Saturday, November 07, 2009

World Series, Part 2: The Victors

Philadelphia sports fans are taught from a very early age to despise all other teams -- and their own, too. So Yankee-hating has always seemed weird to me.

I can understand why Red Sox fans hate the Yanks. They are rivals for the same prize each year. I can see why Mets hate the Yanks. Being a perennial number two in the same racket in the same town can blot the sunshine out of life. Take it from a former Herald employee.

But everyone else? I don't get why fans in someplace like Seattle or Houston would be a professional Yankee-hater. I know those folks have existed since the 1920s, and some of it has to do with our nation's extremely conflicted feelings about money, power, and our largest city, so as an American Studies major I understand. As a sports follower, I don't. You root for teams you play to fail, but if they're not on the schedule, who cares about them?

When it comes to individual Yankees, the hatred makes even less sense. Who could possibly dislike Hideki Matsui, or Jorge Posada, or Mariano Rivera? (Not even the most zealous Sox fans dislike Mo, although they all fear him). It isn't Derek Jeter's fault Tim McCarver likes him so much. A-Rod is the most neurotic superstar of our time, and people razz him mostly because they know it bothers him. That is legitimate fan gamesmanship. It doesn't change the reality of his greatness as a player.

Successful team/athlete hatred exists in all sports (except golf and tennis. Must be a WASP thing). The simplest and best way to see its stupidity is to look at it from the other side of the telescope. Patriots fans complain, and rightly so, about the cardboard cutout stereotype of Bill Belichick held by fans and media from other markets. They should switch to the Red Sox fan side of their brain and examine their A-Rod opinions. It's possible those are caricatures of reality as well.

Pressed to the wall, your Yankee hater will say that his primary objection to the franchise is how it "buys championships." The Yankees commit the cardinal sin of exploiting their inherent economic advantages to win. It's not fair.

No, it's not. It's not fair that New York City has more of the good things of life such as arts, restaurants, centers of learning, etc. than your town just because it's bigger, either. But anyone who complained about that would be regarded as a first-degree crank. Why should sports be different?

(Red Sox fans, who root for a team that is second to none in the ruthless monetizing of that love, should be pelted with rotten fruit if THEY complain about the Yankees spending habits.)

Of all the Yankee-haters, there is no greater poseur than the twit who says he hates the team for socioeconomic reasons; the old "rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel" idea first posited in the Great Depression. It was bullshit then, and it's bullshit now. Let me tell you a story about that.

In the spring and summer of 1987, I had the most unusual sportswriting gig of my life. I was Yankee beat writer for the "Village Voice." At that time, the giant figures of American leftist political journalism who had helped found the Voice were still at the paper, people like Jack Newfield and Nat Hentoff.

And almost all of them were sick Yankees fans!! These men, whom I grew up admiring to the max, sought me out to discuss the Yanks, which was flattering if bizarre. It was also hilarious. This citadel of rebellion against the American status quo rooted for the ballclub that exemplifies the status quo.

Of course, ideology had nothing to do with. The lefty Yankee fans were fans for the same reason almost everyone is -- it's how they were brought up. Which brings me back to my opening paragraph.

I hated seeing the Yankees win the Series. But that hatred had nothing to do with them. The Yankees don't suck. Losing does.


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