How do you root, root, root for the home team when home changes?
I am the only person I know who cheers, during the course of the major league baseball season, for both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Your conclusion might be that I am an uninformed girl or otherwise not really a fan. This would be false, because I was born and raised a baseball fan. It’s the only sport I truly love, understand, and follow.
Though I grew up in Jersey, my family has New York roots both Brooklyn and Long Island, and my first professional game was with my dad and grandfathers at Shea Stadium sometime in the mid-80s. It was a giveaway day and all attending fans received… a Mets potholder. Whether this influenced my impressions of the team is unclear. But while I rooted throughout my youth for both NYC teams, in high school I had a friend who said this sort of double-mindedness was unacceptable, and campaigned relentlessly for me to cheer exclusively for the Yankees. I came to see his point, because baseball in the 90s was more or less synonymous with “Yankees.” My sister and I each had our favorite Yankee: hers, Bernie Williams (she’s still waiting for his triumphant return); mine, Derek Jeter or Jorge Posada (both with NY since 95) depending on the day. Attending college near Pittsburgh never made me waver toward the Pirates, and I endured the Yankee-bashing of my non-NY friends with pride. It was worth it. The Yankees were, and are, my team from April through October and during the sad months outside.
When I moved to Boston, all my NY friends ribbed me about how to hate the Red Sox enough. But I’d never really acquired a hatred for the Boston team. I understood it was a rivalry, but (ahem) the Red Sox had never been much of a threat as long as I’d been paying attention, so, it didn’t seem like a big deal. They were just another team, and I was above all a baseball fan, so I still hoped to catch some games at Fenway, maybe when the Yankees were in town… which I did, engaging in my first act of scalping to get tickets to Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, which turned out to be the infamous Don-Zimmer-fight game. I couldn’t see that bit, because I had a standing room ticket and once the crowd in front of me rose, there was no seeing anything but the backs of angry people’s heads. I learned an important lesson that day, which I actually just included in a travel assignment on Boston under “helpful tips” (alongside “the silver line is a bus that’s a subway” etc) : “Don’t— really, don’t— wear Yankees gear to Fenway Park.” Considering myself female, cheery, and nonthreatening, I had no clue how much flack I was in for at that game and left feeling confident that if I had said so much as “boo” any giant Red Sox male would have slugged me.
A sucker for history and nostalgia, I love Fenway Park and have been to games every season since, but it’s the only home-team-crowd I’ve experienced who seem constantly on the verge of rioting.
The contradictory fan-dom came gradually over the following seasons, because in a town that loves baseball, it’s hard not to get swept up in the home team. Since I don’t pay for elite cable, I haven’t been able to watch a ton of Yankees games since moving here, but I catch almost every Sox game, and so have gradually learned the team. I happened to come to town the year before the Curse was reversed, and deliriously happy people took over the city. The Sox—usually—play good ball, and it’s fun to watch. I find, honestly, that I like them as a team.
My husband is a Sox fan (though I consider myself more serious than he because he didn’t follow baseball at all until 2002 or so), and so at our wedding reception we did a little Boston-NY standoff, where the DJ played both “Sweet Caroline” and “New York, New York” and invited our guests to come out and show their team love. It may have been because Tim’s friends were mostly outside decorating the car, but the New York showing was decidedly more enthusiastic.
All of this leads me to life’s important questions: Like, if I stay here, long term, what will my children be? Sox fans? Yankees diehards? (Really as long as they aren’t football fanatics I’ll be fine. Even the Patriots don’t make football grow on me.)
But in 2009, tomorrow’s October and the postseason is here. The Yankees clinched by winning games. Last night, the Red Sox clinched by the Tigers losing enough. I hope Boston’s postseason games are exciting, but when it comes down to it, my home team’s still New York.
And for those of you who enjoy baseball, here are two pass-ons:
1. Very exciting graphic my friend Joel found, a Venn diagram illustrating categories of team-name-origins. I think it’s brilliant. My favorite names are in the intersection of Locality and Industry.
2. Yahoo Sports’ Big League Stew blog, generally funny, has been featuring an end-of-season series called “Walk Toward the Light” with tributes to teams as their hopes fade away…