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A Bronx Cheer in Seattle
The last time we were all together, at least in spirit, was on October 22, 2001, for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. It took place in New York City, a continent away, but all of us, in our separate living rooms or sports bars or automobiles, or maybe even at Yankee Stadium, were still bound together with one overwhelming desire: that the Seattle Mariners might come back from a 3-1 game deficit, crush the New York Yankees and continue onto the World Series.
It didn't work out that way. Instead of crushing, the M's were crushed, 12-3, and it was the Yankees who continued onto the World Series, their fifth in six years.
I know a lot of M's fans who turned off the game before the end. It was just too painful seeing those sad Mariner faces in the dugout contemplating an ignominious end to their 116-win season. It was too painful watching the victorious Yankees laughing and strutting prior to their annual hogpile on the pitcher's mound.
But mostly it was too painful listening to those damn Yankee fans.
Remember? The game was over long before it was over and the Yankee fans reveled in their team's domination. “Overrated!” they chanted. “116!” they shouted as one. “No Game Six!” they mocked Lou Piniella, who had promised a return to Seattle.
I watched it all. On some level we always imitate our baseball heroes, and I was simply doing what players throughout the decades have done after they've been eliminated. I watched, stony-eyed, as the other team's fans celebrated, so that I could remember what it was like; so that I would never forget.
Soon after this, the great New York Times columnist Robert Lipsyte wrote a piece stating that other fans don't really hate the Yankees (because what's there to hate about little Derek Jeter?); they hate Yankees fans, who are coarse and bullying, and fat and ugly and loathsome and sometimes homicidal (I may be extrapolating here). There's no such thing as Yankee hating, he seemed to imply. There's only Yankees fan hating.
If I may rebut: Lipsyte, as great as he is, was off this day. It's the Yankees I hate.
And Yankees fans? They are to be emulated. In fact, I feel that all fans should act like Yankee fans whenever the Yankees come to town.
Think about it. When opposing players talk about how intimidating it is playing in Yankee Stadium, they're not referring to Alfonso Soriano; they're referring to those fat, ugly bleacher bums with lax personal hygiene who rain scatological abuse on them for three hours straight. That's why it's tough to play there. That's why so many teams crumble there. All baseball players talk about how the fans are really their secret weapon, but in the Bronx, where fans pay for the privilege of being heard, it's actually true.
Last season Seattle fans grew up a little. When Alex Rodriguez, PR spokesperson for Alex Rodriguez Enterprises, returned to Safeco Field with his $252 million contract, we let him have it. Hard. And, boy, did it feel good. We booed and jeered until our throats were raw. We rained paper money on his expertly coifed head. He couldn't come near the ball without provoking a growl of abuse from the crowd.
And it worked. His team never recovered from their first Safeco trip.
My argument: Alex last year, the Yankees this year.
I don't care how we sound when the Royals or Tigers or Devil Rays come to town. But the Yankees, who collect superstars the way some people collect bottlecaps, and who are quickly turning our Mariners into a 21st century version of the old hapless Brooklyn Dodgers by handily beating them two years running in the ALCS, well, these guys deserve our abuse.
For too long the Yankees have sucked the good fortune out of the rest of the world. Last season, when the fates and Tony Womack decreed a different outcome, they flinched, flailed, gave a small bleat of protest, and then spent $171.25 million to upgrade. The playing field, which was already tilted in their favor, got tilted some more. Why not? They're the Yankees.
As fans, we can do nothing about this. But at least we can be loud and angry when they come to town.
Remember that final series in October? Remember how they crushed us? Remember how they dashed our hopes of listening to Dave Niehaus broadcast his first World Series? Remember what their fans chanted?
The worst part is, the fans were right. There was no Game Six, and our 116 wins during the regular season meant nothing in October. The Yankees fans were loud, clever, and acted as one.
I repeat: we should all act like Yankee fans when the Yankees come to town.
Which is April 26, 27 and 28.
Welcome back. Let's make some noise.
—originally published in The Grand Salami