way. but I got that eerie feeling.

Wade Garrett said...

A big deal was made out of the fact that Mauer would have ended up on second base, and the batter after Mauer hit a single, so Mauer might have scored. That single play wouldn't have decided the series, but the Yankees - like the Patriots, it needs to be said - already get more than their fair share of breaks. For many fans, the calls last night may be the calls that break the camel's back.

Senor Beavis said...

Huzzah and kudos. You have completely captured my own views and with far less swearing so as to seem respectable.

I happened to be in college during that game, which of course meant half the students were from NY or NJ. Despite having hopefully matured somewhat, I still wish bad things on Jeffrey Maier.